I think it’s time we had a little talk about Nikica Jelavic. In the space of exactly one calendar year he’s gone from single-handedly saving Everton’s attack, to its weakest link.
Now granted, this year’s Everton attack lies much less firmly on his shoulders, and when Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas are healthy, Jelavic becomes the third most important goal scoring threat. But, for most of the year, everybody hasn’t been healthy, and Jelavic, despite showing flashes of his old form, hasn’t stepped up to fill the gap.
It remains unclear why this is the case. Part of it may be trouble adapting to life with Fellaini as the focal point, part of it may be the extended absences of Darron Gibson and his ability to hit diagonal passes into Jelavic’s runs, and part of it may just be the periodic lapses in form that seem to engulf most pure strikers from time to time.
There is, of course, the more dire possibility that last year was the anomaly, that Jelavic is a one trick pony, and that now that the league has figured out his style, Jelavic won’t ever be able to adapt and regain his form.
Still despite all that, most years I would staunchly advocate for running him out there every game. After all, we’re a club with limited resources, and giving a talented out of form striker every opportunity to get his mojo back is a much better use of dollars than relegating him to the bench. But, this is not most years. This is a year where Everton have a legitimate chance at qualifying for Champions League football. In that environment every single point matters, and every point dropped due to Jelavic’s bad form is magnified by the possibility of European dollars lost.
It’s also not like other years because Fellaini’s attacking emergence means that the strikers’ role is much more secondary, a role that chronic under-performer Victor Anichebe is perfect for. It’s no accident that the 24 year old seems to be in the best form of his life in the limited opportunities he’s received. So far this year Big Vic has been reduced to filling in for injured attackers, or being shoe-horned into the right midfield slot that he’s a bad fit for. And under those adverse conditions he’s managed to impress.
I still believe in Jelavic’s talent, but right now that’s not enough. In the modern world of sports there are increasingly few times when the need to win the next game at all costs aligns with the long term strategic goals of a club. This is one of those times.
The fact that Jelavic’s talent might come good again next week or next month or next year might be a good reason to play him in a normal season. But not this year. This year everything must be about the now. And right now Anichebe gives this team a better chance to win.
This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.