Should Roberto Martinez be starting Gerard Deulofeu?
After smashing his 84th minute equalizer into the side-netting against Arsenal, everyone is talking about Barcelona winger and Everton loanee Gerard Deulofeu.
He’s explosive on the ball, criminally skillful and has a voracious appetite for goal.
For those reasons the primary question concerning the Catalan native is whether Everton will be able to sign him permanently.
Emphatically, the answer to that is ‘no’.
While Deulofeu is not yet be ready to play regularly for the Blaugrana, there’s little doubt that his day to line up alongside Lionel Messi is not far away.
Perhaps that feat will come in the 2014-15 season but most believe the 19-year-old will need another season of grooming before that happens. For that reason, Everton manager Roberto Martinez is keen to extend Deulofeu’s loan an additional year, which the terms permit assuming Barcelona are on board.
“We have an agreement to extend the loan for an extra year if Barcelona don’t need Deulofeu,” Martinez admitted following the draw at the Emirates.
Martinez noted his surprise at how quickly the U-21 Spanish international has adapted to life in the Premier League. “I always thought he’d take until February to learn how to deal with the league but he’s surprised me,” Martinez noted.
“He’s very arrogant in the right way and today’s (Sunday) finish is exactly what he deserves.”
The Arsenal goal was Deulofeu’s second in the league following his strike against Stoke City in the Toffees 4-0 victory on November 30th. That was the winger’s first and only Premier League start of the season. In the 10 other matches in which he has appeared, it’s been as a substitute.
It’s a predicament that has prompted Premier League fans to question: Is it time for Martinez to make Deulofeu an every match starter?
Considering his impact and progression, some may feel that time has come. Despite his young age, Deulofeu has been consistently impressive each time he’s stepped foot on the pitch. With devastating cuts inside the park, he has displayed impressive link-up play with Romelu Lukaku and there’s little doubt that, as defenses shift their attentions towards Deulofeu, more space will open up for the Belgian striker.
The impact and ability to attract attention is something Kevin Mirallas, Everton’s current starting right winger, has struggled to do throughout the season. After proving himself one of the Toffees most dangerous players in 2012-13, the Belgian has fallen off the pace this season and, with a single goal in 15 league matches, cuts a frustrated figure on the pitch.
Deulofeu could also take the place of Steven Pienaar, who has only been slightly better than Mirallas this season. The South African left winger formed a dynamic partnership last season with Leighton Baines but has underwhelmed this year - his touch slightly off and his decisiveness blunted.
But while the possibility of bringing Deulofeu into the Starting XI alongside fellow youth studs Lukaku and Ross Barkley is a concept that has many Evertonians frothing at the mouth, it’s a move that Martinez is unlikely to make - and with good reason.
Deulofeu is a spark off the bench and as long as he seems content with this role why rock the boat? Plus, sitting either Mirallas or Pienaar in favor of the young loanee may trigger dissent among the Toffees more established players. Both Mirallas and Pienaar will feel Deulofeu knocking on the door and hopefully this will compel them to raise their respective games.
Furthermore, Deulofeu is a slightly built player and still very young. The more time he spends on the field, the more time defenders will have to line him up for a good whack. Plus, by limiting his time to 20-30 minutes per game, it will take opposing teams longer to ‘figure him out.’
In short, there seems little reason (outside of injury to others) to insert Deulofeu into a full-time starting job. Martinez knows exactly what he’s doing with the boy and Evertonians should be pleased with the rate at which he’s being brought along.
After all, if David Moyes were still boss at Goodison Park there’s a very strong chance the Premier League wouldn’t even know the likes of Deulofeu.