Farewell, Arouna — we hardly knew you

Lyndon Lloyd 09/06/2017  31 Comments  [Jump to last]
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As arguably the most uncomfortable legacy of Roberto Martinez’s tenure returns to the club following his loan spell with Hull City, another of the Spaniard’s less successful acquisitions prepares to leave Everton after four unproductive years.

The cruel hand of fate would play a large role in Arouna Koné’s time at Goodison Park but it’s difficult for all concerned not to look back on it without a good measure of frustration and regret, especially when you consider the damage done to the prestige of the No 9 Everton jersey made famous by one William Ralph Dean.

Worship of that sacred number is something of an anachronism in the modern game where another misfit striker has represented the Blues wearing the number 5 but when one of the original “number nines” was the best striker the domestic game has ever seen, you could be forgiven for wanting to cherish it a little.

Martinez’s decision to sign Arouna Koné from his former club, Wigan Athletic, in July 2013 was met with a mixed response from Evertonians, many of whom baulked at the idea of spending £6m on a 29-year-old journeyman striker.

That the Ivorian was allowed to wear the iconic “9” on his back would probably have met with fiercer resistance had Evertonians had any inkling that Koné would that season become the first Toffees player to wear that number and fail to score a goal.

Most, however, could see the wisdom in drafting in a seemingly reliable forward who had struck 11 league goals in 34 games for the Latics the previous season and registered 15 for Levante in the same number of appearances the previous year. That he was one of the architects of that 3-0 drubbing in the FA Cup that was perhaps an integral part of Martinez’s resume when it came to convincing Bill Kenwright that he was the man to succeed David Moyes also helped, no doubt.

He was a player Martinez trusted and even though the fee paid was a lot for Everton at the time, he was a potentially useful addition to a squad whose strikers under his predecessor David Moyes had failed to reach double figures for 2012-13.

The reality, of course, proved to be quite different. He will leave the club this summer having played 48 times in the Premier League and registered just six goals. Three of those came in one game, a hat-trick against Sunderland in November 2015 that was as remarkable as it was unexpected.

Ironically, for a striker who cost Everton £1m per league goal scored, it was that three-goal burst that triggered a year’s extension to his contract. It didn’t amount to much beyond nine substitute appearances in all competitions and two goals in the League Cup against Yeovil last August and new manager Ronald Koeman eventually opted for the pacier and more versatile Enner Valencia after signing him on transfer deadline day in a season-long loan deal with West Ham.

What will remain unknown is how big a contribution Koné might have made to Everton had he not been struck down with a potentially career-ending knee injury just weeks into his Goodison career.

His initial preparations for his first season with the Toffees didn’t augur well. His fasting in observance of Ramadan meant that he was unable to train properly in the summer of 2013 which had obvious implications during pre-season when he featured only fleetingly.

It was not surprising that he looked jaded and unproductive in his first full appearances for Everton and his profligacy in a League Cup tie against Stevenage that August prompted Martinez to admit that the striker was still some way off match fitness and sharpness.

A minor injury a couple of weeks later was then followed by a very serious one sustained in October that was initially passed off as a knock but was eventually revealed to be a meniscus problem that would require surgery and sideline Koné for the following year.

He would return in the winter of 2014 to be eased back into the team but he never looked like the player he had been on the few occasions Evertonians had seen him play for Wigan. Certainly fans had little to go in terms of his Everton career but it quickly became apparent that with so few goals to his name he would be a squad player at best.

After struggling to repeat his surprising feat of a fifth-place finish and club-record Premier League points haul during his first season in charge, Martinez finally began experimenting with the introduction of a second striker in some games which looked like it could provide Koné with a new lease on life.

Romelu Lukaku’s prolific goalscoring record meant that he was unquestionably the Blues’ first-choice striker but the Belgian had begun to struggle with being marked out of games and it appeared briefly in early 2015-16 that Koné could be a solution.

Lukaku often looked more comfortable with a second striker offering support and providing a distraction for opposition defenders but Koné’s inconsistency and lack of goals — that purple patch against Sunderland aside — meant that it was a short-lived hope and he ultimately returned to bench duty, making just 16 starts that season as Martinez’s reign crumbled the following spring.

In the final reckoning, Arouna Koné will go down as an unsuccessful acquisition by Martinez; a player who could have played an important part of the Everton team if he had remained fit and been able to weigh in with a double-figures goals return.

Unfortunately, injury would sideline him at what should have been the peak of his powers and his manager erred by relying too heavily on Lukaku and not bringing in another striker capable of easing the burden on the Blues’ No 10.

Now, whether Lukaku remains at Goodison or not this summer, Koné’s departure and Valencia’s expected return to London underscore the need for Koeman and Steve Walsh to finally bring in additional firepower that can be relied upon to produce goals rather than mere frustration.

