Consistency key in Deulofeu's quest for regular football

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesAlthough creative in attack, an improvement in his defensive play is still needed for winger Gerard Deulofeu.

There are numerous positions in football, from the traditional to the whimsical, and some are easier to fill than others. Goalkeepers, centre backs, full backs, and central midfielders pad out many a squad.

Two of the more problematic positions are in attacking areas; a forward providing a constant goal threat, and a wide player or two offering creativity. Building on last season at West Brom and registering two promising displays since signing, Romelu Lukaku will hope to become the former, while there are signs of Gerard Deulofeu developing into the latter.

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Almost 20 years have elapsed since Everton possessed a winger of such quality and potential. The last winger of indisputable quality was Andrei Kanchelskis, who netted 16 goals in 32 matches in 1995-96. Everton have struggled to fill the void since.

From the over the hill: David Ginola -- to the out of position: Steve Watson and Gary Naysmith -- to those simply not good enough: Niclas Alexandersson and Jasper Blomqvist; the failures easily outweigh the successes in this arduous search for genuine wing options.

Over the years, in a bid to remedy this issue, a number of players best used elsewhere found themselves masquerading out wide. Jack Rodwell, Tim Cahill, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Leon Osman, and Victor Anichebe all spent time on the flanks.

In addition, several boasted the ability but not the brains. James McFadden verged between the sublime and the ridiculous, while the two well-travelled Dutch imports, Andy van der Meyde and Royston Drenthe, preferred extracurricular activities.

Returning to the present day, Deulofeu was one of the few positives to emerge from the cup exit on Tuesday, running Fulham ragged during the first half. Evidence of his impact was Martin Jol's decision to replace John Arne Riise during the second half, the youngster giving the left back a torrid time.

The standout performer in the opening period, impressing with his dribbling ability, close control and fearlessness in possession, Deulofeu assisted on the Steven Naismith goal and troubled the home defence before fading towards the end.

Currently filling the wide positions, when fully fit, are Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas, though both do their best work centrally. Pienaar cuts infield to link up play, which allows Leighton Baines to overlap, and Mirallas drifts in from the right to influence proceedings.

Furthermore, with Pienaar currently injured, Naismith still to convince in a midfield role, and a long season ahead, Deulofeu is sure to receive opportunities this season. It is up to him to seize upon those chances, as he did for the majority of the Fulham fixture.

One pleasing sign of progression is the defensive output. Brought up on a dominant possession-based style at Barcelona and given freedom in attack, pre-season revealed a player lacking defensively.

Now, acclimatising to his new surroundings in the Premier League, Deulofeu is beginning to learn. Tracking back and becoming more positionally aware, the defensive concerns are fading into the background.

It goes without saying, however, that the rough edges require fine-tuning if Deulofeu is to feature prominently this campaign. The final ball and decision-making tend to slide erratically between the excellent and the frustrating.

Prone to taking two or three touches when one will suffice, the fine line between playing well and overplaying needs addressing. Moving forward, blessed with undoubted talent, the onus is on Deulofeu to give Roberto Martinez a constant selection dilemma in the weeks and months ahead.

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