Martinez still seeking the right balance after lively Spurs draw

Everton stopped the rot after successive home defeats to Leicester and Stoke but they still couldn't hold onto a winning position.

Lyndon Lloyd 02/01/2016 25comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 1 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur

In the aftermath of what eventually became an absorbing 1-1 draw between Everton and Tottenham, Roberto Martinez hailed an improved performance from his men and while none of them have gone as far as to say they were "immense", many of the reports in the aftermath of the Blues's first game of 2016 appear to concur with his sentiments. The Catalan's team halted their home losing streak at two matches and stemmed the flow of goals conceded by restricting Tottenham to just four shots on target – all but one from outside the penalty area – and one goal.

Unfortunately, the result also means that by the time Swansea City come to town on 24th January it will be more than two months since Goodison Park last witnessed a victory in the Premier League and the sole clean sheet Everton have managed on home turf all season. As it stands after today, Everton's win column reads a paltry six – as many as Norwich City in 15th place – and they remain exactly where they were last May, in a progress-defying 11th place.

As negative as that may sound, it's the reality of Everton's situation: in the context of their target of challenging for a place in what is a wide open top four this season, the solitary point they earned today was as effectively inconsequential as the ones they were forced to settle for at Bournemouth, West Ham, Swansea and Carrow Road and against Watford Crystal Palace, Liverpool. It's victories and routinely picking up three points that propel you up the Premier League and once again Everton gave two away from a winning position, albeit against Mauricio Pochettino's impressive outfit. In failing to capitalise on what was, on paper, a softer part of the fixture calendar over the past 10 games, the Blues have left themselves with the Herculean task of carving out wins in places like the Etihad Stadium, Stamford Bridge and the Britannia Stadium over the coming month if they are to remain in touch with the European quaification places.

A 1-1 draw with a Spurs side that has lost just one of their last nine and sits in fourth place is a start, of course, but that the outcome of today's game is being viewed as a positive result in some quarters is, of course, reflective of the extent to which Martinez is under-achieving with his Everton side and how well Pochettino has rounded his out team into one that is strong in almost areas of the pitch. Evenly-matched on paper, Tottenham have been markedly stronger in terms of defensive solidity and mentality this season and their lofty league position has been their reward.

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They certainly looked the superior side in the first 20 minutes of this contest, a spell in which Everton failed to get anywhere near the visitors' area. Stung by leaking seven goals in the last two home games, Martinez had visibly adopted a more defensive posture at the start of this one but Spurs's domination in the early stages was alarming. The Londoners were cutting through the Blues' midfield with ease at times and but for a coat of paint they might have taken a 10th-minute lead when Harry Kane lined up a speculative low drive from 25 yards that cannoned off the inside of the post, flew across Tim Howard's goal and towards the corner flag on the other side.

If Martinez's strategy had been to hand Spurs the ball and try to catch them cold, it worked to perfection in the 22nd minute when Tom Cleverley, starting in midfield alongside Gareth Barry despite coming off against Stoke last Monday with an Achilles injury, delivered a precise deep ball into the heart of the opposition defence, Romelu Lukaku cushioned a header back to Aaron Lennon and the former Tottenham winger despatched a lovely half volley inside the far post to make it 1-0.

Spurs were largely undeterred by what they must surely have viewed as an injustice based on the balance of play and they continued to apply pressure while rattling the frame of Howard's goal again on the half hour. Ben Davies was left unmarked outside the area from a corner and he crashed a 25-yarded off the underside of the crossbar. Despite their more protective posture – one undermined to an uncomfortable extent by Kone's deployment as the square attacking peg in a round left-midfield hole – Everton were generally failing to get down the fundamentals required, allowing visiting players too much space to exploit on the overlap down the flanks and not pressing the ball as a team.

And when on the rare occasions they got forward themselves in the first half, they took the wrong option; the otherwise tidy Barkley ignored the marauding Leighton Baines in one such instance and misplaced his pass to Lukaku while Barry passed up the easy ball to Kone who was in acres of space and ended up gifting it straight to a Spurs defender to spoil that rare counter-attacking opportunity.

