The Case for More Firepower

Paul Derby 12/08/2019 32comments  |  Jump to last
The signing of Moise Kean is a step in the right direction as Everton seek more potency up front, but Marcel Brands must redouble his efforts to recruit goalscoring talent if Everton are to challenge the Top 6 long term.

With the transfer window still fresh in the mind, it might seem strange to talk about where Everton need to strengthen next, so bear with me.

There is no question that after the summer the squad is light at centre back and the failure to land Kurt Zouma or numerous other targets may yet come back to haunt Marco Silva this season, but I want to talk about the other end of the pitch.

The inability to convert chances regularly and to turn tight games from draws into wins is one reason that Everton are struggling to make the leap to become regular challengers for European football. There is a familiar pattern, particularly against teams in the lower half of the table, where the Blues control the game for long periods, fail to capitalise on their superiority and then find themselves ruing points that got away. The Crystal Palace game simply continued this longstanding narrative.

It’s widely accepted that the team has struggled to replace Romelu Lukaku’s goals since his departure, despite creditable returns from both Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson last season. The reality is that the top six sides boast a significantly more potent goal threat and, while this is not the only factor that sets them apart, it’s an area that Everton must address.

To the club’s credit, the strategy of spreading the goals around the team by recruiting players who can chip in from different areas of the pitch makes sense. Yet it masks the underlying issue: that we do not have goalscorers who spread fear into other teams and make the difference in the tightest games.

My argument is that, for many years, we have recruited strikers with a view to having a single focal point for the attack. Lukaku is the obvious example, before him Yakubu. When Lukaku moved on, the question seemed to be ‘which individual will we replace him with’? This is a flawed policy because, with a single striker, you are only ever one injury away from disaster.

So, in my mind, the addition of Moise Kean should be the start, not the end of recruitment up front. It is legitimate to have different types of strikers in the squad, so Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Cenk Tosun could deputise for each other, although question marks remain over both. But I come back to goals.

Even if Moise Kean excels and develops over the next two to three years into a regular goalscorer who contributes 15-20 goals a season, there is a clear need to recruit from a position of strength and add another striker, albeit one who could play across the front line. The bid for Wilfried Zaha suggests that Brands and Silva are thinking along these lines, even if the numbers involved made that deal highly unlikely.

If not Zaha, then the search must continue. Greater depth up front will not transform Everton’s fortunes by itself, but nor have we solved the problem by recruiting Kean alone. Just as we are prepared to invest in two players to provide competition for other positions, goalscoring striker must follow suit. Over to you, Marcel!

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Jim Bennings
1 Posted 12/08/2019 at 16:45:06
Sad as it is to say, there will be enormous pressure on the shoulders of this young lad Moise Kean.

It's a natural reaction from fans though because we have seen for two years now we are crying out for a goal scoring centre forward.

Lukaku scored 25 goals in a relatively average Everton team in 2016-17, I believe we are a better side now in all departments apart from up front.

People bemoaning a lack of service should watch other top strikers in the league or see how Rashford, Aubameyang, Kane all made goal scoring opportunities for themselves over the weekend by making the right movements and being clinical when positioned.

Our strikers just don't possess that knack, that ability, that killer instinct or savvy nature, nor are they aggressive enough when it matters.

Until this is addressed or Moise Kean hits the ground running, then it's going to always fall back to the same old argument over ineffective end product.

Steve Hogan
2 Posted 12/08/2019 at 18:42:50
Paul, you make many valid points in your article, but I think every man and his dog knows what the issue's are. Sadly, it will take possibly another 2 or 3 transfer windows for Brands and Silva to bring in the quality of players we need to seriously challenge the top four.

We are only now getting shut of player's in the squad who will never in a million years become first-team regulars. But a number of them (Mirallas for one) had their contracts extended, I presume on better terms, a little while ago, whilst the likes of Bolasie, will see out his time at Everton on a permanent loan basis, simply to get him off the wage book.

You're absolutely right, we need goals from other areas, Bernard, although pleasing on the eye, will be lucky if he scores five goals a season.

It's difficult asking the fans to be patient but, as far as myself is concerned, I just want to see steady progress each year, and the talented young players we have, get better and better each season.

I keep saying it, but the 'scatter-gun' approach of Koeman and Walsh in the recent past, still haunts us even now. Fans generally seem pleased with Brands's efforts so far, but the pressure is more on Silva now I believe, to develop a team capable of finishing higher than 8th place.

