Bundesliga

Forsberg can be Toffees’ twinkle-toed creator

 • by Mark Thompson
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It’s all change at Everton. Sam Allardyce is out, Marco Silva is in; Steve Walsh is out, Marcel Brands is in; Wayne Rooney is out, and… no player is yet in.

But there could be. Whispers are growing that Everton are interested in Sweden and RB Leipzig winger Emil Forsberg.

Although it comes in a World Cup year, and after one where Sweden reached the quarter-finals at that, it can’t really be deemed a ‘World Cup buy’, one of those impulse purchases based on two good games.

He scored one goal but was otherwise reliable rather than spectacular. No, this would be a signing based purely off his club performances.

The difficult second album

2016/17 was Forsberg’s break-out season. In RasenBallsport Leipzig’s first appearance in the Bundesliga, the Swede scored eight goals and got 19 assists, the most of any player that term in Europe’s top five leagues.

Last season seems to have been a very different matter. He played far less often, 1374 league minutes compared to 2349 the previous year, and only mustered two goals and two assists.

It wasn’t just the raw totals that were down, so were his underlying numbers. Both his expected goals (xG) and expected goals assisted (xA) numbers went down, although Leipzig as a whole team were less effective in 2017/18, so this could have been part of the problem.

However, he was still creating a similar number of shot assists – 1.5 per 90 minutes last season compared to 1.61 per 90 the season before. This means that the average quality of shot that he was setting up was down, way down, on what he’d been setting up in 2016/17.

In that season, the average shot he was assisting had an expected goals value of 0.17 but in 2017/18 it was down at 0.12, losing almost a third of the chance quality.

It wasn’t that he had radically changed roles in the meantime, his Football Whispers persona radars are virtually the same season to season.

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What would this mean for Everton?

Part of Forsberg’s reduced playing time was down to a stomach muscle injury that kept him out for two months, and – as mentioned – the reduced quality chances created could be down to Leipzig’s struggles as a team.

His 0.32 xG+xA contribution last season still looks handy, particularly for a team that struggled to create last term. Bar super-sub Oumar Niasse, Everton’s best player in terms of expected goals contribution was Theo Walcott on 0.44 per 90 minutes (0.19 expected goals and 0.24 expected goals assisted).

There’s also the matter of his 2016/17. With that stellar year of performances in his locker, the value that he could bring to a Premier League club is likely somewhere between his two Bundesliga years.

That’s pretty solid, contributing an expected goal every two or so games, while also being defensively sound and knowing how to press.

Does Lookman get a look-in?

There is an added complication in the Forsberg to Everton rumours – Ademola Lookman. The youngster was on loan at Leipzig last season, and to say he did well would be an understatement. Lookman scored and assisted more (five and four) than Forsberg, while playing fewer minutes.

Leipzig would like to sign the 20-year-old on a permanent basis, with new head coach Ralf Rangnick saying in a recent press conference that “We want him back and he wants to come.”

With both clubs reportedly interested in a player from the other, could some sort of swap deal be on the cards?

Even if it is, though, would it be worth it? Swapping a promising 20-year-old, albeit one who apparently wants to leave, for a 26-year-old who is good, but not likely to be great?

Everton would surely want Forsberg plus cash in any deal for Lookman, and if they can get it, it’s probably a deal that they should take. But they’ll need to drive a hard bargain to make it worth their while.

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