Is Everton destined to struggle without a prolific goalscorer?
Sunday's defeat to Arsenal meant Everton has picked up just one victory in the opening six Premier League games. The Emirates debacle dropped the Toffees to 12th position, with six points. Manager Marco Silva has been left immensely frustrated after witnessing his side suffer two consecutive losses. Although the prime reason for the Portuguese's displeasure was, of course, the clear offside goal scored by Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, it's an undeniable fact that his players are letting him down.
Against Arsenal, it was one of those matches in which the scoreline doesn't tell the full story. Everton were superior at creating chances, especially in the first half, but couldn't find the net. A similar thing happened during their 3-1 defeat to West Ham United two weeks ago. Failing to capitalise on opponent's mistakes sums up the Toffees' season so far.
These stumbling blocks point to one thing: Everton lack a proper goalscorer. When Romelu Lukaku left for Manchester United last year, the Merseysiders failed to bring in an adequate replacement. They signed Wayne Rooney instead. Despite finishing as the club's top marksman, the Englishman wasn't the long-term solution.
The Toffees dipped into the winter transfer market to purchase Cenk Tosun. The Turkish striker has failed to meet expectations, though. After hitting five goals in 14 appearances last campaign, he is yet to open his account this time around.
Alternatively, Everton have Oumar Niasse. However, the Senegalese forward is rarely trusted in the starting eleven, often used as a late substitute.
“Tosun isn't good enough. Oumar Niasse isn't good enough, not at this level. When I talk about this level, I'm talking about top half of the Premier League. Those boys are not good enough.” https://t.co/GFX6BFQV7A
In the absence of a genuine goal threat, the responsibility falls onto Everton's wide men.
Lukaku dominated the Toffees' scoring chart for four consecutive seasons before joining Man United. The £75 million obtained for the Belgian should have been spent on a top-notch striker. Instead, Everton chose to invest it on midfielders and wingers, bringing in Gylfi Sigurdsson, Theo Walcott and more recently, Richarlison. While all three players have strengthed the squad, Lukaku's void continues to get bigger.
Moreover, the ability to provide crosses from overlapping full-backs has always been a consistent feature of Everton's play. They possess Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines, who both excel in this aspect. Yet with no target man to seek out, they are forced to either pass short or sideways.
Football is about more than results. Silva has brought a new brand to Goodison Park, one which exploits high pressing and direct attacking. After recent performances, though, the former Watford boss is already coming under scrutiny from some sections of the fans and media. He must do best to ignore any criticism.
Judging on their last three games' stats, the Toffees have created more or almost the same number of chances as opponents. They also had more shots but scored only twice. That clearly indicates a need for additional firepower.
Former club captain Phil Neville expressed his concern when speaking to BBC Sport:
They (Everton) are an ambitious club, but strikers are where you should throw most of your money if you want to be successful in the Premier League, and that has not happened at Goodison Park. I don't think Silva should be worried about his future, but a good striker can mean a manager keeps his job.
Silva's system has worked up to now, but his team's wastefulness is proving costly. Everton are yet to take on any of last season's top five. Sterner tests lie ahead for both the manager and players.
The Toffees' current striking shortage is quite surprising. They have had several goal-scoring threats over the years. Duncan Ferguson, Kevin Campbell, Tim Cahill and Louis Saha all used to enthral the Goodison faithful before Lukaku took over.
Everton are obliged to address this issue in January. Meanwhile, Silva is relying on midfielders to chip in with goals.