Productive US tour ends in defeat for Everton

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Gerard Deulofeu received his full Everton debut against Valencia.APGerard Deulofeu received his full Everton debut against Valencia.

Everton rounded off a productive US tour on Tuesday evening, though the result and performance were not up to the high standards set by Roberto Martinez to this point. Several gave the appearance of running through mud, a third match in seven days seemingly catching up with the players, as the Blues slipped to a 1-0 defeat against an impressive Valencia side.

• O'Farrell: Tactical tinkering hinders brave Everton

Regularly finding promising positions in the opposing final third, it was immensely frustrating to watch Everton struggle with their final ball and necessary movement; a pleasing first half ebbed away after the interval. Nevertheless, regardless of the back-to-back defeats, this tour was a useful exercise for Martinez and his men.

Able to test themselves against three of the best sides in Europe, Everton emerged from each match having ran their opponents close. Eventually overcoming Juventus on penalties, Everton ought to have beaten the Italian champions in normal time.

On another day, with a different set of officials, the Toffees would surely have left the Real Madrid match in possession of more than just gallant defeat. Running out of steam in this final fixture, this was a deserved defeat yet there are still a number of pleasing aspects to reflect on.

Fresh from his man-of-the-match display against Juventus at centre back, John Stones switched to right-back without the slightest hint of upheaval. Comfortable in either position, the youngster is an exciting prospect, possessing a composure belying his age and relative inexperience.

On the other flank, Bryan Oviedo continued his impressive pre-season form. Unfortunately, for the Costa Rican, Leighton Baines is his rival for the left back spot; Oviedo would stroll into most Premier League teams on this form. However, these pre-season showings do offer hope in the event of the unthinkable Baines departure.

Central midfield saw the Darron Gibson - Marouane Fellaini pairing reunited. Sadly, both disappointed, neither able to impose themselves on proceedings. Nevertheless, the side had a more balanced look to it and the duo remains the best central midfield partnership available to Martinez.

Steven Naismith built on the promise shown against Madrid and the Scottish international is beginning to unlock the form witnessed at Rangers. Gerard Deulofeu received his full debut on the right. His 53-minute presentation provided glimpses of his potential yet an unwillingness to track back often left Stones isolated.

Nobody wants to neuter his obvious creative talents, but Deulofeu must exhibit the traits of a team player when employed in midfield. Letting his head drop after losing possession, immaturity rose to the surface on occasion. His Everton career in its infancy, the wise words of Martinez and further match action are sure to benefit the development of the Spaniard.

In the advanced central role, Ross Barkley played his first 90 minutes of pre-season. Delivering a mixed bag, the good and the bad arrived in equal measure but the potential of the midfielder is clear. One of the few to improve in the second period, Barkley is primed to have a breakthrough season.

In attack, Victor Anichebe merely served to boost the case for Nikica Jelavic starting on the opening day at Norwich. Although improving immeasurably last season, the Nigerian lacks the penalty area nous and movement of Jelavic. His leaden-footed first half outing played into the hands of his striking rival.

Even with the sour note of successive defeats and the slipshod organisation of the tournament, this US tour was a resounding success for all connected with Everton. Able to examine his squad further over the course of this resourceful week, Martinez has a final chance to decide on his preferred opening day eleven when Real Betis visit Goodison Park on Sunday.

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