Expectations for Gerard Deulofeu at Everton This Season
While only signed on loan, it's not often the Toffees are in business with Barcelona, and it certainly created a considerable buzz around the blue half of Merseyside—while piling a large dose of pressure on Deulofeu.
However, since his arrival, there's only been gradual glimpses of the Spaniard in action. He returned late after his summer commitments with the Spanish Under-20s, and only participated in a small amount of preseason.
As Everton welcomed in the new Premier League campaign, he remained an unused substitute during their inaugural clash with Norwich—much to the dismay of many supporters.
Despite starting and impressing in both League Cup games, Deulofeu has continued the trend of beginning Premier League games on the bench, racking up a mere 49 minutes of top-flight action thus far.
The key with the Spaniard is time and patience. Having been groomed in the methods of the famed Barcelona academy, he only knows the game played a certain way. An ingenious way, certainly, but a way that will need adjusting to fit the style of both Everton and the Premier League.
Roberto Martinez emphasised this point in an interview with the Liverpool Echo's Greg O'Keeffe, stating:
To say that Gerard is a talented boy is an understatement. He’s got incredible potential, that really raw talent that any fan wants to watch.
We need to be a little bit patient because Gerard needs to adapt to a different way of playing, in a league with a different physicality, but that was always the plan; to give Gerard a steady introduction.
Slowly you’re going to see a player that’s going to develop, grow and give us some incredible memories at Everton I’m sure.
Last season, Deulofeu managed 18 goals for Barcelona B, who play in the Spanish second tier, and demonstrated his immense potential during the FIFA Under-20 World Cup this summer.
His League Cup outings have only increased the hype to see him feature more often. He scored and continually tormented his opposite man against Stevenage, and was hugely prominent in the defeat to Fulham.
In fact, he created a mammoth seven chances in that match—including an assist—a tally only surpassed twice by an Everton player in all of last season. Martinez rightly described his performance to his club's official website as simply "electric."
As if to underline point Deulofeu goes past about 9 Fulham players and almost gets through on goal from improbable position #EFC— Greg O'Keeffe (@GregOK) September 24, 2013
While such production screams out for further exposure, there were also examples of why he needs to be bedded in slowly. He drastically tired in the second half, making his end product far less accurate and his touch a little unreliable. He also became reluctant to track back, tarnishing what had been an almost flawless first half.
It's understandably hard waiting around for such a prodigious talent to fire, knowing he's only going to be around for 12 months. However, the special skill, flair and innovative ability of Deulofeu will undoubtedly make it worthwhile for Evertonians in the end.
Of the 31 remaining Premier League games, how many should Deulofeu start?
The Toffees' early statistics suggest Martinez's style will help accelerate his learning. Everton currently rank as one of the the division's best and most frequent passers, and keep possession far longer than most—frequently producing numbers that won't be too alien to Deulofeu.
Should his overall stay be viewed as a success, it will clearly be appreciated in Barcelona, and striking up a strong working relationship with the Catalan giants can only be a positive move for Everton. Who knows what kind of prospect may be loaned their way in the coming years?
Over the first half of the season, Deulofeu may only be granted a handful of starts, with several brief cameos to help him tailor his game.
However, if and when he does adjust his game, he will provide the Toffees with a significant boost of energy during the second half of the season—potentially installing the kind of momentum Everton craved last season, as their Champions League challenge faded, and eventually ran out of gas.
If they are similarly placed this season, around the turn of the year, the introduction of a fully acclimatised Deulofeu may serve as the catalyst needed to propel the Toffees back into Europe.
Statistics via WhoScored?
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