Everton’s potential signing of Portuguese forward Joao Silva – the new Pauleta if the media is to be believed – shows that not only is David Moyes planning for next season already, but he has pinpointed the areas he needs to strengthen if Everton are to join Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Liverpool in fighting for the Champions League. Everton’s strikers are currently misfiring, leaving the team heavily reliant on goals from midfield and defence.
Joao Silva – or Joao Pedro Pereira Silva to give him his full name – is a 19-year-old striker with second division C.D Aves, who Everton have reportedly signed for a fee of £500 000. The rumours of the Portuguese coming to Goodison Park date back to late March, but at the time Moyes refused to be drawn on any potential move. He said: “I won’t talk about players at other clubs. I think it is the wrong thing to do. At the right time we will discuss people.” With the story resurfacing this week – and moving from speculation over an impending bid to the deal being done – the player himself was quoted as saying: “I feel happy, because to play in the Premier League is a dream for every player. Everton are a great club, I’ve seen them play on TV and they have great players. I believe that competition is ideal to my style to play.” Standing at 6’2 1/2”, Silva certainly has a similar physique to Pauleta, the former Portugal striker, and has bagged 13 goals this season. Whether the youngster will be able to make the giant leap from the Portuguese second division to the Premier League remains to be seen, but Everton need added firepower for next season.
The Blues’ attack, at the moment, does not quite match up with the other departments on the field. In goal, Everton can call upon Tim Howard, a solid goalkeeper if a little weighted to his line and reluctant to come for the ball at times. The Toffees’ defence has pleasing depth – including one of the best left-backs in the country in Leighton Baines while Phil Jagielka has almost immediately returned to top form following his long injury lay-off. The midfield is Everton’s crowning glory, with wonderfully creative players in Mikel Arteta, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman allied to willing workhorses with their own touch of class – Tim Cahill, Marouane Fellaini, John Heitinga. But at centre-forward, the ranks are a little thin. Louis Saha has 15 goals this season – but none since his double put Chelsea to the sword in February. Yakubu, meanwhile, has only shown flashes of his best since returning from injury in September. On form, the Nigerian’s blend of deceptive strength and immaculate skill troubles every defence, but the former Middlesbrough forward is still a ways short of his optimum level. James Vaughn at one point looked like being Everton’s top striker for the foreseeable future but numerous injuries have seriously hampered his progress and he is currently on loan at Leicester City, while Victor Anichebe is being used more as a winger – and is still too raw to rely on for goals – but his sheer pace and power make him a valuable asset.
Everton have 59 goals from their 36 league games this season – roughly 1.6 goals per game, lower than all but one of the four Champions League contenders above them – Liverpool are on 1.7, with 61 goals from 36 games, Spurs claim 1.8 goals per game with 63 strikes in 35 matches while City top the list, finding the net 69 times in their 35 outings, or 1.9 goals per game. It is only Villa who trail Everton in the goals per game stakes, with their 36 games bringing 51 goals, or 1.4 goals per game. For Everton to have any hope of forcing their way into the top four fight next season, they have to be at least matching – if not bettering – those above them while shoring up their defence also – Everton concede more goals per game than each of Liverpool, City, Villa and Spurs. Improving the goals to games ratio would remove some of the strain on Everton’s back line and put the Blues in a position to gatecrash the top four next season.
Of course, the true story of football cannot be told simply in statistics. The numbers say nothing for the quality of Everton’s football since the turn of the year – and likewise, the bare figures of 13 goals in 28 appearances do not tell the full tale of Joao Silva. For that, we may have to wait until next season.