Nevertheless, it was all "so far, so good" heading into first-half stoppage time until the defence switched off for the second week running and Dele Alli was allowed to plunder an equaliser. Seamus Coleman failed to track either Toby Alderweireld's raking ball foward from inside his own half or Alli's run to meet it and the young England international took it down on his chest and fired past Howard in one motion to send the two teams into the dressing room all square.

It was, no doubt, part of Martinez's plan on the day for his team to come out of the interval in more adventurous mood and they eventually did, but it took an uncharacteristically early double substitution just before the hour mark to spark them into life. Lennon was unfortunate to be the one to make way for Gerard Deulofeu while Kone came off for Muhamed Besic and the energy injected by both players transformed Everton's performance almost instantly. It meant that the manager had effectively allowed his team just half an hour in which to really try and win the game but the improvement was hugely encouraging, especially from Besic who was a virtually irrepressible live wire.

It didn't immediately translate to a direct threat to Hugo Lloris's goal beyond a flurry of corners forced by Deulofeu's probing down the right wing but the Frenchman was forced into a making terrific one-handed save to deny Besic's excellent volley from the edge of the area with 11 minutes to go. And Ramiro Funes Mori almost capped a marked improvement in his own performance following a shoddy first half by heading home the resulting corner but his effort flashed past the wrong side of the post.

That sparked a frenetic final 10 minutes in which Everton were an entirely different proposition and Spurs, having hitherto proven so difficult to play through, found themselves scrambling back to defend a succession of counter-attacks as the Blues tried to force home a winner in the closing stages. Unfortunately, Lukaku blazed a rare chance over under pressure from Alderweireld and Barkley's shot from the angle at the end of injury time was parried away by Lloris.

Again, the draw may not have done much in terms of the quest to close the gap on the pack of clubs above in the Premier League but it will hopefully provide a shot in the arm for team morale, particularly at the back, as the players prepare for the all-important first leg against Manchester City in the Capital One Cup. The importance of that tie in the wider picture of the season grows larger with each passing League game.

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Ian Robert
1 Posted 04/01/2016 at 07:49:50
No matter which way you look at it... our position in the table is not good enough, a completely wide open season for the "also-rans"... and we have blown it.

A perfect opportunity to put Liverpool in our shadow... and we have blown it.

With such an array of talent at the club, you would have to question why we are not in the top six, but I guess we all know the answer to that?
Rick Tarleton
2 Posted 04/01/2016 at 09:47:12
At least, if it’s any consolation at all, we did not outplay the opposition this time and then end up with a draw or defeat. In this case, despite a strong ending, we were distinctly second best and a point was quite flattering.

Howard looked distinctly edgy as ever on crosses and set-pieces, but Besic looked a very good player when he came on and should be used regularly.
Bob McEvoy
3 Posted 04/01/2016 at 09:57:16
Besic was the best player on the pitch in the last half hour. If he’s been showing this kind of form in training you do wonder why he’s not been playing.
Eddie Dunn
4 Posted 04/01/2016 at 10:11:35
We bossed the last 20 minutes, as Pochettino admitted. However we were second best for the rest of the game. Besic was a revelation and I hope Martinez now utilises the lad in the coming fixtures. Also, Rom’s improvement has correlated to Del.s presence and if he had been on sooner, our best weapon would have had more opportunities.

On a positive note, we reduced a good Spurs team to 4 shots on goal, and didn’t melt when we were second best. Barkley looked much better in the second half, when he was (presumably) told to get forward, and Besic provided more grit in the middle of the park, giving the late rally a platform.

There was one commanding display and it was Vertonghen, who matched Lukaku for pace, stuck to him like glue, and thwarted his every move. Stones, take note: no fancy dancing, just good solid defending of the highest order.
Tony Abrahams
5 Posted 04/01/2016 at 10:12:12
Lyndon, I honestly think your headline should have read, "Martinez still refusing to seek the right balance"!
Steavey Buckley
6 Posted 04/01/2016 at 10:17:28
Once Kone was substituted, Everton had a better balance, once Cleverley occupied the left side of midfield. Kone is all over the place and looks unlikely to score even though he is supposed to be a striker.
Norman Jones
7 Posted 04/01/2016 at 10:32:36
Ian, re our position in the table, it’s odds on we shall finish exactly where we have been for the last season and a half – midway.

