If Everton needed any proof that a striker should be top of their wish list in January then the past week proved it.
It’s hard not to imagine that had they had a top striker in their starting eleven against Liverpool and Newcastle then both games would have turned out differently. Instead, frustration reigned once more. It is a familiar feeling for Marco Silva’s team this season. The lack of a top-level striker has been felt from day one.
Romelu Lukaku may be long gone but his absence is still sorely felt. Lukaku was never universally loved at Goodison Park. Be it his lack of mobility, terrible first touch or constant eyeing up of moves to bigger clubs, there was always something to criticise him for. What he could not be called on, however, was his ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Despite Everton struggling for the majority of his time at the club, Lukaku posted impressive numbers during his time there. 87 goals in 166 games mean he averaged a goal every 1.9 games and left the club as their highest goalscorer in the Premier League era.
It also meant they had a sizeable task replacing him. Indeed, a look at how badly Everton struggled last season having failed to replace him shows just how big a hole his departure created. Two transfer windows on that sadly still haven’t been addressed.
Cenk Tosun was brought in during the last winter window but is yet to find his feet in England. A couple of goals during Sam Allardyce’s reign offered hope but they have not been built upon. Instead, he now finds himself on the fringes of Marco Silva’s squad.
The Portuguese boss offers a forward-thinking, high pressing style that should help strikers to flourish. The hope was that Tosun, with pace around him and a team playing an attacking style, would benefit from it. Instead, he has struggled. Two goals in 14 games in all competitions tell the story of a striker bereft of confidence and failing to prove his worth.
Indeed, the fact that Richarlison has found himself as the first choice striker this season further proves the need for investment. The Brazilian has flourished in his opening months in Blue. The derision from some corners in the summer has ended up looking extremely foolish. A tally of seven goals in 13 league games puts him level with Eden Hazard and Mohammed Salah in the scoring charts.
With several of those coming as a result of him playing as the central striker some believe he is the solution to Everton’s striker problem. However, doubts remain. Those who watch Richarlison regularly feel he is better suited to the wide left role. From there he can terrorise defenders, cut inside and play facing the goal. It is in these scenarios he has proven his most deadly so far.
In comparison, as a striker, he can often be found wanting. The game at Anfield was a proof in point. Up against Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, he struggled to get a foothold in the game. Most felt he would have been better utilised on the left wing up against Trent Alexander-Arnold.
An improved showing against Newcastle provided further evidence that his natural place is on the left. Playing on the left of a front three he managed more successful shots and dribbles in 70 minutes than he’d managed in three previous games as a striker. It was a demonstration that he belongs out wide long-term.
Marco Silva seemingly thinks so too. He was resistant to playing Richarlison upfront earlier in the campaign and has not been sold despite his impressive goal tally. His recent willingness to discuss a move for a striker suggests that remains his view.
The question is whether Everton can secure the quality they need in the January transfer window. It is a notoriously tough month to do business in. Clubs either do not want to sell midway through the season or demand huge fees to sanction a move. Players are also often hesitant to switch, preferring the summer window and the chance to go through pre-season with a team.
A loan move may make more sense in that regard. Everton have already made good use of the loan market this season to secure the signings of Andre Gomes and Kurt Zouma. Both players have flourished at Goodison Park and Director of Football Marcel Brands will be confident of pulling off another coup. Everton fans will similarly trust him after his impressive work in the summer.
In the meantime, Marco Silva and his team will have to find a way to start finding the back the net without that striker. Finding an answer to their lack of goals is the next big problem for Brands and Silva to solve from the previous regime.
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