Just how good was Gerard Deulofeu?
It’s the question might be the one most likely to leave even the most ardent Toffees fans scratching their head.
The inner dialogue goes something like this:
I mean, I get why you let him go Ronald, he hasn’t looked great.
But remember those games when him and Rom would click? He was amazing!
I’m not saying you are wrong, and I totally trust you.
It’s just, I’m not sure your pragmatism hasn’t gotten the better of you this time. We need dynamic playmakers to create chances for Rom and you shipped off one of the big Belgians favorite mates!
Look at what he posted On Instagram!!! He’s heartbroken.
Shipping off our beloved Romelu’s buddy may have created some waves, but as Everton fans have quickly learned, Ronald Koeman does not spare anyone’s feelings.
(It should be noted that while he is not in the squad, the deal is only a loan, leaving some, however small, chance that Deulofeu could join back up in the summer. )
So, with the transfer deadline behind us, let’s see if we can find out exactly why Koeman lent out the young Spaniard once marked for greatness.
When judging Deulofeu, I am going to focus on his exploits as a Toffee. Originally a Barcelona man, the Spaniard has also spent time on loan at Sevilla, but seeing as there are vast differences between the leagues (we can debate which league is supreme another day), and the fact that Spain offers the comforts of home that England does not, I don't think those stats should be weighed the same in the context of this conversation.
Since joining Everton on loan in 2013, before rejoining permanently prior to the 15-16 campaign, Deulofeu has logged time over three seasons. During that time he has operated in a number of roles.
In his first loan season in England, he was used almost exclusively as a ‘super-sub’, brought off the bench to change the match and add a spark. Last season he was meant to establish himself in the side.
His first season was meant largely to introduce him to the rigors of a top league, and get him more playing time as he wasn’t able to break through for Barcelona in any of the attacking positions. (I wonder why??)
So, keeping in mind that objective of that first season, how did he do?
In nine starts and sixteen appearances off the bench, a 19 year-old Deulofeu scored three goals and had three assists.
Playing just under 900 minutes, that means the current AC Milan man was taking part in a goal every 150 minutes. (ugh)
Hmmmm…….using my concussion-riddled memory (thanks football, wrestling, soccer, rugby, four brothers) I would have thought he did better than that.
Maybe that was just because the bar is so low??
If you dig deeper, he was only averaging a key pass every two games or so. Not exactly sparkling production, even from a 19 year-old.
Keep going and we will find that while he beats two people off the dribble per match, he nullified his efforts by being disposed once per match and taking one bad touch as well (UnsTch).
So we begin to see some evidence why Koeman isn’t a big fan, if he didn’t grow that is.
He was getting a shot off per game, so he wasn’t exactly invisible, the view was just obstructed. Everton fans hoped that if they ever saw him again he was be a complete work of art.
When he returned at the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, there was a palpable excitement about Deulofeu. After a dispiriting campaign while trying to balance the Premier and Europa Leagues the previous season, he was seen as an injection of pace and unpredictability the squad needed.
So how did he do after a year back in Spain on loan with Sevilla?
He started 16 matches, and made 10 appearances off the bench. So he stayed relatively healthy and was part of the team for almost the entire campaign.
How’d he do?
The stats, at first glance, are not very flattering.
Two goals and eight assists isn’t exactly what you would want from someone depended upon to create for the team, especially considering his less than stellar defensive work rate (more on that later).
Eight assists is not anything scoff at though. He was only one off Ross Barkley for the team lead, so why was not he a more consistent starter?
Well, let’s see WHO he was successful against.
Assists against Sunderland, West Ham, Bournemouth, Norwich, and Aston Villa were coupled with goals versus Stoke and Sunderland. Not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents.
The last note about the 2015-2016 season is that Deulofeu burnt out. Badly.
The last of his eight assists came on January 16th, and that was after being assist-less for over a month already! Add in that the second of his two goals came in late December and you realize that 2016 just wasn’t Deulofeu’s year.
Are you done piling on yet??
I am a big believer in the impact you have on the team overall.
So let’s compare matches he played in, matches he was out, and matches he had a goal and/or an assist in.
Ummmmm………… I think we found our problem.
When he was a starter or sub, 26 matches, Everton picked up a whopping 5 wins.
The 12 matches he WASN’T in the team however, they won 6!
It’s never a good sign when the team does markedly better with you OFF the pitch.
Finally, when he did contribute to a goal the team only pulled out two wins, and when you recount the teams he put his name on the score sheet against, it is more evidence against our young Spanish friend.
So, Koeman comes in, does his research, and watches training. Just like every other player (except Oumar Niasse) was given a chance to prove himself after starting with a clean slate.
What kind of impression did Gerard make?
Not a good one.
In 11 appearances, including four starts, he mustered a grand total of ZERO goals AND ZERO assists.
Not 500 minutes well spent if you ask me.
He averaged less than one key pass per match, and was dispossessed and took poor touches on useful passes twice a match.
After reviewing the previous season and watching him in person for a few months, the better questions might be why didn’t he ship him out quicker?
When trying to draw a final analysis we must consider the other side to this story, Ronald Koeman. He has set a different standard for being a member of Everton, and Geri isn’t close.
My thoughts are this:
If you look at the statistics, Deulofeu frankly hasn’t been that impactful anywhere on the pitch, even in the final third, where he is supposed to make his money.
He doesn’t do it though.
Sure, he does step overs, gets off SOME crosses (though many are repelled), and it looks really cool when he accelerates after standing straight up, BUT THAT’S IT!
The team wins more when he isn’t on the field, and when you consider his attitude and body language, it’s a wonder he’s progessed this far.
His tendency to stop the ball when he receives it also disrupts the timing of the attack and brings the team to a crawl, and when he loses it he doesn’t track back!
His exasperation at poor passes, tendency to linger on the ground, and overall lack of interest in defending inhibit his growth as a player. Everton is not a team that is built to carry luxury players.
Even Yannick Bolasie got on board and consistently tracked back like a champion.
Then there’s this habit:
STOP ROLLING YOUR SHORTS UP!! ESPECIALLY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MATCH!! SERIOUSLY!! IT’S ANNOYING!
I know it seems like a petty thing to bring up, but it just goes to show Geri’s inability to engage 100% mentally, even between the whistles. His concern is how the match is reflecting on him, not vice-versa.
He seems like a harmless, if not nice, guy.
In Koeman’s teams, however, you must be willing and able to press at all times, move the ball technically, and do the off the ball work necessary to be successful at the top level.
Trust me, Koeman knows.
He could go out on loan and come back a stronger player, but based on Koeman’s history it seems unlikely he will change the Dutchman’s mind.
So why did Everton get rid of Deulofeu?
He’s lazy, doesn’t create goals, has a negative overall impact on the wins and losses of the team and isn’t willing to increase his work rate to get on the field.
Well, when you say it like that….maybe he wasn’t as good as we thought.