Chelsea’s win yesterday has the scribes talking of a grand revival and their need to reach at least 70 points if they are to qualify for Europe. Given that they are still 4 points behind Everton, it seems inconceivable that they can reach that total but if it’s feasible for them...

Peter Morris
8 Posted 04/01/2016 at 13:50:54
Norman(7), the difference is that the scribes believe Chelsea are in a false position (as they do Manure), whereas they are at best ambivalent as to whether that applies to us or not.
Bill Gall
9 Posted 04/01/2016 at 14:42:07
When assessing the headline of this article, I think we should be looking at a timeframe from the previous season as the majority of players playing yesterday were with the club last season, so basically we are still trying to find a balance for a season and a half. You cannot asses were the club is on one game, but over a period of a couple of seasons as there are always highs and lows.

Starting this season, the general opinion was we were going to have a difficult start for the first 10 games but the time to see what progress we were making was to see where we were after the next 10 games; I believe we have only got 1 more point from the second 10 games than we did from the first 10 games... So, looking at this picture and taking in the performance from last season our progress is a big fat zero.

We were overrun in midfield in the first half yesterday and, although the manager deserves credit for making changes early in the second half,he should have brought Kone off and replaced him with Besic in the first half after 35 min to try to regain control and prevent us going behind – and we were fortunate not to be behind in the first half.

As I say, our progress from last season is zero and, as this manager is not going to be fired, we can only hope that he gets lucky with a formation that gives us a balanced formation. With his attitude to play certain players, regardless of their form, and a firm belief in his style and tactics, we are going to need to be lucky to get this balanced formation.

Let us see if he has learned anything from his use of Besic yesterday and see if he plays against Man City. It is about time we realized that this manager, despite the calls to give him more time, is not going to change, and unless he realizes that certain players should not be first names on the team sheet, we are going to remain a middle-of-the-table team, and the closest we are of getting into the European Championship is watching the draw on the TV.

Watch out for ridiculous bids for Lukaku and Stones from teams still in European Cups. And if either of these players leave, we are going to really struggle.

David Harrison
10 Posted 04/01/2016 at 14:55:48
The longer we stick with this manager, the more I am convinced he will ultimately get us relegated. Our complete inability to shut anyone out, and let’s face it, Wigan had the same problem, cannot continue without major mishap.

At the moment, Lukaku’s goals are keeping us out of the brown stuff but a 20-odd-goal-a-season striker isn’t gonna hang around in mid-table much longer. Sorry, this is a general moan rather than about yesterday’s game but I am losing hope with the general pattern of our season.
Trevor Peers
11 Posted 04/01/2016 at 15:18:19
Chelsea had the courage to change their manager when it was obvious that Jose was struggling to achieve a win, even against the easier teams in the Premier League.

TheBlues however will not; the board is weak and we’re trapped in a time warp, with Roberto at the helm.

Colin Glassar
12 Posted 04/01/2016 at 15:45:28
Well that’s my four game pilgrimage (crimbo prezzie to myself) to watch the Blues over for now. After hundreds of miles, and pounds, I must admit I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the games against Leicester, Stoke, Newcastle and Spurs but not the results, obviously.

We are almost there as a team but I now have to concur with the fans who are worried about Martinez remaining as Everton manager. Despite the talent available, we find ourselves in the bottom half of the table and on the verge of throwing away one of our best chances of cracking the top 4 in years.

I will not get into personal insults and name calling but I am extremely disappointed with his stubbornness and refusal to tighten up the defence, and change the goalie, which has cost us at least 10 points in recent games. Individually, we have some of the best defenders in the game but as a unit they are hopeless. This, IMO, is down to a lack of drilling (by the manager) and a lack of communication (between themselves) as they don’t have a natural leader amongst them who will take charge and organise them on the field.

I know Martinez tried to sign Dann and Evans (he even tried for Vidic) in the summer but then went for a rookie in Funes Mori (with a £3.5m backhander included to his family), who is now playing like he IS desperately homesick. So another opportunity wasted to improve a longstanding concern amongst most Evertonians.

I like Martinez as a man and a football purist. I know his heart is in the right place and he desperately wants to succeed at Everton but are we prepared to give him the time to slowly, ever so slowly, build the squad into a title challenging team? I think he’s okay as long as we have a cowardly and paralysed board in charge and the excuse of not rocking the boat while the yanks are looking at the books (another red herring, I believe). That’s not his problem.

