Much has changed at Everton in the time since Roberto Martinez became manager and while some have been quite obvious, a change that has slipped under the radar somewhat has been the form of Steven Naismith.
Signed on a free transfer by David Moyes, Naismith arrived from Rangers last summer with a reputation as a utility man, able to play in attack or midfield with equal competence. And that proved true, in that Naismith rarely impressed in either position last season – his touch was heavy, his passing wasteful and his finishing wayward.
He did however have a tendency to make dangerous runs into the penalty area and his effort was never questioned. Netting his first goal for Everton against Liverpool was a fine way to get a sceptical crowd on side and three goals in five games following the derby gave a hint of what the Scotland international may be capable of.
But it didn’t last. It took until the final game of the season for Naismith to net again and in between he did little to warrant a place. Most often Moyes turned to Naismith as a substitute, a hard-working option on the right of midfield to hold down a troublesome left-back; indeed, Naismith was Everton’s most used substitute last season and whether he was effective in the role as designated substitute is up for debate as well.
He admitted himself that his form had been subpar in his inaugural campaign at Goodison Park, in a rare example of a Premier League football showing self-awareness. In June Naismith told the
Naismith said in the same interview that his injury suffered when at Rangers may have been a factor and it can’t be ruled out. Prior to joining Everton Naismith had not played competitively since October 2011 due to a cruciate injury and made only 15 appearances in his last season at Ibrox. He also claimed to have been surprised by the amount of games he did play for Everton, which raises questions about his preparedness for the Premier League.
It’s too early now to say Naismith has totally turned around his form but he has been given plenty of opportunities by Martinez, featuring in six out of the seven games for which the Spaniard has been in charge.
The injury to Steven Pienaar, a knee problem according to Physio Room, afforded Naismith a chance against Chelsea and he took it, scoring the opening goal. It was a goal the South African may not have scored as Naismith, the part-time forward, has a scent for scoring his teammate does not. The inexperience of Gerard Deulofeu has also contributed to Naismith’s repeated involvement, as Martinez has so far been reluctant to turn to the on-loan Barcelona in the league programme.
Naismith got on the score sheet again as Everton bowed out of the League Cup at Fulham, and few would be surprised to see him start against Newcastle on Monday. If he maintains that kind of scoring form and his all-round game picks up, Naismith could complete the biggest turnaround in supporter opinion at Goodison since Lee Carsley went from midfield clogger under Walter Smith to a crucial part of Moyes’ XI and a player revered to this day.
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