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Reader Comments (31)

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Eugene Kearney
1 Posted 09/06/2017 at 18:31:48
A nice, balanced account of an unfortunate signing (to put it mildly).

He has been put down on this site (and in my head), but he might have contributed more had he not been so badly injured. We can never know.

It's hard to shake off the those three years.

Kristian Boyce
2 Posted 09/06/2017 at 19:09:20
Unfortunately for Kone, the Martinez connection meant that he was always going to struggle. Coming from a relegated team was going to be a strike against, but being brought in with a manager who wasn't universally accepted right from the start didn't help either. To give him credit, he wasn't a bad player and did have some decent pedigree playing for Sevilla and Ajax. I think for many fans he would be thought of as a good back up striker, but not good enough to be leading the line for a team looking to be challenging at the top.

When he came in, £6m was a good chunk to be spending on a 29-year-old. With us going through 11 years of Moyes, to think of spending that money on someone who will have no resale value was unthinkable.

As Lyndon said his start to the club was shambolic, and there is a chance that the lack of preparation in pre-season may have been a factor to the injuries he had didn't help. But, one positive was that his injuries did lead us to move for Lukaku.

With Kone heading out of the door, this summer we potentially could see Martinez's imprint on the club being nearly wiped out:

Robles: A new keeper potentially means his time maybe up.
Alcaraz: long gone.
Funes Mori: wasn't a guaranteed starter and will struggle to get back into the team if new players come in.
McCarthy: has pretty much had O'Neill and Keane force him out of the team and will probably be gone.
Barry: has become a bit part player and probably will go in January after he breaks the Premier League appearance record.
McGeady: Hopefully gone.
Deulofeu: Barca bound??
Besic: Is he still crocked?
Galloway: Does he have a future?
And lastly, Lukaku.

The only player to potentially survive after just one year after Martinez leaving is Mason Holgate!

Dave Williams
3 Posted 09/06/2017 at 19:12:03
It's not his fault that he had a serious injury. Never a world beater but nothing like as bad as many make out. Injury ruined him and I wish him better fortune in the future.
Kristian Boyce
4 Posted 09/06/2017 at 19:26:47
I can't believe I left Niasse off my list. Someone please take him!!
Paul Kossoff
5 Posted 09/06/2017 at 19:58:57
Come on then, all together, we wish him what?

I'm sure after picking 㿨 grand a week up for four years of doing fuck-all, he dosnn't need anymore wishes coming true!

Is that other useless prat McGeady still here?

Colin Glassar
6 Posted 09/06/2017 at 20:01:39
Gutted!!
James Stewart
7 Posted 09/06/2017 at 20:09:53
Truly awful player.
Matt Howard
8 Posted 09/06/2017 at 20:10:16
He tore us in a new one in the Wigan FA Cup game. I was at the game he scored the hat-trick and thought "if only" more often. I can't blame him for the bad luck with injuries. I hope he finds somewhere decent for the final years of his career.
Andrew Presly
9 Posted 09/06/2017 at 20:28:19
There was a League Cup game at home to Stevenage just before his injury where he missed a couple of sitters and I thought to myself "nah".

Did enjoy the opening day equaliser against Watford and his tweet about the "return of Golden Head!" though.

A likeable lad, just not good enough. Goodnight, sweet prince!

Dick Fearon
10 Posted 09/06/2017 at 21:20:41
A fond farewell to Conor McAleny. Until injury blighted his progress, I truly believed he had the makings of a top striker.

I would be happy to see the club proved wrong by letting him go.

Peter Fearon
11 Posted 09/06/2017 at 21:22:28
Unfortunately Kone is not the only hopelessly over-rated striker to give very little return on ludicrous wages and stay too long on the sinecure which a place in the Everton squad has become.

One thinks of James Beattie, for example, 13 goals in three seasons, or Victor Anichebe, or Jo, or Bakayoko... It's a depressingly long list if you care to go back – which I don't.

Unfortunately, when we finally find a striker who knows where the goal is ,we alienate him by depriving him of adequate service and end up letting him go someplace else. Sad. Time for the next over-rated, inadequate striker to step up!

Tony Hill
12 Posted 09/06/2017 at 22:40:03
He was talented as he showed at Wigan, got badly injured with us and that was it. I'm not sure how it helps to damn him out of sight now.
Karl Masters
13 Posted 10/06/2017 at 00:47:26
㿨k a week for 4 years is 㾸.5m. Add on the transfer fee of ٤m gives a total cost if 㾾.5m! For 6 league goals. He's actually going to end up a bigger financial disaster than Niasse.

The other player being released, McAleny, might as well have played instead. Couldn't have done any worse and would have saved over 㾶m in the process.

