School of Science: Forwards

Paul Thomas

Everton have more forward options available than in recent years, and there is a welcome depth and variety to Roberto Martinez's strikeforce this season.

The absence of that seemingly mythical figure, the ‘20 Goal-A Season Striker' was a perennial problem for Everton under David Moyes. In seasons past, our previous manager broke several transfer records in order to secure what was often cited as the final piece in Everton's puzzle. But though they often burned brightly to begin with, in each case the forwards that were supposed to be the answer to Moyes' problems ultimately fizzled, either due to injury, mismanagement, or simply a fatal loss of form.

Time will tell as to whether this long-standing problem will persist under Roberto Martinez. The new manager has made several astute additions, but at present, the core of his squad remains the same as it was under Moyes, and as such it stands to reason that it will likely suffer from the same deficiencies.

Having said that however, there are also a number of factors that suggest that this year the Toffees may finally have a forward line as effective as both their midfield and defence have proven to be in recent seasons.

The first of these is an increase in numbers. Martinez's most significant piece of business so far has been the acquisition of Arouna Koné from his former side Wigan Athletic. At 29, the Ivorian isn't a typical Everton signing, but he brings with him a wealth of playing experience from across Europe, and a successful campaign in the Premier League to boot, with 11 goals last season for the relegated Latics.

Koné may not be a dramatic upgrade on either Nikica Jelavic or Victor Anichebe, but he provides Everton with depth and variety, two qualities that the squad has long lacked. A forward-facing number nine, he also possesses a turn of pace that has been missing from the Blues' front line, and when combined with the speed of Kevin Mirallas, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman on the flanks, Koné could help Everton become a more effective counterattacking side over the coming months.

Though the system that Roberto Martinez will employ once the season begins is still a mystery, it seems highly unlikely that he will feature more than one out and out striker in his line-up. This leaves Koné, Jelavic and Anichebe to compete for a single starting place, and at present, all three can make a case for being the new manager's first choice.

Anichebe enjoyed something of a breakthrough season last year, although at 25 some would argue that the Nigerian's arrival was several years late. Jelavic's sorry mid-season decline and a largely injury-free campaign allowed Big Vic to flourish at times, and he demonstrated on several occasions that he is more than capable of bullying lesser Premier League defences. Indeed, arguably his finest performance of last year came against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, which suggests there could still be scope for him to develop further.

As always, Anichebe's main strength will be his presence on the ball with his back to goal. With Mirallas, Ross Barkley and the on-loan Gerard Deulofeu likely to play a greater part this season attacking from the midfield, the striker's ability to bring people in to play effectively will no doubt be a valuable asset, although his finishing still leaves much to be desired and he's unlikely to contribute many goals himself.

Jelavic presents perhaps the biggest quandary for Everton this season. The Croatian's performances from November last year onwards ranged from mediocre to terrible, but there is a sense that a fresh start under a new manager could revitalise the player who scored 11 goals in his first 16 Everton appearances. His link up play is weaker than both Koné and Anichebe, and he is neither as quick as the former or as physical as the latter, yet he remains the deadliest finisher of the trio by a distance.

Though even Jelavic's composure in front of goal seemed to desert him last year, there have been promising signs in pre-season and his three goals, including a typically resourceful strike against Real Madrid, could yet be the harbingers of a welcome return to form. Confidence will of course be key, but should Martinez show faith in the rejuvenated marksman, there is every chance he could recapture his dazzling early form.

Elsewhere, Apostolos Vellios is unlikely to get much playing time beyond a Cup appearance or two, but there would appear to be ample depth and competition in the forward department even without the inclusion of the young Greek striker. That this is the case at all is the perhaps the most important development in Everton's favour going into the new season.

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