His problem will be in the summer if we have no European football to look forward to (Europa League as a minimum) as the likes of Lukaku, Stones and even Coleman could be looking for a way out and then all the negative baggage that would entail will follow.

You still have a chance (minimal but not totally gone) to recover your reputation but, like I wrote a few weeks ago, your destiny is in your hands. Tighten up the defence and you could survive this.

So don’t expect me to defend him to the hilt anymore. I won’t kick a man when he’s down but I will now remain neutral whilst praying that he proves me wrong and he is in fact the man to lead us to the promised land.

James Marshall
13 Posted 04/01/2016 at 15:50:30
At last, a balanced view of the game without all nonsensical vitriol. Nice one, Lyndon.
Brian Harrison
14 Posted 04/01/2016 at 16:07:58
Colin Glassar,

So, even you have finally given up on RM, I can't think of many who have stood by him like you despite the mounting criticism. I would hope this impatience has also reached board level, surely even they can see that the team is rapidly going backwards.

Many believed last season was a blip because how well the team had performed in RM's first season. But I am afraid this is what happens when RM is manager of your football club, nice easy on the eye full of attacking intent but leak goals for fun. I know many thought with better defenders than he had at previous clubs he would stop the leaking of goals; sadly that never happened.

I have said on many occasions that he took over a well drilled defence and a well motivated team. He added some extra flair hence the league position in his first season. But now this is completely his style of football, defending set-pieces is – in his words – a complete waste of time. I think that is pretty much his idea on defending in general.

Maybe we have to fall even further before the board will act, but this man, despite his promises, lacks the ability to get this team into challenging for a top 6 place.

Colin Glassar
15 Posted 04/01/2016 at 16:14:28
We are a joy to watch going forward, Brian, but a sense of dread envelops the crowd every time we have to defend.

Like I said, we have great defenders who can’t defend!!! This is his responsibility as manager to sort out and he’s failing miserably.
Dennis Ng
16 Posted 04/01/2016 at 16:22:49
A few good points made across different threads.

It seems to me that RM’s impact as a coach is simply not there. We aren’t horrible as a defence but always fall for the "blooper of the day" type goals. And it happened over a few games, making me wonder, "where’s the coaching"? We aren’t shipping 5 goals a game but we shipped the ones that hurt us most.

Added to his use of media to pump up player egos, I’m starting to think RM is setting himself for failure because the only things media play on is strife, dissent and conflict, not things he’s trying to achieve when saying the stuff he says.

Like Colin said, he needs to take responsibility and he needs to do it seriously. Not shower praises despite bad performances. That is not proper coaching. When players are failing to produce on TV, what good does it make when his coach only praise him on TV when it gets panned by critics and fans offline? Seems to me he has the wrong concept of coaching, adding to my belief that he needs to hire more able coaches to fill the void he created.

Tom Bowers
17 Posted 04/01/2016 at 16:43:11
I agree that Roberto is now showing that he doesn’t have what it takes. Whilst a draw with Spurs is not a bad result we have to reflect on the bigger picture. Everton’s offence is bettered only by Man City and Leicester City although Leicester haven’t scored in 3 games since getting three against the Blues. Defensively they are currently the worst in the top thirteen.

We saw yesterday some crazy defending and even Stones right at the end imitating George Best in his own six yard box. Funes Mori is more direct choosing to hoof it clear but all to often to the opposition. Baines is clearly not the Baines of old. Add to this Kone and Cleverley having weak games and one wonders how they survived that first half on even terms. I had said before the game that they would struggle in midfield and they did.

The Mirallas question has not been answered and we wonder why he is even on the bench if not being used as Kone has gone backwards after a bright start to the season. A couple of wins could quickly elevate them up the table but alas they cannot play Villa or Newcastle every week and so mid-table seems to be the deserving place for them unless the return of Jags and maybe Besic can improve things in defensive areas.
Jim Hourigan
18 Posted 04/01/2016 at 16:58:15
What I would really like to know is does RM talk the same positive clap trap behind closed doors? There is one thing to present a mind numbingly positive face all the time to the press, but what does he say to the players? His nature is clearly positive and not just half full but brimming over all the time, however, human nature is such that this is often seen as a weakness, particularly in the ego centric world of sport.