The finances of modern football are something else. So wasteful.

Dominic Tonge
14 Posted 10/06/2017 at 06:20:58
Kristian – Besic played today for his national team , so he's nearing a comeback. Also Kone played for Roda and PSV, but not Ajax (sorry to be pedantic).

Re : Kone, he did get badly injured – but that aside to be frank he was utter toilet from day one. I would rate him alongside Claus Thomsen as one of the worst players I have ever seen in an Everton shirt . His best ever game at Goodison Park was in a Wigan shirt , he had /has a snide haircut and couldn't score in a brasshouse if he had a fifty spot hanging out of his fly.

On a positive note, we can now give the Number 9 shirt to an actual proper Number 9. (Here's hoping – we need to sign one first like!)

Dan Egerton
15 Posted 10/06/2017 at 09:40:22
Besic came on at 2nd half if I recall, about the 70-odd-minute mark. It's not a start, nor a full 90, but it's something to build on.
Eddie Dunn
16 Posted 10/06/2017 at 10:41:36
I once watched him in the warm-up at Swansea. He had four shots at the goalie and put every one of them wide or high.
Stan Schofield
17 Posted 10/06/2017 at 11:03:37
Peter@11: 'Sinecure' is a good word to sum up some of the players who've been here. I'm hoping times are changing, but not holding my breath.
James Morgan
18 Posted 10/06/2017 at 13:47:27
Kristian, add Atsu, Traore, Eto'o, Rodriguez and Tarashaj to that list. By and large, Martinez's transfer record was dire.

All managers have a couple of cock-ups in the transfer market, hopefully Koeman with Walsh in support won't have so many.

Peter Gorman
19 Posted 10/06/2017 at 14:31:45
I was one of those who thought £6 million for the journeyman was a massive chunk at a time when we were looking to step up to the next level. (In fairness, Martinez got it right shortly after with Lukaku.)

In the few appearances he made before the injury he looked like a donkey. After the injury he continued to look below standard with the exception of a handful of great goals.

Kone sure seemed like a nice guy but one who should never have been deemed good enough to don the jersey, let alone the Number 9. Sadly ,he isn't the first and he won't be the last.

Jay Harris
20 Posted 10/06/2017 at 15:07:06
Far too much written about a ship that sailed in the night unnoticed.

The space would be better given over to which three strikers were going to sign to replace Lukaku, Valencia and Kone.

Jay Wood
21 Posted 10/06/2017 at 15:17:50
Each to their own, but I'm puzzled as to why Lyndon penned a piece dedicated to a player who during his 4 years at Everton (and not necessarily through fault of his own) was very much a fringe player.

Really little or nothing to report or ponder on about Kone's Everton career, IMO.

Chris Williams
22 Posted 10/06/2017 at 15:21:54
Makes a change from Lukaku, Jay.
Joe Edwards
24 Posted 10/06/2017 at 17:36:35
Thank fuck he has gone, beyond useless.

Move on.

Barry McNally
26 Posted 11/06/2017 at 12:12:57
Play 35 games in 3 seasons to trigger a one-year contract extension, I must run that one by my boss!
Jack Convery
27 Posted 12/06/2017 at 19:36:20
There are great mysteries in life – Kone getting an extension was one of the great unexplained mysteries but then again this is EFC. Another in a long line of never-good-enoughs to wear the royal blue. Hopefully that sort of thing is now definitely in the past.

Sandro, my boy, I hope you can play down this curse.

Franny Porter
28 Posted 12/06/2017 at 09:36:27
Jay (#21),

I think as Lyndon states is that Kone really came to represent the Martinez era for a lot of people. I suppose he is one of the last men standing from that time.

Niasse we wont see again; McGeady looks like staying at Preston; I think McCarthy's days are numbered (due to Eire); Lukaku is going; Deulofeu has been binned; and Alcaraz is now in a retirement home in Paraguay.

I think only Robles (stalling on a contract) and Holgate remain now.

John Smith
29 Posted 16/06/2017 at 19:19:21
I wonder who was more expensive per game, Kone or Gibbo?
Steve Brown
30 Posted 26/06/2017 at 11:50:26
Do we still own Tarashaj?!
David Currie
31 Posted 27/06/2017 at 06:44:16
Good riddance, Kone, you were crap.
Dermot Byrne
32 Posted 27/06/2017 at 07:41:35
David (#31): sometimes sophisticated debate can be bypassed by a great one-liner! Lol
Jack Convery
33 Posted 06/07/2017 at 22:06:45
Never good enough and another lot of dosh wasted by RM. If he hadn't signed Rom he would probably have a transfer XI to scare the hell out of us Blues. Never mind some of the gems he signed for Wigan.

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