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Is Kevin Mirallas poised for a return to form?

Belgian forward may benefit most from change in management at Goodison Park.

Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Current Players

Player Games (all competitions 2015-16) Goals Assists
Kevin Mirallas 23 4 2
Gerard Deulofeu 34 4

13

Aaron Lennon 31 6

2

Key additions and departures

None. Like the rest of his Everton squad, Ronald Koeman could do with adding to his collection of wingers before the end of the transfer window. The Dutchman has already said he wants to add four news faces and Yannick Bolasie may well add competition in this position before the window shuts.

Returning players

Kevin Mirallas

No one is set to benefit more from the departure of Roberto Martinez than Kevin Mirallas. It was obvious the pair did not see eye-to-eye, perhaps stemming from the infamous ‘penalty-gate’ incident against West Brom in January 2015, and the forward’s form suffered as a result, culminating in him being dropped from the Belgium squad ahead of Euro 2016. The 28-year-old made just 10 Premier League starts last season, the fewest league starts he has made in a season since he was at St Etienne in 2010. Red cards against West Ham and Swansea didn’t help his cause, though they were perhaps a symptom of his frustration at the ultimately doomed Martinez regime at Goodison Park.

Mirallas is certainly an enigmatic character who perhaps needs his ego massaging at times, but he is also one of the team’s most talented and creative players when he is managed properly.

Gerard Deulofeu

Like Mirallas, Gerard Deulofeu is prone to the odd hissy fit when things do not go his way. But in terms of raw, creative ability there are few who can match him in the current squad. His goalscoring is nothing to write home about and definitely has scope for improvement. But his 13 assists in all competitions last season gives us a glimpse of what he is capable of when he makes the right decisions in key areas. He is one of a number of players who may benefit from the greater sense of tactical and positional discipline employed by Ronald Koeman.

Aaron Lennon

In sharp contrast to Mirallas and Deulofeu, Aaron Lennon is pretty much the consummate professional. After signing a permanent contract last summer Lennon would go on to make only two league starts before Christmas. However, his patience was rewarded in the new year with a run of starts that yielded six goals in ten appearances in what was arguably Everton’s finest period of the season (not much competition there obviously). Martinez’s Everton became synonymous with slow, laboured play so Lennon’s introduction gave the team a much needed injection of pace and urgency, inspiring others to follow his lead. Now considered a senior member of the squad I still believe Lennon has a key role to play, though how many starts he will get under the new regime is another matter.

Tactics

In recent seasons Everton have rarely played with out-and-out wingers, preferring their wide players to cut inside in a 4-2-3-1 formation or push forward as a second striker. Ronald Koeman has shown little inclination to deploy wingers if pre-season is anything to go by, with a 5-3-2 formation used against Man Utd last week.

That is bad news for Lennon, who struggles in any position other than wide right. That could mean the former Tottenham man once again finds himself on the bench. But his ability to provide genuine width and stretch the play makes himself a useful squad player.

Mirallas and Deulofeu meanwhile are much more versatile and may find themselves employed in different positions. Deulofeu for example has been used as a striker in pre-season, scoring three goals. Mirallas also has experience of playing upfront, scoring 20 goals as a striker while at Olympiakos in 2012. They can also play on either flank as well as through the middle, offering Koeman valuable options.

Summary

After a couple of below-par seasons under Martinez Evertonians are hopeful of seeing a revival in Kevin Mirallas’ fortunes. He is undoubtedly one of the most talented players at the club but needs careful and astute management – something Martinez failed at.

Deulofeu is another precocious talent who just needs to improve his awareness and decision-making. Their talent and versatility mean they will have a key role to play this season.

As for Lennon, I fear another season on the substitutes bench. He has never done anything wrong when he has played but Everton’s system doesn’t always suit. He is though a valuable weapon to have on the bench. Whether he will be happy to fill that role remains to be seen.