Can Roberto Martinez Solve Everton's Striker Conundrum?

Can Roberto Martinez Solve Everton's Striker Conundrum?

In virtually every single transfer window during David Moyes’ 11-year tenure with Everton, the club were constantly linked with bringing in a striker. The Toffees finished the 2012/13 campaign in sixth place and just nine points adrift of Champions League football. The biggest frustration for the supporters was that there was something about this season that felt like a ‘missed opportunity’ because once again, the profusion of draws was the difference of making it into Europe’s biggest club competition.

There is no denying that finishing in the top six was a sign of another great year in the Premier League but on several occasions during the season, Everton had the three points in the bag and threw them away in the dying stages of the match. Added to Sylvain Distin’s winner at Anfield being wrongly chalked off, Fulham away, Tottenham away and Norwich both home and away were key instances, and if these games were seen out properly, European football at Goodison Park next season was a strong possibility.

With the abundance of draws, some supporters blame it on the strike force, which is the weakest part of a solid Everton side, as the lack of depth is easily noticeable. Nikica Jelavic, who scored 11 goals when arriving in January 2012 from Rangers, suffered a crisis of confidence in his first full season since his move and failed to live up to the high expectations he set in such a short space of time.

But let’s not forget that this is a man that arrived with a great goalscoring record, albeit in the SPL, and has already showed his quality of finishing immediately after joining the club. The wealth of first-time finishes he pulled off was phenomenal and everybody thought to themselves that the goalscorer Everton had been crying out for was finally here. However, with just 8 goals in all competitions this season, Jelavic found his first team opportunities limited and Victor Anichebe replaced him in the latter parts of the campaign.

Jelavic Stats

The role that Tim Cahill played with Jelavic, though, shouldn’t be understated. The Australian always gave 100% when playing just behind various strikers such as, James Beattie, Andrew Johnson, Yakubu and then Jelavic. As special as Cahill was in the air, he was never renowned for his skilful feet, but that didn’t matter. The 33-year-old would constantly flick balls on, feed balls through and link up with the Croatian striker and their partnership helped Everton soar up the table in the 2011/12 campaign.

When Cahill departed that summer, Moyes took the decision to move Marouane Fellaini further forward, not realising this would be detrimental to Jelavic’s form. The Belgium international is fantastic in the air, but when the ball was played towards him, he would often control it on his chest, play it out wide to the flanks and get himself into a position to score. This cut the direct route to Jelavic off and the 27-year-old often had to chase the channels to support Fellaini, when in fact, it should have been him in the box to hit those infamous first-time finishes into the net. Although this system worked in the short-term, as Fellaini put in a host of stellar performances to ensure Everton had a solid start, but the fact that Moyes didn’t change this system later in the season, to get the best out of Jelavic, halted the European push. The team this season was purely constructed to get the best out of Fellaini, not Jelavic, as in previous seasons, it was built for Tim Cahill and Yakubu was left out.

Jelavic has since been linked with moves away, with some sections of supporters willing to see him leave. But all hope of Jelavic finding his goalscoring boots shouldn’t be given up yet, as we’ve seen what can happen before. Yakubu was signed for £11.25m with a brilliant goalscoring record at both Portsmouth and Middlesbrough respectively and after scoring 18 goals in his first season, he also dried up and Everton eventually sold him to Blackburn Rovers for as little as £1.5m. When Yakubu was made the central figure at Ewood Park, despite the club suffering relegation to the Championship that same season, the Nigerian scored 17 Premier League goals, which would have been massively useful to Everton.

With Roberto Martinez arriving with a more open, attractive style of play, there won’t be any 6’foot 4’’ defensive midfielders pushed further forward, and maybe the Spaniard can get the best out of Jelavic.

Of course, strikers such as, Wilfried Bony, Demba Ba and Negredo would be tremendously welcomed but for all the bad press about Jelavic, he still has 19 goals in 44 games for Everton. Rumours have persisted that Martinez might attempt to bring Arouna Kone with him from Wigan and although the Ivory Coast international is 29, Kone would do all the hard work, running the channels and chasing lost causes for Jelavic or if a 3-4-3 style of play was implemented, the wide players in the front three would do the same.

The biggest conundrum the Everton board and Roberto Martinez face this summer is where the money needs to be spent. The formation, the age of the squad and Marouane Fellaini’s future are all factors of discussion, but Nikica Jelavic’s talents shouldn’t be forgotten. He has the ability, as he’s proved it. A change in team philosophy could do the trick before big money is spent in the striking department.

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