What is behind Moise Kean's slow Everton start?
Background image: Biloblue, CC BY-SA 4.0
Everton signing Moise Kean from Juventus lit up professional and social media this past summer. The Toffees' fruitless two-year search for Romelu Lukaku's replacement appeared over. The Italian arrived with a strong reputation, even as a teenager, after scoring six goals in 13 Serie A appearances last season and warranting a nomination for the Kopa Trophy, awarded to FIFA's best young player at the Ballon d'Or ceremony.
Since the move, Kean has started just twice in the Premier League, not scored and averaged 32 minutes per game. Pulled off at half-time in Everton’s League Cup win over Watford at the end of October, he was subsequently dropped from the squad that beat Southampton the following weekend. He cannot be classed as a flop just yet but many fans are disappointed by the 19-year-old's start to life at Goodison Park.
Marco Silva handed the No. 9 shirt to Dominic Calvert-Lewin this season, vowing to put faith in his side's young players. The Portuguese boss decided it was time to give the 22-year-old Englishman a chance in the team after Calvert-Lewin was previously restricted to filling gaps and making appearances from the bench. Silva is more careful with Kean, asking him to now fill gaps and be an impact sub. However, Kean hasn't produced in the role, averaging 14 touches and 0.7 shots per game in the Premier League, including his two starts.
In part, poor service can be blamed. Kean is best with the ball played onto his feet while running at goal. That isn't the style Silva demands. He prefers to dominate possession through methodical build-up play. His side tends not to play through the middle which would help Kean. Rather, Silva places an emphasis on wing play and crosses into the box. Standing at six-foot nothing, Kean is certainly not one of the tallest strikers in the Premier League. Heading the ball is not among his strong points. Not receiving the ball when and where he wants it, the young Italian can't help but be frustrated.
Silva most often deploys a 4-2-3-1. The 42-year-old called on no less than four different starting strikers in Everton’s twelve games: Kean, Calvert-Lewin, Cenk Tosun and Richarlison. None received an extended run in the role [Richarlison more often features on the wing]. Arguably, the manager's indecision hurts the squad.
Kean clearly has competition for his place but that may not have been why he was left out against Southampton. When pundit Graeme Souness suggested a lack of discipline as a reason for Kean’s slow start at Everton earlier in the season, many fans dismissed the remark, citing insufficient evidence. Then Sky Sports claimed through unnamed sources that the Italian was suspended for missing a team meeting, not, apparently, for the first time. Asked to confirm the report, Silva claimed it was a tactical decision but managers have protected players before. If the reports are correct, Kean’s attitude must improve.
Like any new player, especially one from abroad, Kean requires time to adapt and settle into the Premier League. Remember, too, that the process must be more challenging to a teenager. Just because Everton pay him north of £50k/wk, doesn't mean the 19-year-old is a mature professional. If Silva wants immediate results from his big summer signing, he must play to Kean’s strengths. Renovating the youngster's game will prove a long, arduous process with no guarantee of success.