Category Archives: Deulofeu

Kevin Mirallas, Gerard Deulofeu, Roberto Martinez and Stats 16 March 2014

Indeed!

Indeed!

For all the plaudits that Roberto Martinez’s Everton have collected for our new post-Moyes positive football, the hardest part of the game is still really very hard indeed for the neat and tidy Blues. As I write, we have 40 Premier League goals – that’s more than Tottenham Hotspurs (just how are they 5th?) but six fewer than the benighted Manchester United, three fewer than Southampton and only two more than Laudrup-free, relegation threatened, Swansea City. “We don’t get enough goals from midfield”, said my brother and I agreed. But what do the (Premier League) stats tell us?

Firstly, Romelu Lukaku is not the problem. He has ten goals (most of them crucial) in 19 starts (plus two as a substitute). That’s pretty much the goal every other game that marks out a top striker. He also hits the target with about half his shots too (29 of 62), a better rate (if not, alas, output) than a certain Luis Suarez (61 of 131)!

Go ten yards further back, and the source of Everton’s inability to convert possession into goals becomes more clear. Kevin Mirallas’ five goals have come from 70 shots, of which only 21 were on target. He has an almost direct comparator in Daniel Sturridge, whose 18 goals have come from just one more shot, but the Liverpool man has hit the target 33 times from those 71 attempts. If it feels like Kev is shooting on sight and often wildly, well, to a large extent, he is. 

Ross Barkley likes a dig too and, with 62 shots, he has had a pop exactly as often as the Big Belgian, but Ross has just 3 goals, probably because he has been on target just 13 times (fewer than Jordan Henderson!). Barkley’s progress this season has been wonderful to behold, but he has to score more goals and to do so, he has to hit the target more often.

So – apart from practising (please practise!) – what’s the solution? One player may have it. Gerard Deulofeu sits third on Everton’s shots on target ladder with 16, but from just 23 attempts at goal (in 4 starts and 12 sub appearances). This confirms another “feeling” from watching him play. He can beat a man and sometimes tries to beat one too many, but when he gets a shot off, he’s usually manufactured a yard to play in, even close to goal. (The on-target : off-target ratio the Spaniard is producing is more characteristic of a defender who comes up for set plays, getting on the end of crosses). 

This is why Deulofeu is so exciting and why Roberto must move heaven and earth to exercise the second season option on the loan. Next year, the young man will have that extra touch of composure, that little more experience of big matches, that growing-up that all strikers need (see L. Suarez and D. Sturridge mentioned above). The goals will come then – and how! 

All stats from http://espnfc.com/team/squad/_/id/368/league/eng.1/everton?cc=5739.

Everton, Manchester United, Arsenal and Gerard Deulofeu 8 December 2013

GDEverton surprised many observers at The Emirates – including Arsene Wenger given the transformation in his side’s play after his half-time team talk – with 40 minutes of The Martinez Project writ large at The Emirates. All the strengths of this season’s transformation were on show: possession football; quick short passes played to men who may be marked but are trusted to deal with the ball; injections of pace through the midfield ball-carriers (Stephen Pienaar, Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas) and the flying full-backs; the power of Romelu Lukaku, leading the line with incessant commitment; the solidity of the defensive unit (Tim Howard, the back four, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy); and, more than ever, the huge confidence that floods through the club from its manager.

But the weaknesses of The Martinez Project were also on show: the final ball is poor; shooting is erratic and the feeling persists that possession is in danger of becoming an end in itself. 

Then, just when I thought The Martinez Project had delivered three points from trips to Manchester United and Arsenal – something for which I would have gleefully settled  even after Stoke City’s four goal defenestration, the grit in the oyster salvaged a point, delivering a remarkable eight day haul of seven points from six goals scored for one conceded. That grit was, of course, the blooming fair-haired Catalan pearl, Gerard Deulofeu.   

Everton’s Number Ten, like the man who wears that shirt at his parent club, isn’t much to look at. Not very tall, his run is a short-strided, slightly hunched scuttle (unlike Lukaku’s Bolt-like sprinting) but he covers the ground at remarkable pace. He can go both ways, off either foot, and has the close control given only to the very best. A hush comes over Evertonians when he has the ball. We don’t know what he’s going to do, but we do know that he’s going to do something – and, deliciously, we know that defenders are thinking that very same thought. In forty years of watching Everton, Gerard Deulofeu may be the most naturally gifted footballer I have ever seen in the royal blue shirt – not the best, but maybe the one with the highest ceiling.

Of course, he’ll be back at Barcelona at the end of this season – or, if Roberto’s silver tongue works its magic, the end of next season – so we must enjoy him while we can. And maybe, just maybe, he can make the difference between Everton contending for a top four place and Everton securing a top four place. And maybe, just maybe, CL football is on the menu at Goodison next season, it might just be the bargaining chip Roberto needs to push on with The Martinez Project and keep his Catalan wizard for another year.

But, for now, we should enjoy this purest of players while we can, and reflect on three points at Old Trafford and one at The Emirates. Now, how many behind Liverpool are we?