If players feel they can do no wrong, that they will never be criticised or dropped, where is the edge and sharpness that makes a winner? When I played, albeit not as a professional, I was always on edge with the manager, praise was received when due but so to was criticism and that made us a very good team who won many trophies.

Ferguson was the same, he regularly praised his team and was deliberately biased to encourage them, but my God they knew they could never take liberties or they would be out the door – and he produced a team of winners again and again. I have more than grave doubts that RM’s management style is just not suited to being a winner; nice man yes, but a winner?

Anthony Lamb
19 Posted 04/01/2016 at 17:43:35
I just wonder, in the light of the fact that the team seem to be getting dragged closer to the bottom of the table rather than to the top, due to their inability to put together a series of successive wins that is it time to take stock of this season’s aspirations? I think everyone could take note of Mr Ranieri’s continued focus on the initial target of 40 points in spite of Leicester’s current high placing – albeit this is faltering a little of late. Anything else is therefore a bonus.

There appears to be so much frustration among Everton’s support base: team selection, style of play, defensive inadequacies etc which seems to be transmitting itself in an often less than totally enthusiastic home support; the team itself seems to be having some behind-the-scenes problems if all the talk about the Mirallas situation is anything to go by... and so, on it all goes and festers.

Perhaps it is time to "take the heat" out of the situation and forget about pre-season aspirations and top four/five places etc, and simply focus first of all on "accumulating" the 40 points or so that will guarantee another chance next season to continue with building a team/squad that can take this elusive "next step". Then the focus could be on seriously planning for two, possibly three games to win a first trophy in 20 years and a further 6 games to win another!

With regard to the top places in the league, it would appear that, for a variety of reasons, they are now out of reach. Ensuring safety, with something to spare, for another season, is certainly not and neither should success in at least one of the cup competitions with the players now at the club. Frustrations abound at many of the lost opportunities this season but a re-focus on realistic targets may help take the heat out of some of that frustration before it undermines the season – and the future – even further. As the old saying goes, "We are where we are"!
Phil Walling
20 Posted 04/01/2016 at 18:12:23
Of course you are right, Anthony, when you say 'we are where we are'.... eleventhish. And that's where we've been for the last season and a half and where we can expect to remain until the end of this season and possibly into the next one.

Oh how they mocked me when I was suggesting we could only ever expect to finish 'seventhish' – which Moyes had made his own. Lack of ambition they said. This guy will get us into Europe... he's said as much. But quite a few of us didn't quite believe him even though he outdid his predecessor by getting 5th in his first season.

Now let me say I have no fears of relegation or even a flirtation with it... but eleventhish? Not acceptable under any circumstances with the squad now assembled.

Yes, we are where we are – and 60 points is the very minimum we should ask for!

Ian Brandes
21 Posted 04/01/2016 at 19:16:46
I have only now decided to post after being in shock at our inept first half performance. Great goal from Lennon, magical knock down from our big man, but we were so lucky NOT to be three down.

Some have given the manager credit for changing things, but, in reality, his initial team selection was abysmal. But we were the better team for 20 mins towards the end, so maybe a small amount of credit is due.

However, Kone should not have started. Is he injured because he seemed to jog around the pitch, totally listless performance, losing possession, and more passes to those in a white shirt than to our men in blue.

In some clubs that seek top status. Martinez would have picked up his P45 this morning, but not here, unlike Brenda from our close neighbours.

He halted our losing run, people say, yet why the devil are we losing at Goodison in the 1st place apart from on exceptional occasions?

Yes, I was glad we drew but not deliriously happy. Yes, I was glad Howard only conceded one!

But, otherwise, not that much cause for optimism under a stubborn manager, who cannot see his own team's failing, and will tolerate no criticism, constructive or otherwise, from fans or players.

It is getting to be one of those phenomenal seasons!

