BIG IMPACT: Morgan Schneiderlin has already established himself as a key figure in Everton's midfield.

In Spanish football, “pausa” is a much coveted attribute.

To have it, as the name suggests, is to wait in possession. To wait until defenders close in. To wait until an angle for a pass clears. To wait for what often feels a little too long. And then, finally, release it to ensure a ball has maximum benefit.

It’s an attribute that requires precarious balance. Those players who cherish every tiny touch of the ball can get their pocket pinched in dangerous positions, while those who instinctively play a pass when the channel opens up often don’t fully unravel an opponent.
Barcelona icon Xavi Hernandez is perhaps the finest exponent, while of currently active players in Europe’s top five divisions, Sergio Busquets utilises pausa to the greatest effect. Others across world football have it too, to varying degrees; it’s a quality those who watch Everton frequently would have noticed in Morgan Schneiderlin’s play.

That’s not to put the Frenchman alongside those two legendary Blaugrana playmakers, of course. But the nascent stages of his Toffees career have revealed a footballer who always, somehow, finds time to make positive choices on the pitch.

It’ll take some getting used to. Often he’s caught team-mates off guard. Often it’s led to supporters’ hearts jumping as a swarm of opposition shirts smother the No. 2. But it’s a composure that’s settled this evolving Everton team.

It’s a conviction in his ability that may have been a contributing factor to Jose Mourinho marginalising Schneiderlin at Manchester United. After all, it’s tough to imagine the Portuguese, a conservative and pragmatic manager by nature, would enjoy watching any of his players welcome pressure in the middle third of the field.

Yet for Everton manager Ronald Koeman, a man intertwined in the traditions of Barcelona—particularly that of of Johan Cruyff’s iconic Dream Team—and the Netherlands national side, Schneiderlin represents an ideal midfield linchpin.

The Dutchman values physicality and intensity in footballers, as is evident by the recruitment carried out by Everton since his appointment. But during his time in English football, Koeman’s sides have bristled with a blend of industry and intricacy.

Schneiderlin epitomises that desirable amalgamation. Not only has he showcased class with the ball at his feet, he’s attuned to the robust demands of the Premier League. Having progressed through three tiers of the Football League with Southampton, the France international has done his fair share of scrapping.

In the top flight, he’s frequently found himself top of tackling and intercepting standings and under Koeman at Saints, he was rightly rated as the best defensive midfielder in the division. When United paid big money to secure him in 2015, it’s tough to remember a single cry of “how much!?”

Morgan Schneiderlin replaces Kevin Mirallas to make his Everton debut against Manchester City.

It didn’t work out for Schneiderlin at Old Trafford and while some will subsequently deem him a flop, far more talented footballers have wilted under the pressure of representing one of the world’s most illustrious sporting institutions. That’ll be to Everton’s benefit, it seems.

In his three starts for the football club, Schneiderlin’s impact has been evident. At Stoke City, his ability to prod angled passes through the lines frequently released the Toffees in their forward forays, while against Bournemouth, the midfielder’s feel for the pace of a match helped the Toffees stem a stirring fightback from the visitors.

Up against Middlesbrough, he was often the sole collected figure in a frantic midfield maelstrom, making the match around him stand still on occasion.

That ability to pause and probe is drawing more from those ahead in blue. Ross Barkley, in particular, is finding extra seconds of space in congested midfield tussles and is flourishing as a result, while Tom Davies has license to press forward in pursuit of the ball high up the pitch.

It’s why, despite the myriad options available to Koeman at the hub of his team, the Everton boss was so keen to get Schneiderlin in. The personnel has been rotated in this portion of the squad since January, but you sense the Frenchman, injury and suspension permitting, will start every game between now and the end of the campaign.

Upon his arrival at the club, many Evertonians dubbed Schneiderlin as the potential heir to the Gareth Barry; a dependable midfielder with something to offer in defence and attack. Yet already, those tied to the Blues sense they may not only have a successor to their evergreen conductor, but an upgrade.

Of course, some caution is required, as Schneiderlin’s association with Everton remains at an embryonic point and his smooth integration into the setup will be tested more rigorously when the Toffees take on some stronger sides in the weeks to come.

Nevertheless, for Koeman, the Frenchman’s arrival continues the forging of an exciting identity. The manager wants to build a squad bursting with footballers possessing an appetite for physical duels and a willingness to work hard. Players who can mesh those agricultural qualities with sharp cerebral instincts and cocksureness. Players like Schneiderlin.


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