Kevin Mirallas, Gerard Deulofeu and The Martinez Project 30 November 2013

Not drawing attention to himself - Kevin Mirallas

Not drawing attention to himself – Kevin Mirallas

Does Kevin Mirallas fit into The Martinez Project?

Last season, in an often pragmatic team, Mirallas’ runs, willingness to shoot on sight and feisty attitude was welcomed, especially as his physical fragility made his presence on the pitch something of a treat. Like many of today’s wide men, he seldom dribbled his way to the touchline and crossed the ball to a centre-forward, preferring to cut inside and shoot, always carrying a threat. His injections of pace and direct style got the crowd of their feet and his first season was seen as a success.

The cruise to three points against Stoke City marked the Belgian’s first benching after 12 consecutive starts under the new manager and might just show Roberto’s best hand for the future. The Martinez Project calls for possession, patience and pace – but not just any old pace, the change of pace that comes from the killer pass or the dropped shoulder. It’s the antithesis of traditional “up and at ’em” football – it’s as Spanish as The Project’s name suggests and is proving (almost) as successful.

While Sylvain Distin’s discomfort on the ball can be accommodated in his position, Kevin Mirallas’ running, shooting on sight and maverick play may not be quite so easily integrated as his fellow players’ understanding of the Project’s system improves. 

If that’s the case against Everton’s second favourite Belgian, the case for his replacement builds and builds. Gerard Deulofeu is as slick and classy a footballer as his pedigree suggests, a head-up ball player with pace and a trick or two. His first start has coincided with Everton’s biggest win of the season, a goal and an assist or two for the Barcelona loanee and remarkable stats showing that Everton created 22 goal attempts of which 12 were on target having enjoyed 55% possession. That’s The Martinez Project desired outcomes right there in the numbers – which matter to coaches these days

Of course, Everton’s other midfield wunderkind, Ross Barkley, was also benched for this game, so the answer to the question on so many Evertonians’ lips – “Can we play Deulofeu and Barkley in the same XI?” – is not answered, but the solution is coming into sight. If both can work hard without the ball, if both can retain the awareness to sit if the other goes and if three of Gareth Barry, James McCarthy, Stephen Pienaar and Leon Osman can use their experience alongside and behind them to babysit the a little, the teenage tearaways can tear up the best defences with their skills and guile. 

But whither Kevin Mirallas? Maybe his best role is as an impact substitute held in reserve for the many times that the youngsters will have off-days or need a break. That’ll be the moment to introduce his long-range running and direct style. The Project doesn’t need Kevin Mirallas when its tiki-taka is bossing the game – it needs Kevin Mirallas when it’s tiki-taka is stalled.  

Everton 2013-14 – Beware The John Carew Effect 31 July 2013

Chips with everything

Chips with everything

You remember John Carew don’t you? Big old bruiser of a centre-forward who knocked around Europe and ended up playing at the Villa for a few seasons. Pondering on Everton’s upcoming season, I had cause to recall a remark I made on The Guardian’s Minute-By-Minute coverage of a match in which Carew was bustling and boring through defenders. The John Carew Effect (so I pompously styled it), referred to a player who is far too good to play in a relegation team, but nowhere near good enough to play in a Champions League team. He’s impossible to drop, yet his very presence means that the team are stymied in their ambitions, destined for a mid-table finish. Everton’s current squad have a lot of John Carews.

We love them, they’re solid pros and who wouldn’t want the likes of Jagielka, Distin, Osman, Pienaar, Gibson and Anichebe in their squads? Well, Champions League clubs to be honest, otherwise they would have driven a lorry load of money up to Goodison and emptied it into the boardroom – as they may still do for Fellaini and Baines (though that’s looking more and more doubtful). While it’s comforting to know that even Mike Walker couldn’t get that set of players into relegation worries, it’s also frustrating to know that a top four finish (or even an FA Cup) looks further away rather than closer – especially with the ongoing comedy across Stanley Park beginning to get serious for the first time in years.

So are we destined to another goodish top ten finish of the kind to which we have become (perhaps complacently) accustomed during the Moyes years? Well, nothing is certain in sport – though top level football’s business model is doing all it can to make it so.

My interest this season – as it has been for the last five or so – will concentrate on two related matters. Of course, there’s finishing ahead of Liverpool as Priority Number One for all of us who remember endless open-top buses being saluted by Reds May after May after May. But there’s also the development of our young players: the ones who may not be John Carews; the ones who may actually turn into Didier Drogbas.

Will Joel Robles become the consistent goalkeeper that so few clubs possess? Will Kevin Mirallas stay fit and deliver those scintillating runs and devastating finishes more consistently? Can Seamus Coleman ally a rock solid defensive game to his burgeoning attacking threat? And, most exciting of all, can creative teenage midfielders Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu realise their potential in world football’s toughest finishing school? Not both, surely, but won’t it be fun seeing them have a real go?

So what do you want? The John Carews guaranteeing that we pick up the points away at West Brom and Newcastle and the likes to lift us from 10th to 8th next May? Or the chance to see Barkley and Deulofeu, at risk of finishing 12th? I’ll take 12th.