John Raftery
22 Posted 04/01/2016 at 20:57:44
Plainly the imminent league cup semi-final will be pivotal to our season and quite possibly the whole Martinez reign. In truth it has felt like that for some weeks. I think we may have overestimated the strength of our squad earlier in the campaign. Most of our younger players are still learning their trade. Barkley, Deulofeu and Stones are not the finished article whatever the manager's public comments may suggest. Most of our older players have seen their best days while the injuries to international players such as Jagielka, Baines and McCarthy have taken their toll. So on the whole it is not too surprising that we are struggling for consistency in a highly competitive league. The age of our squad has reduced this season but there is more to do before we can match Spurs. Yes, we should have accumulated more points this season but probably only about half a dozen. Whatever the league position indicates we have been playing more attractive football than we did last season. Lukaku has been one of the beneficiaries and is one player who now looks the finished article. Others need time to develop while the manager needs to reduce the size of the squad to make way for younger players. The time to take stock will be at the end of the season when our overall progress can be assessed along with our prospects for the future. Winning the league cup should not influence that assessment although of course I will be very happy if we do.
Sid Logan
23 Posted 04/01/2016 at 21:16:52
The bottom line and truth is that I'm not, and probably never, will be happy with Martinez as our Manager. I was far happier with him when he was managing Wigan. His faults are many and for my money they outweigh his positives. I'm sure he thinks of himself as a football purist. What doesn't come with this package is football realism. In this day and age (and maybe it always was that way) the ability to to temper your ideals with the reality of the situation you find yourself in is vital. As most of us know this also applies in real life — not just in the rarified atmosphere of Premier League football.

The more high-minded those ideals the more necessary it is to frame them in a hefty dose of reality. I'm not sure Martinez will ever be capable of this.

Despite the optimism that some Evertonians carry with them on the basis that we are a young a talented team who can and will get better... I don't see it that way. I can only envisage the the departure of perhaps 2 or 3 of our most lauded talents come the summer because we have failed to achieve a top 6 — never mind a top 4 finish.

I can never see a Martinez team finishing in the top 6. If anyone points me to his first season, I would argue, as I have many times before, that team retained Moyes's team's defensive qualities and tactical discipline until, over the course of time, those qualities were managed out of them.

Leaving aside his footballing ideals, Martinez is not above being plainly inept. To play Kone wide left in the belief that he might do a job and possibly provide an outlet for Baines was was a huge and foreseeable miscalculation. Spurs exploited our left-hand side continuously throughout the game and Baines was always frustrated by his lack of outlet.

I always wanted Kone to succeed but it seems clear he won't. His footballing ability is limited and because of that he always appears indecisive. It's an example of Martinez taking too long to appreciate the reality.

Martinez himself is going nowhere. I accept that. I also therefore accept that we will, for the foreseeable, be a middle-of-the-table team who will occasionally play some brilliant football and probably draw or lose more than we'll win.

To those who say who would you replace him with, I'd say let's discuss that when he goes. That day will be a long way off.

Unless, of course, the takeover........

Mike McLoughlin
24 Posted 04/01/2016 at 22:08:49
I have to say I have not been a supporter of RM's tenure as Everton Manager for quite some time now. I agree with a lot of you who point out his faults, like poor substitutions, sticking with the wrong players, praising players even when they have been abysmal. I sometimes cringe when he is babbling on television as to how such a player was 'phenomenal' or the way we played with 'determination' and other such cliches.

Whilst I agree with the negatives, God knows my mate nearly had an apoplexy following the Stoke game, particularly when at 3-2 up he brings on another attacker instead of closing the game down with a more defensive substitution. My mate Slogger was fuming for days after. The same could be said for a number of games this season where we have dragged defeat from the jaws of victory.

But let me take a more positive view and maybe controversial statement, given a lot of the posts on here. I think, given the players he has at his disposal, he has turned us into an attractive footballing side who are a threat to any team in the Premier League. We have been desperately unlucky in some games not to win; we have been subjected to some horrendous refereeing such as the Stones penalty from Clattenburg (god, I hate that man). But not one penalty for us this season... not one.

I personally think we are not very far away from being the finished article, or close to it. Whilst frustrated sometimes – and I even rage at Martinez – some of the football we have played has not graced Goodison Park for many a year. You will notice I put a caveat in there and said 'some'!! Things do get difficult, football is frustrating, but I guarantee this: there is no team in the league who enjoy coming up against Everton. Maybe we need a Silva-esque striker and a young Barry or a better goalkeeper. But we don’t need that much to take us up the league.
Mike McLoughlin
25 Posted 04/01/2016 at 22:14:21
I would like to add this question:

When is the last time we had a striker challenging for top scorer in the Premier League?

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