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Everton Season Preview: Left-midfield

Will Bainaar be restored or is it time to go with younger blood?

Malcolm Couzens











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Steven Pienaar
























Kevin Mirallas






















Aiden McGeady






















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Returning Players

Steven Pienaar was one of Everton's stalwarts under David Moyes but last season for Roberto Martinez he didn’t seem to have the same affect. Pienaar only managed one goal last term and even though he is known more for creating goals, he was well under par for a player in his position. To be fair to the South African, it was never the case that he played poorly, the problem for the playmaker was that it was a stop-start season. During the course of the 2014/15 campaign Pienaar was mostly either injured, recovering from injury or lacking match fitness. At one stage of the season it appeared the 32-year-old was on his way back to the Steven Pienaar of old, however, what seemed an inconspicuous knee injury at the start March ended up ruling Pienaar out until the last 13 minutes of the season.



At the start of the summer there some speculation that the club might be looking to offload the experienced man or that he might have been looking for a move. That hearsay was quickly exterminated by both the club and the player himself. Pienaar has been ever-present during pre-season. In the games I have seen, he has looked to be one of the sharpest performers. This season should be viewed as a fresh start and last campaign should be written off. Many have said Pienaar’s ageing legs will only add to his declining stock as an Everton icon but I am predicting he will be bouncing back to what we remember of him.



Aiden McGeady took a few months to pick up the pace of regular first-team football, something he’d become a stranger to when he was left out in the cold at FC Spartak Moscow. Essentially the first few months at Everton was McGeady’s pre-season. Against already fully match-fit players in the Premier League, it was extremely difficult for the Ireland international to catch up. Eventually McGeady did find his feet, possibly the game he came on against Cardiff City because it was his trickery that unlocked the Welsh side’s defence and ground out a victory that lead the Toffees to their most fluent spell of the campaign. During pre-season the former Celtic man grabbed his first goal in a Blues shirt against Celta Vigo. The winger had a break in the summer after internationals and a full pre-season so I would expect him to become a regular starter for this upcoming campaign.



Although Kevin Mirallas has played more on the right than on the left in his Everton career, a lot of his best performances have come from the left. Also, just because he starts on the right doesn’t mean that he won’t pop up on the other side, running at the opposition’s defence coming inside and unleashing a bolt of a shot. The wide-man is probably the most dangerous player in the Everton squad, combining both electric pace and immense skill, not to mention more fear to defenders. His end product is also getting more consistent by the game.



For those preparing their fantasy football teams for this upcoming season, Mirallas is a player that would be worthy of an inclusion. The Belgian definitely goes through purple patches in form, goals and assists. Twice that was the case last season; around the West Bromwich Albion away and Aston Villa home games and also at the end of the season against Swansea City, Fulham, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, right up to his final involvement of the season at home to Manchester United. Mirallas suffered a hamstring injury in that United game but recovered in time for the World Cup. However with Belgium blessed with a quite a few good wide players, his opportunities were limited. When he was given time on the field he was one of their better players. After a string of key players committing their futures to Everton, including the manager, I would expect Mirallas the next member to join that group, as he is one of few members in the squad you could imagine being tempted if a bigger club came calling, given the ambition that he shows and that is evident any time he is giving an interview.






In terms of tactics, Martinez has employed more of an attacking left-midfielder rather than a more customary left-midfielder in two banks of four. Furthermore, Pienaar and Mirallas are wide players who will play more inside than on the touchline like the more conventionally classed ‘winger’ in McGeady; which allows the full-backs to overlap them and under-lap in McGeady’s case. Other than what the wide players contribute to the side in goals and assists, proof of their effectiveness can be seen with how much the full-backs are allowed to push forward. This is a trait that the Blues exploited last season and that needs to follow this campaign as well. Having both full-backs as comfortable in the opposition box as they are in their own allows Everton two more players that can join in on an attack and if they’re up against wingers who cannot defend then prepare for a fair number of goals.




It can go without saying that this is a position that is strong in quality in the Toffees ranks and therefore a strength, but it is the opposite in terms of depth. McGeady has been deployed on the right throughout pre-season, perhaps that is because Mirallas has been on his break after the World Cup. The Blues have been linked with every wide-man under the sun…within reason during the off-season. With the season a week away a move must be finalised. It has been widely reported that Christian Atsu is set to be confirmed as an Everton loanee. Even if that comes to fruition, with the added games of the Europa League, I would say another wide player should be added, whether it be another loan, permanent signing or a player from the U21s been given the chance. However if depth is the concern, it could be the case that the manager deploys the 3-5-2 which people have been expecting since his arrival; with wing-backs used instead of wingers.