So pre-season is now underway and we have two new signings to behold, and two very familiar faces.
Everton have completed the permanent signing of Gerard Deulofeu, who played a bit-part role in the 13/14 season as a loan addition. We have made the move permanent for a fee believed to be around £4.2m, albeit with a buy-back fee agreed, should Barcelona wish to call on it. The other new signing is Tom Cleverley – the much-maligned former Manchester United player – who will be keen to replicate his previous form found under Martinez in the 10/11 season at Wigan.
Both players represent shrewd moves from Everton for a number of reasons.
The duo have arrived for a combined transfer fee of £4.2m, which in the modern game is insanely cheap for two players who have already proved themselves to be capable Premier League players, and both with potential to improve. When you consider that they are both young, and that they have both experienced life at huge clubs, I think that Everton have done exceptionally well.
Martinez knows both players exceptionally well, having worked with them previously, and given the Spaniard’s emphasis on character of players and attitude and mentality, he clearly feels that these are attributes held by both of these players. From a more technical side, Martinez knows how to get the best out of these players. I speak here more specifically about Tom Cleverley, who has been played in a variety of positions during his career, but seemed most effective coming off the left wing at Wigan, when the 42-year-old had him previously. Given the age of Osman and Pienaar’s fitness concerns, Everton lacked the flair and ability to open up a defence from that side last season, and utilising Cleverley there may be the gaffer’s hope. He can also provide cover for the injury stricken Gibson in the holding midfield positions.
Last season was one of the most dour and uninspiring seasons for Evertonians, simply due to the levels of optimism that had radiated around L4 after Martinez’s hugely successful first term in charge. However, these signings represent a move back to what we had seen before. Christian Atsu was meant to provide the spark lost when Deulofeu went back to Spain, but this never materialised. Deulofeu has the directness and ability to cause any side immense problems, and it will be a joy to be able to see him committing defenders again next year. Cleverley, as alluded to in the previous section, will give us the guile to find the key pass in the final third.
Last season, due to injury and fitness concerns, we tried a number of different players on the left of the attacking three behind the striker, often one of Naismith, Barkley and Mirallas, but despite their many qualities, that killer pass isn’t one. The only success we had out there was when Osman or Pienaar filled in, who have that vision to open up a defence. The hope is that when Pienaar and Osman are unavailable next term, Cleverley can provide that spark. This is particularly important given the way that Everton played last year, with the crowd lamenting the slow build up play – and they were right to. The only time that Everton looked dangerous was when counter-attacking last season due to the inability to break down a deep defence. Hopefully, this problem will be less apparent next season given the two new recruits and their skill sets.
One word of caution should be said in relation to Deulofeu, who, despite the rose-tinted glasses we now look back at him with, has got many flaws to be ironed out and is far from the finished product. However, the two new signings bring with them a sense of youthful exuberance and an excitement which all Toffees fans felt was lacking last term, and with them flows a wave of optimism from within L4. Hopefully this tack continues and we can look forward to seeing a back up centre-half, as well as some competition for Lukaku, in the coming weeks ready for the beginning of the campaign in August.