Looking at Everton’s squad as a whole, there are some players that you would expect to take their game to an enhanced level next year. Compared to the pragmatic and sometimes rigid tactical blueprint of his predecessor David Moyes, Roberto Martinez will look to implement a fluent, versatile attacking style. The flair players at the club like Steven Pienaar, Bryan Oviedo, Ross Barkley and Leon Osman will all surely benefit playing in a set-up with an increased technical focus.
But of all the players in the squad, expect Belgian forward Kevin Mirallas to flourish most of all under the new manager.
Mirallas is a player that the Everton fan-base are itching to see in action again next season. For when he was on the pitch last season, he dazzled.
He made his debut in the League Cup against Leyton Orient, netting twice in the opening half. The Evertonians took to him immediately, and not just because of his introductory brace.
It has been a quite a stint since Everton had a player in the same mould as Mirallas within their ranks. Wide players with pace, trickery and an eye for goal have been scarcely found in blue shirts down the years. In fact, you have to go back to Andrei Kanchelskis at the end of the 1990’s when pondering the previous player of this ilk.
Everyone loves to see a player constantly going at defenders with pace and agility; Evertonians are no different. In that respect, Mirallas ticks all the boxes.
Whilst on the pitch Mirallas showcased a glut of class. But he was not on the field as much as David Moyes would have liked him to be over the course of the whole campaign.
At his former club Olympiakos, Mirallas would usually operate as one of the wide forwards in a 4-3-3 formation. As such, his defensive duties were almost non-existent. He remained high up the pitch and tried to use his devastating pace to hit teams on the break.
Whilst this was a successful ploy – Mirallas bagged 20 goals in his last season in Greece – his role was always going to change under the Moyes regime. At Everton, Mirallas has operated primarily from the right-hand side in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Typical of the Moyes philosophy, the Belgian was never going to get away with a neglect of defensive work, especially with Seamus Coleman marauding forward from the full-back slot behind him.
This increased workload obviously took it’s toll on Mirallas, as he limped off injured in a succession of games and missed almost three months of action in total. Problems with his hamstring clearly besieged him, but David Moyes called on his player to toughen up back in April:
“He’s not quite adapted to what the Premier League means and how the games go. I look at him and he’s signaling to me with 15 minutes to go – so maybe he’s not quite got what’s required at Everton or the Premier League”
But in the same breath Moyes was well aware of his quality:
“What he has got in abundance though is pace, ability, he can score goals, he can take you on and he can play in two or three different positions.”
From February onwards, Mirallas heeded the words of his manager and showed off his talent. He re-established himself in the side and became a key figure in the run in, netting six times in the campaigns last thirteen games. But perhaps most encouraging of all, he got his head down, grafted up and down the flank and still posed a genuine attacking threat to the opposition.
The player himself commented on the noticeable difference this had made to his game:
“The manager is leaving me out there more and more for longer in each game and I think he can tell I am feeling fitter and lasting more into games now. I am quite pleased with my own form. I think I am playing quite well.”
You suspect under Martinez, the Belgian will continue in the same vein as he finished the campaign, remaining a prominent figure. Maybe even the most prominent in the squad.
Martinez’s tactical tinkering is well documented, and the forward line is regularly subject to adjustments. But for Mirallas, this should not be a problem. His versatility means he can be a threat from the right-hand side, through the middle and from the left too.
If Mirallas can get a full pre-season under his belt, then Evertonians should anticipate some electric forward-play in the upcoming campaign. Do not expect him to have his defensive responsibilities completed negated, but under Martinez, Mirallas could be let off the leash.
When that happens, the new manager will have a colossal weapon at his disposal. And a player that could well develop into one of the best in the Premier League.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball