Marouane Fellaini marked his return from suspension by scoring his seventh goal of the season as Everton drew 1-1 with Arsenal on Wednesday, capping another majestic performance with a precise left-footed strike from distance. The Belgium midfielder has been in fine fettle all season – just as well, as Nikica Jelavic looks distinctly out of form.
After Everton got off to the worst possible start, conceding to Theo Walcott inside a minute, Fellaini took charge. His running battle with Per Mertesacker was a constant theme throughout the match, but Fellaini’s real success came not through using his size but his skill. The effortless shot dispatched past Wojciech Szczesny summed up Fellaini’s ability to change a game. It came at the end of a scrappy bit of play but Fellaini’s class rose above, as it so often has this season.
The goal was of a type that Fellaini has never scored before for Everton. The towering midfielder-cum-forward has scored close-range tap-ins, booming headers and finishes from inside the penalty area, finding the back of the net 27 times in his four years at Goodison Park. But drives from outside the box are a rare thing from Fellaini and demonstrated yet another string to his bow. Fellaini has always been hard to ignore and even harder to handle. At this rate, the 25-year-old must rank as one of the finest Everton players for a generation.
Jelavic looked as if he may be in that category with his initial impact after moving to Everton in January from Rangers. He still might, but as it stands the Croatian is a long way from that standard and a pale shadow of his February-May form. Jelavic has scored five goals in 14 games thus far, a fair return but the 27-year-old blazed a trail when he first arrived on Merseyside, scoring 11 times in 16 appearances.
The sharpness that plundered those goals has gone, best evidenced by the wonderful turn and awful shot in the first-half against Arsenal. Jelavic’s control turned the Arsenal defence and put him through on Szczesny’s goal, but the finish was wild, flying high over the crossbar. It was a shot from a striker having to think about how to score a goal, rather than the kind of cool, natural attempt to which Everton grew accustomed and has largely deserted Jelavic this season.
That skied shot was not the only example of Jelavic trying too hard – there was also the thoughtless decision to run onto a ball won by Leighton Baines when standing in an offside position, where, if Jelavic had backed away, Baines would have been through on goal. Against Norwich City Jelavic was flying into challenges with venom rarely seen in a centre-forward. A stricter referee would have shown a yellow card for one in particular in the first-half. But Jelavic has proven quality and does not need to go to such lengths. For a reminder of how to do it right, he need look no further than Fellaini.
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