Last January, Moises Caicedo was the centre of attention for a lot of teams wanting to be active in the transfer market. This time, it appears to be Amadou Onana.
The Everton midfielder is reportedly being courted by Manchester United – as revealed by FootballTransfers – and Arsenal. Chelsea would likely be in the market for him too had he not already rejected a move to Stamford Bridge in the summer. Anfield may have also been a possible destination for the powerhouse Belgian were it not for the rivalry between the two Merseyside clubs.
Per Belgian journalist Sacha Tavolieri, talks are ongoing between Arsenal and Everton over a proposed move this month with the 22-year-old keen on joining Mikel Arteta’s title charge. But in a league with multiple £100 million midfielders, where does the nine-cap Belgium international, reportedly valued at £60m, rank?
To truly analyse him, you first need to profile the midfielder. Many view him as a defensive midfielder, likely because he’s busy out of possession and, physically, he’s a bit of a juggernaut. The same thing happened with Declan Rice, Moises Caicedo and, to an extent, N’Golo Kante.
The former Chelsea man played his best football as a box-to-box midfielder when given license to get forward and defend from the front. He was limited when he was deployed as a midfield anchor even though people looked at the defensive numbers and assumed he was a defensive player.
Similarly, Caicedo isn’t a lone pivot player. He bossed things for Brighton when he was allowed to use his intelligence and high energy higher up the pitch in a bid to suffocate the opposition. Rice fell into this category too. He was a roaming destroyer for West Ham rather than someone who would solely screen the defence. He thrived in transition due to his physical traits. But, again, people focused on the defensive numbers and profiled him as a defensive midfielder.
While he’s been a revelation for Arsenal, a few have noticed some limitations to his game and there’s a reason the Gunners are seemingly in the market for another midfield general.
Pairing Onana with Rice might be the best way to get the best out of both players. If Arteta opts to use a double pivot, they will be able to play their natural, roaming games. The Everton man has some impressive stats, so let’s break it down.
The 6ft 3in midfielder has adapted his game to suit Everton. What we’re seeing now isn’t a true representation of him as a player. For example, he has a low pass volume (sub-40 passes on a per 90 basis) purely because the Toffees aren’t a ball-dominant team. When looking at his numbers, it would paint a picture of a player who isn’t the best when in possession, but this isn’t the case. Onana has a varied passing range and he’s deceptively progressive. He has the ability to play line-breaking passes, he’s partial to a big switch and Onana also loves a little clip over the top. The angle and position on the pitch don’t limit what he’s able to do either.
My advice here would be to ignore the passing numbers and focus on the passes.
Without the ball, he’s a bit of a monster.
Onana’s impressive stats
Over the past 12 months, he’s been averaging 2.47 tackles and 1.15 interceptions per 90. The former Lille man is winning 2.47 aerial duels (with a success rate of 72%). Last season, he tackled 71% of dribblers, this season this figure is 58%. His lanky legs make it possible for him to knick in and rob players of the ball when it doesn’t look possible.
Now, he’s obviously busier playing for a team fighting relegation. Onana might not be able to replicate the numbers if he moved to an Arsenal or a Manchester United, so it is important to look at percentages. The fact his are so high is a huge positive. If he matches them, he’s going to be a transition killer for a ball-dominant side.
The 6ft3 midfielder, who moved to Goodison in August 2022 for a fee of £33m, compares relatively well to Caicedo during his time with Brighton. The £115m Chelsea signing tackled 59% of dribblers during his time at the Amex, attempted 2.87 tackles and made 1.6 interceptions. Caicedo won 1.06 aerials and had a success rate of 65%.
Onana is much more than a pure defensive midfielder and that is probably why Arteta, with his fluid approach to the game, is interested in the in-demand Everton No8.