Everton’s transfer targets this summer are well known. After wrapping up the signing of Steven Naismith and opening dialogue with Tottenham Hotspur for the full-time return of Steven Pienaar, the question turns to where else David Moyes should be looking to strengthen.
Last season Everton’s defensive was solid. In the Premier League the Toffees conceded only slightly more than a goal a game – 40 in 38 – and far less than a number of the teams above them. By comparison to any team outside the top two in the table Everton’s defence was highly impressive.
The difference came in front of goal. The attacking comparison is as negative as the defensive one is positive. All of the teams above Everton scored more goals, and mostly a substantial number. Everton hit 50. Only Newcastle scored fewer than 60.
It is hardly breaking news to suggest Everton have had problems in attack. It was a situation that dogged Moyes right up until the moment Nikica Jelavic scored his first goal. That was on March 10, against Spurs. Prior to Jelavic’s inaugural effort Everton had scored less than a goal a game and had scored fewer than they had conceded. Letting in a goal a game is the mark of sturdy defence but when you are struggling to score at a better rate it is a recipe for mediocrity.
That is what Everton had before Jelavic. They languished in 11th. But that goal against Tottenham opened the floodgates and 10 more arrived by May. Everton surged up the table. Jelavic ended the season with 11 goals in 16 games, a startling ratio and one that compares to any striker in the division.
But what if Everton were forced to return to a pre-Jelavic state of affairs? The club’s second-highest scorer was Victor Anichebe with six. Anichebe and Apostolos Vellios managed fewer between them than Jelavic scored on his own. For a large chunk of the season left-back Leighton Baines was the team’s top scorer.
So Everton are utterly reliant on Jelavic for goals. That does not represent a problem as long as the Croatian is fit and firing. But if he suffers a long-term injury or endures a dry spell? Everton are sunk. Yet at the same time the presence of Jelavic and Moyes’ predilection for playing only one striker mean it is not practical for Everton to splash out on another striker.
An alternative remedy must then be found. Can Anichebe or Vellios be relied upon in the event of a long stretch with Jelavic? Possibly, but Anichebe is inconsistent and Vellios inexperienced.
It would be an unworthy gamble not to consider another forward. And available on a free transfer is a striker with a track record of goals. One who is already settled in the North West. And who, at the age of 32 and with a history of injuries, might be willing to play second fiddle.
Michael Owen could be the striker Everton need. A year-long contract, on a pay-as-you play basis, would suit all concerned. Everton get an established second-choice striker. Owen gets another year in the Premier League. And Jelavic gets some much-needed striking support.
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