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School of Science: Left Midfield

Paul Thomas

For a while now the Toffees' main strength has been their left side with the almost telekinetic relationship between Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar. At times critical Evertonians have complained that the Blues are lopsided with not a similar partnership on the opposite side. However last season, especially in the latter period Seamus Coleman and Kevin Mirallas seemed to resolve this issue. This season Everton have various other options on the left side of midfield with the acquisition of the loan signing Gerard Deulofeu in addition to the other Everton players who can operate in this position.

The Blues' left side has to be considered as the best left side in the Premier League and it is interesting that when this partnership (aptly named ‘Bainaar') is broken neither player looks as good nor forms a similar partnership with who they're playing with. For instance, although Leighton Baines has performed well representing England; especially in recent performances, he has not formed a partnership with the player playing in front of him. Having said that there has not been a consistent England starting eleven never mind consistent starting left sided player so therefore it is extremely difficult to form a partnership with another player when the two aren't playing together regularly. Furthermore, when Steven Pienaar left Goodison for pastures new at White Hart Lane he looked a shadow of the player in blue and it wasn't until the South African put the blue shirt on again did he look like the one who left a year before. Having said that Pienaar is not getting any younger and it might not be this season but one season in the future his legs won't be up to the task of playing out wide in the physically demanding Premier League. When that point comes, his creativity and ingenuity will be utilized either by playing him in center midfield or playing Pienaar behind the striker.

This talk of left midfield may actually be irrelevant as the new Everton manager Roberto Martinez preferred a system at Wigan Athletic with three center halves and two wingbacks rather than the conventional two banks of four in all its variations. With this in mind it could actually be fullback Leighton Baines who is considered more as a left midfielder if this system is applied to the Toffees. If we were to compare the possible starting eleven in this formation to that of Wigan last season and Baines in the role Jean Beausejour occupied as left wingback for the majority of the 2012/13 Premier League season then Steven Pienaar would have to be used where Shaun Maloney was in an inside left role with more creative freedom and less of a need to track back.

Putting ‘Bainaar' aside for a moment, the Blues' star performer in preseason thus far has been Kevin Mirallas although played from the right; the Belgian can be employed effectively as a left midfielder. In the 25 year-old's inaugural season at the People's Club, one of his best performances was on the left in the first half against Liverpool at Goodison Park before he was struck with a hamstring injury and was forced off at halftime. In this game the Toffees found themselves 2-0 down and without Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini through suspension and it looked like the game was dead and buried. However the creativity and skill of Mirallas terrorised young Liverpool defender Andre Wisdom and allowed Everton to not only get back into the game but score two quick goals to equal the game and go into the break feeling unlucky not to be in the lead. Mirallas is the type of player however, who will perform well in all the positions he can play; that being on either side, behind the striker or even as a striker.

The player who replaced Mirallas in that aforementioned Merseyside derby was Magaye Gueye; somewhat rather the forgotten man at Goodison since being loaned out to Stade Brestois 29 last January. In fact that Merseyside derby was the last time Gueye has played for the Blues in a competitive fixture with a disappointing performance and the Senegalese international has only participated in the first half of the Austria Vienna fixture and the second half of the Accrington Stanley friendly so far this preseason. Personally, I was in attendance for Magaye Gueye's competitive debut for Everton and what is surprising is not only was it three years ago making me feel quite old but also how direct, creative and skilful the winger was. Now however Evertonians are left with an indecisive, conservative and unimaginative ‘football player', which I have to comment as very sad considering the potentially I saw in that debut in a 5-1 victory against Huddersfield Town in the League Cup.

At the club there are also other options that can play left midfield such as Bryan Oviedo, Leon Osman, Steven Naismith and on-loan Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu. All of these candidates can and have played left midfield in the past however left midfield is not the best position for any of the four players mentioned. Oviedo is more of a left back, Osman a center midfielder, Steven Naismith hasn't yet played for Everton in his best position that being behind the striker and Spanish expert Graham Hunter has said when talking about Deulofeu that like Lionel Messi he will be a winger in his youth but a false number nine when more experienced. Having said that if the Toffees do suffer from injury or suspension then these four players can deputize in this area.

With over three weeks of the transfer window remaining I would stipulate that Everton still do need another winger. The Blues have been linked with; Nathan Dyer, Aiden McGeady, Scott Sinclair, Victor Moses, Callum McManaman and Denis Cheryshev throughout the window. The current situation however is this, whether it be right or left side of midfield for out and out wide players there is Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar. For this season, yes the Toffees do have Gerard Deulofeu but that will be for no longer than this season and therefore a backup needs to be brought in for the long term because there is no way Steven Naismith is a wide player and that was the main cause of his poor performances last season; playing out on the right. Leon Osman's wide playing days are over and now it seems ridiculous he was playing anywhere other than center midfield. On the other hand as has been stated previously there may not be a need to have a left midfielder in Martinez's wingback formation and it won't be until the first game of the season that Evertonians will find out whether this will be the case.

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