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Everton vs. Valencia, 2013 Preseason: US tour ends on a sour note

Decision making in the final third costs Toffees in friendly defeat.

Aly Cissokho failing to block Seamus Coleman's cross
Aly Cissokho failing to block Seamus Coleman's cross
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Following Juventus’ best England impression with a second penalty loss in the space of a week, Everton and Valencia provided the Sun Life Stadium with a rather ‘chess-like’ affair. Los Che eventually ran out 1-0 winners after a Michel Herrero half volley struck low into Joel Robbles’ net. However this friendly had very little goalmouth action and both sides retained possession well; as was expected before the game with both sides and style of play deriving from Spain in one way or another.

After defeating Inter Milan 4-0 on Sunday, Valencia would have entered into this fifth-place decider high in confidence. As would Everton; after a spirited performance, ultimately leading in defeat against Real Madrid on Saturday. However the opening stages were a sign of events to come – that being possession kept well but in areas that were not going to threaten the other side and it was the same narrative for each side. It wasn’t until the 10th minute until the first shot was struck; an Oriol Romeu shot from outside the box but going wide to the right. Three minutes later the Toffees had their inaugural attempt blocked with an unfamiliar right foot shot from Bryan Oviedo outside the box. Robert Ibanez then had right foot shot saved by Robbles in the 23rd minute and a minute later with his left struck a shot from outside the box wide.

The Blues and Los Che exchanged various parting blows before the break from Jonathan Viera, Aly Cissokho and Jonas for Valencia and Darron Gibson, Ross Barkley and Steven Naismith having shots blocked and saved for Everton. Ibanez then missed a header completing a perfect hat-trick of misses for Valencia; Jagielka had a header blocked for the Toffees, and Antonio Barragan and Victor Anichebe hit their shots over the bar for their respective sides. The first half ended in stalemate thus reflecting the play both in possession and in the shots at each other’s goal.

Before the start of the second half Everton brought on Nikica Jelavic and Seamus Coleman for Victor Anichebe and John Stones but it was the Valencia substitute Michel, replacing an impressive Jonathan Viera, who scored the only goal of the game in 52nd minute wrong footing Joel with a right foot half volley struck hard and low into the Everton goalkeeper’s right hand corner. Four minutes later Roberto Martinez brought on Kevin Mirallas and Leighton Baines for Gerard Deulofeu and Steven Naismith; pushing Bryan Oveido from left-back to left-midfield. With the absence of Mirallas, Baines and Steven Pienaar there was little to no creativity for Everton. An issue Martinez must look to decipher in the transfer market because at least one of these three avenues of creativity will be injured at a point in the upcoming campaign, at least one point in the season.

Michel then missed a chance to score his and Valencia’s second goal of the game with a right foot shot, striking it wide to the left. Three minutes later another of Valencia’s substitutes entering the field Juan Bernat, struck a left shot however it was blocked by Seamus Coleman. In quick succession Ever Banega had a shot blocked and then Robert Ibanez had a shot saved and missed an effort hitting it wide to right. In reply Kevin Mirallas had a right foot shot from outside the box blocked and then Mirallas turned provider to cross for his Belgian counterpart Marouane Fellaini; who could only header over the bar. Seven minutes later Ibanez again proved his ineffectiveness in front of goal with his sixth attempt of the game missed after having a left foot shot saved by Everton’s new number one (in shirt number, probably not in practice). The game concluded in a stunted fashion with very little opportunities in the closing 10 minutes before Ibanez again found Joel’s palms with a left foot shot. There was a worrying scene in the closing stages as Nikica Jelavic found himself with injury after a collision with the goalkeeper, Arouna Kone replacing him. Martinez after the game confirmed the Croatian suffered a dead leg.

If Evertonians were to assess the positives coming from this game it would be in the keeping of possession however the Toffees did not pass with any intent or purpose and did not look like scoring. Although, Kevin Mirallas coming on did look sharp and purposeful on the ball and it is clear that this season he will be an even bigger contributor to the Everton attack and I would expect around double the goals and assists the Belgian provided the Blues with last season in this campaign. However in terms of negatives for Everton they looked extremely tired, decisions in the final third were lacklustre and without Pienaar and Mirallas the creativity of the Toffees was next to nothing. In regards to going forward Everton had neither quantity nor quality as the play in the final third looked rustic and at times diabolical when the Toffees were in good positions or when the right pass was on. When thinking about the performances of each player, the phrase ‘had a quiet game’ could have labelled to too many Everton players for Martinez’s liking. On the other hand the defence looked solid and aside from a good finish from Michel, the Spanish side never looked like scoring with the absence of Roberto Soldado who has recently joined Tottenham Hotspur for £26million.

With there still being three and a half weeks left of the transfer window I don’t think I would be considered as a psychic in predicting that there will be at least one further bid made by Manchester United for Leighton Baines and probably a bid Marouane Fellaini. It is clear that the Toffees still need a centre midfielder to partner Darron Gibson or Leon Osman because neither will play a full season either through injury in Gibson’s case or age in Osman’s. Martinez will also need to bring in either a creative winger and play Steven Pienaar infield behind the striker or sign a creative player to play behind the striker because in the three matches in America all three strikers that have been used (Kone, Anichebe and Jelavic) have looked isolated at the very least in brief stages of fixtures they have played a part in.

It was a chance to see Deulofeu from the start in an Everton shirt although he did not impress. Having said that, the on-loan Barcelona forward was up against an excellent opponent in Aly Cissokho. With a bit of filing off the edges, Cissoko would be a suitable replacement candidate for Baines should he depart likewise Jeremy Mathieu who played superbly in this fixture, should Heitinga leave. Jonathan Viera also looked like a promising playmaker before being substituted at halftime and on-loan Chelsea midfielder Oriel Romeu also looked composed at the heart of the Valencia midfield. The brightest Valencia spark however was Ever Banega; who nearly joined Everton on loan but failed to obtain a work permit in 2009. The Argentine looked classy, composed, calculated and creative on the ball and would be a perfect signing considering the price Wigan Athletic are asking for James McCarthy and with Man. United appearing to turn their attentions to Fellaini after seemingly failing in their bid for Cesc Fabregas’ signature. The Mail reported yesterday that even though Fellaini’s £23million release clause has expired United will turn to the Belgian to make an identical move as David Moyes did from Goodison Park across to Old Trafford.