The news that Nikica Jelavic faces two weeks out with a knee injury will come as a bitter blow to Everton, but it does at least give one of David Moyes’ squad players the chance to impress. After he replaced Jelavic during the draw with Newcastle United earlier this week, it appears the manager will turn to Victor Anichebe.
In many ways it encapsulated much of Anichebe’s recent Everton career, which can perhaps be best surmised with one word: Inconsistent. The Anichebe that buried a powerful effort past Steve Harper is not the one that always takes to the field. Too often seen is the Anichebe that stumbled when seemingly clean through on goal a little earlier.
Anichebe has been in and around the Everton first team for six-and-a-half years now. He made his debut as a late substitute against Chelsea in the FA Cup in 2006, scoring his first goal in May of that year and now has almost 150 appearances for Everton to his name, a substantial amount for one so young. But that figure does not tell the true story of his Everton tenure, and a closer look details why Anichebe struggles so often.
In all competitions Anichebe has made 138 Everton appearances. But the Everton statistics website, evertonresults.com, lists Anichebe as having been brought on as a substitute 88 times. That leaves only 50 starts since his debut, less than a season and a half’s worth of games. He may have been involved with the senior side for a long time now but in truth, Anichebe has precious little experience.
Most of Anichebe’s substitute appearances will have come when Everton are chasing a goal, or want to waste time and defend a narrow lead. Many of his starts will have been in cup competitions, against lower league opposition, and those games arrive only rarely. Anichebe also missed 11 months with a serious injury thanks to Kevin Nolan.
Moyes recently sent out Ross Barkley on loan, claiming the teenager was ready for ”men’s football”, the experience of playing in the first team at a competitive level. Anichebe received no such opportunity. Perhaps it was felt that as he was so physically strong he did not need to grow in the same way, but mentally and technically is another matter.
Everton have also often been shorthanded in attack, particularly in the pre-Jelavic days, with Anichebe needed to make up the numbers, or shunted wide to try and better use his pace and power. Not all of those 50 starts are as a striker, the role which he now has to fulfil.
Without a loan spell to offer insight into what it takes to be a first team centre-forward, Anichebe is still learning in full glare of the Goodison Park crowd. It may yet all click into place. Anytime in the next two weeks would be ideal.
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