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Romelu Lukaku leads shallow Everton strikeforce

Everton's forward line remains worryingly dependent on Romelu Lukaku

Jeff Holmes/Getty Images

Last Season's Stats

Name Appearances (Starts) Goals Assists
Romelu Lukaku 48 (41) 20 7
Steven Naismith 39 (30) 9 4
Arouna Kone 16 (8) 1 0
Conor McAleny 0 0 0

Key Departures

For the second season in a row Everton's strike force remains largely intact, with no major departures at the time of writing. Over the summer the only losses have been fringe players allowed to move on - Chris Long to Burnley being the most high profile - meaning that the existing corps of Romelu Lukaku, Steven Naismith and Arouna Kone will once again be tasked with leading the line when the season opens against Watford at the weekend. Samuel Eto'o, of course, departed back in January, but while his contributions at Goodison Park were limited, the fact remains that he was never properly replaced following his acrimonious departure.

Arrivals

While the club's forward line is certainly settled, there's no doubting that fans and players alike would welcome an injection of new blood. As yet, there have been precisely no additions. While Lukaku should improve on his first full season at Goodison, and Naismith will no doubt chip in with a few goals, the drop off to Kone should one of them be injured is worrying. Another striker to realistically challenge Rom for his starting place should be a priority for Roberto Martinez, but no signings seem forthcoming at present.

Returning Players

Lukaku will once again be the main man for Everton, and with a full preseason under his belt he should be ready to fire from the opening weekend. He'll need to be too, as the Blues' initial run of fixtures makes for painful reading. Naismith too, will look to build on a successful campaign last time out - his performances might have tailed off after the turn of the year, but his knack for scoring important goals (he netted against Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City) remains invaluable.

Kone is fully fit now, following the injury troubles that saw him miss over a year of first team football, but his preseason performances have done little to allay the fears that he is not up to the task of leading the forward line. Should Lukaku be ruled out through injury or suspension, the Ivorian will have a significant job on his hands if he's to convince the Toffees fans that he's worth a place in the squad.

Tactics

A player-suggested switch to a more direct brand of football was partially credited with Everton's upturn in form towards the end of last season, and the summer additions of Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu (when fit) ought to dovetail nicely with his style of play.

The key once again will be playing to Lukaku's strengths. The Belgian's physique, speed, and finishing prowess put him amongst the top forwards in the Premier League, and while he doesn't quite fit Martinez's ideal of the perfect all-round striker, his attributes mean that when utilised correctly, he can be a devastating weapon. It's no secret that Everton looked far more dangerous on the counter last year (see the 3-0 win over Manchester United), and a focus on moving the ball quickly and vertically to allow Lukaku to run at opposition defenders should at least bring more goals.

Summary

Thankfully the Blues have held on to their star striker, and all the signs point to Lukaku having a more productive season than last time out (where he still scored 20 times in all competitions). But while he and Naismith will share the bulk of the side's goalscoring burden (along with Kevin Mirallas), nowhere in the Everton team is the squad's lack of depth more apparent than its forward line. There's still a month for Roberto Martinez to bolster his side's attacking roster, but at present the Toffees are one injury away from a striker crisis.