To Deulofeu Or Not To Deulofeu?

GERARD Deulofeu wants more minutes. Should Roberto Martinez start him this weekend in the Mersey derby?

By @pbsportswriter

It was this fixture in his first spell at Goodison which sparked his best run of form for the club.

Back then, he came off the bench towards the end of a pulsating 3-3 draw and was only denied a stoppage-time winner by Simon Mignolet.

It was a taste of things to come.

Deulofeu made his first Premier League start, and scored, in the next game, a 4-0 thrashing of Stoke in which he was absolutely sensational.

He came off the bench a few days later  in the famous win at Old Trafford, and then did so again to score a dramatic late equaliser at Arsenal.

He was at his dazzling best again as Everton then beat Fulham 4-1, but came off with a hamstring injury which would sideline him for almost two months.

Who knows what might have been if he’d stayed fit?

Now back after signing a permanent deal in the summer, Deulofeu is beginning to look like the player everyone hoped he would be.

A Barcelona Academy player at the age of nine, he was quickly tipped for greatness, signing an advertising contract with Nike at 14 worth £100,000 a year and going on to win the Under 19 Euros twice with Spain.

But despite once scoring 18 goals in 33 games for Barcelona B, his senior career at the Nou Camp never took off, and after his first spell at Everton he was loaned out to Sevilla.

There he ended up falling out with coach Unai Emery, who accused him of being a selfish player whose work rate, decision-making and tactical discipline all had to improve.

Those are things that have dogged him throughout his career. But after long being criticised for holding on to the ball to much, taking on one player too many, and ignoring the simple ball, he is starting to show signs of maturity.

Against West Brom he was trying to cross the ball at the earliest opportunity, something which brought a goal for Romelu Lukaku and what should have been a goal for Ross Barkley.

Deulofeu was similarly lethal at Barnsley in the League Cup, where he came on at half time and almost single-handedly rescued the Blues with three assists in a remarkable comeback.

His free-kick winner against Reading was another big rescue act against a side Everton should be expected to beat.

But it’s hard to argue he shouldn’t get a chance against much better opposition in the biggest game of the club’s season so far.

It’s true that Everton have been at their best this season without wingers, playing a quick counter-attacking game that swept away Chelsea and Southampton in style.

And it’s also true that Martinez likes to sacrifice wide men and go with three defensively-minded midfielders against big clubs at the moment.

But his pace and trickery could be lethal against a Liverpool team lacking confidence and under pressure.

Deulofeu wasn’t fit at the start of the season. But he looks fit now – and these are the kind of games he should relish.

It’s easy to forget what an amazing bit of business signing him was. Deulofeu had a £26m buy-out clause. Everton signed him for less than £5m.

Yes Barcelona have buy-back options. But they also had better offers from at least two other Premier League clubs. So signing him that cheaply was a real coup, and makes it hard to criticise the club for not spending more money this summer.

It was Deulofeu who insisted on Everton. This doesn’t mean he should automatically be rewarded with a regular first-team place. But it says a lot about how much he wants to succeed at the club and  how committed he is to do doing so.

It would be a brave decision to start him in the derby. He still leaves his full back exposed, and he is still prone to giving the ball away too easily.

But Martinez is a brave manager – and he who dares, wins. Right?

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Paul Brown

Freelance journalist for Express Newspapers & others #London football #EFC #NBA #NHL #sport #travel #Blues. Half-Finnish. Bullying & racism upset me. Beware

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