The key for many a top side is the ever-elusive goal scorer; Manchester United have Robin van Persie, while their city rivals recently selected Alvaro Negredo for the role. Often a problem for Everton, albeit temporarily solved by Yakubu in 2007-08, the quest for regular goals looked over when Nikica Jelavic signed in January 2012.
The new signing made his debut at Wigan in February, coming on as a 60th minute substitute. The brief display featured plenty of promise, but injury struck and a stop-start period ensued with the forward restricted to minimal action for the remainder of the month.
After returning to fitness, a first start came against Tottenham. Seizing his chance, the match heralded a first goal for the club and confirmed his quality. Steering a first-time finish beyond Brad Friedel, this type of goal quickly became the Jelavic trademark.
The unerring ability to find the space in the penalty area contributed to a blistering start. His Everton career began with nine league goals in ten starts – few players bettered his rate of a goal every 106 minutes. Unfortunately, the same form failed to materialise last season; the impressive rate of a goal every 106 minutes plummeted to an uninspiring 347 in 2012-13.
Several factors conspired against the Croatian in the last campaign and the statistics merely highlight the severe contrast between his first and second season in royal blue. Although his impact on the side petered out in 12-13, the early signs did hint at a continuation of his 11-12 form.
Five goals in the early months of the season offered plenty of hope, but that quickly evaporated. After a last-gasp strike against Tottenham in early December, the only other league strike arrived against Manchester City in March.
Without delving into the depths of analysis, it is obvious that 7 goals in 26 league starts fails to stack up to 9 goals in 10 starts from the season before. The minutes per shot ratio dropped marginally – from one every 31 minutes to one every 33 – yet the real slip was the shooting accuracy.
Minutes per shot on target fell from 53 minutes to a disappointing 76. This wayward shooting stemmed from a clear loss of form and confidence; aliments that gathered pace as the season progressed. Snowballing on top of this was the decrease in shooting accuracy, the figures falling from 58% to 44% in 12-13.
Starved of quality service throughout last season, the real story of the Jelavic woes could be found in the conversion categories. Firing on all of the proverbial cylinders during his first season, the chance conversion rate reached an impressive 29%; this figure slumped to a lowly 10% last season.
The general conversion numbers are painful enough yet the clear-cut chance figures are excruciating by comparison. His first season in the Premier League resulted in three clear-cut chances scored, with four missed, for a respectable conversion rate of 43%.
Last season, although in and out of the side, a greater number of appearances still ensured further chances. Clear-cut chances rose from seven to 22 last season, but the loss of form butchered his success rate. Converting just four of his 22 clear-cut chances, the 18% success rate underlines the crisis of confidence experienced in the last campaign.
Hampered by the presence of Marouane Fellaini in the advanced role, with the Belgian becoming the focus of the attack instead, Jelavic often found himself drifting onto the flanks in search of possession. Fortunately, the tactics in pre-season appear to suit the out-of-form striker (should he re-establish his place in the side).
Although yet to feature, his pre-season debut expected against Blackburn on Saturday, the previous game at Accrington saw the ideal setup for Jelavic. The use of Leon Osman in the advanced role is the creative type needed to help conjure the best from the Croatian.
While there is interest from Hamburg and increased competition due to the arrival of Arouna Kone, the upcoming campaign offers a chance to return to the form of 11-12. Able to make a fresh start under a different manager employing a new approach, staying could be the making of the player.
[box_light]All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.[/box_light]