During his tenure as Everton manager, David Moyes never really sussed out how to get the best from strikers. Despite having broken the club’s transfer record three times by bringing in centre-forwards James Beattie, Andrew Johnson and Ayigbeni Yakubu, none of the Glaswegian’s purchases were able to deliver goals and performances on a consistent basis.
Current forward Nikica Jelavic is another who falls into this particular bracket. After bursting onto the Premier League scene in his debut campaign with the Toffees, the Croatian international will be looking to bounce back from a classic case of ‘second season syndrome’.
The former Rangers man was snapped up by Moyes back in January 2012 to give his side some much needed firepower. Jelavic duly obliged, netting nine times in thirteen games before the end of the campaign and helping the Toffees to a strong finish.
But in his second campaign, somewhat typically for Everton strikers under Moyes, he toiled. Having been prolific in the opening six months of his Everton career, that goalscoring instinct seemingly deserted him in his second campaign, stuttering towards just seven goals in thirty-seven appearances. Jelavic cut a hesitant and frustrated figure throughout.
Despite his recent woes, Everton fans still harbor hopes that their striker, who remains universally popular with the supporters, can rediscover his golden touch. And it is certainly not unreasonable to think so, for at his best, goals did not come about as a result of ‘hit and hope’ strikes. They were cultured, classy finishes; goals that are arguably the true measure of a fine forward.
That sort of touch doesn’t evaporate overnight, or over a summer break for that matter. Last season, something was off with Jelavic, and Roberto Martinez will be hopeful of putting that right.
So what went wrong last year? And how can the new manager resolve it? The most pertinent issue was perhaps the initial dominance Marouane Fellaini had on Everton’s attacking play at the inception of the 2012/13 season. The Belgian was pushed forward as a second striker early on, but he is certainly not a classic No.10 and not a player that compliments Jelavic’s best assets when occupying that role.
Whilst showcasing some stylish football at the start of the last campaign, often the Toffees would mix things up and knock it long to Fellaini, who in turn would use his unorthodox frame to shrug off defenders and get the ball under control. This brought the likes of Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas into play from midfield, with Fellaini often finding himself with back to goal and back to any players in a more advanced position, primarily Jelavic.