Welbeck 23, 70
Cahill 6, Arteta 83
An enjoyable game with four goals shared between Everton and Sunderland underscored the need for one of the Toffees’ trio of senior strikers to step up and ease the pressure on Tim Cahill’s shoulders.
Everton’s build-up play was at times excellent, with Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines again combining to great effect. But Cahill was the only player in blue to look like scoring until Mikel Arteta’s 83rd minute stroke of luck. If for two off-the-line clearances Cahill might have had a hat-trick, but to expect the Australian to continue to pick up the slack left by Yakubu, Jermaine Beckford and particularly Louis Saha is not only unfair to one of the Toffees’ most loyal servants but damaging to whatever hopes Everton have for this season. No matter how much his competitive spirit may drive him on, Cahill cannot carry the responsibility for scoring Everton’s goals on his own.
The 4-4-1-1 formation Everton line-up in is ideal for Cahill, allowing him to attack crosses from deep as he did for the game’s opening goal and using his combative qualities to assist midfield. Whether it suits Saha quite so much is a question that needs answering more and more with each of the Frenchman’s recent appearances. In truth the only forward to impress for Everton this season for any kind of extended time has been Yakubu, who entered a handful of good performances but now finds himself behind fit-again Saha in the striker’s pecking order. Saha drifts wide and becomes involved in the build-up play and often to good effect, but leaves a striker-shaped hole in the penalty area when the killer ball is played. With only one striker Saha’s absence is keenly felt, although blame should go to the midfield too for not exploiting the space available.
Everton’s midfield must also take criticism for passing up almost every shooting opportunity that came their way, until Arteta left fly late on. The Spaniard notched his third goal of the season thanks to a slice of luck that would not have arrived without the shot coming in the first place, and David Moyes has spoken of his frustration with his players passing up decent positions. Words are not enough from the manager, however – there needs to be a tangible change in those situations. When the forwards are misfiring the midfield must offer more, and with the technique Arteta strikes the ball, he and Pienaar especially must find the net with greater frequency. Pienaar has not scored more than five league goals since 2002/03 with Ajax, while Arteta managed six goals in 13 Premier League games last season and now has three in 13, but both have the ability to do better.
Misses such as Beckford’s late on can happen to any striker at any time, and that he was in that position – bursting between the two Sunderland centre-backs to race on to a through ball – was a more dangerous contribution in an eight minute cameo than Saha managed in 82 minutes of, in the loosest sense of the word, action. With Christmas approaching, top of Moyes’ wish list must be a new striker, or at least one of his current crop to re-find their scoring touch.
18 Neville – 6 Jagielka – 15 Distin – 3 Baines
23 Coleman – 10 Arteta – 5 Heitinga – 20 Pienaar
63 – 26 Rodwell on for 23 Coleman
82 – 22 Yakubu on for 8 Saha
82 – 16 Beckford on for 5 Heitinga