We'll wait and see.

Jim Bennings
3 Posted 12/08/2019 at 19:13:44

I don’t think it should really have taken so long really to solve the lack of goals issue as it has.

We can’t even complain about goals not coming from other area’s because we had Sigurdsson and Richarlison score 13 apiece last season.

Bernard will never be a midfielder that score goals, nor will Gomes or Tom Davies, and so far there’s nothing in Gbamin recent history to suggest he’s a free scoring midfielder either.

My guess is if we had the same Lukaku who was at Everton scoring 20-25 goals and in spells unplayable coupled with Richarlison and Sigurdsson scoring double figures then we would be on easy street going forward.

The failure thus far to even come remotely close to replacing Lukaku is disappointing.

Moise Kean is 19, but he has played already and scored already for both his country and a top club in Juventus.

I’m hopeful Kean is going to be more in the Wayne Rooney, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen or Romelu Lukaku brigade at 19 years old than the Dominic Calvert-Lewin at 22 stage of almost incessant reliance on patience from apologetic fans.

David Pearl
4 Posted 12/08/2019 at 19:15:24
Well at central defence we have two full and experienced internationals in their prime. The case for more firepower is obvious. Just have to watch us play. I would of liked an experienced striker along with Kean if we had the money. Too late now though, and l hate seeing Richarlison out wide in no mans land. I think he plays deeper every passing game.
Jim Bennings
5 Posted 12/08/2019 at 19:28:57

I agree about Richarlison not being in the game enough playing out wide.

I think the opinion is still out on what his best position is going to be.

At times he looked fantastic playing as striker last autumn away at Leicester and home to Brighton really spring to my mind but then other games you could tell he was not a natural.

I don’t think he’s really direct or skilful enough though to be a flying wide player, it’s a tough one but I agree that too many games pass a player by that can offer so much for us.

The lack of goals is a worry and it’s ok people suggesting we need them from other areas but look at it this way, even if we somehow had 4 of our midfielders all hitting 10 goals (which won’t happen anyway) that would still only give us 40 goals.

You would still require a striker getting between 12-18 goals and at least a combined 8-10 from our defence.

Goals win games, that’s why the best attacking teams always finish in the highest positions and also why Leicester won the league in 2016, because they had a striker in Vardy that was simply on fire.

David Pearl
6 Posted 12/08/2019 at 20:20:39
Agree completely Jim, we have spent a lot of money on keeping a balanced squad over just going for goals that are needed to give us a fighting chance of pushing up the table. I actually think we have more goals in the team but we don’t play a shape that matches the strength of of the team we put out. I’d rather go down the middle and use our full backs for width. Time will tell and I know it’s very early days but Silva has a problem to solve.
Mike Gaynes
7 Posted 12/08/2019 at 20:56:18
Paul, appreciate the effort, but this article is just a whole lot of obvious, and it misses the primary point.

Yes, it would be nice to have more goalscorers, but our issue isn't "the inability to convert chances regularly."

It's the inability to create chances regularly.

Sure, our finishing needs improvement, but that's pretty pointless if there's nothing to finish. We actually created only two opportunities against Palace, both for Siggy. He missed one and had the other cleared off the line. Our other two best chances, for Coleman and Richarlison, pretty much fell to them from luck. So two real scoring chances off our own passes, one in each half. THAT's the problem.

So talk about "converting chances" if you want to, but to me that's an argument as empty as our opponents' penalty area.

Dick Fearon
8 Posted 12/08/2019 at 22:49:24
Mike @7, I agree that creating opportunities needs improvement but another problem is trying to 'walk it in'. Far too often, we see one of our players within shooting range passes the ball rather than taking a shot. Over the years, that reluctance to have a go has affected us more often than the RS.

In the early 60s, it was described as 'After you, Claude'. The arrival of Fred Pickering put an end to that kind of nonsense. Fred would never waste an opportunity of having a go. Many of his shots would be high wide and not very handsome but his overall record of 70 goals in 115 games speaks for itself.

Fred's lethal end product made him the focus of opponents attention and helped 'create' space for his team mates to also have a go.

Mike Gaynes
9 Posted 13/08/2019 at 02:02:11
Dick, that was way before my time... I'd truly never heard of Mr. Pickering until he passed this year and I read the tributes here... but I understand your point.

And it's true that while our leading scorers, Richarlison and Sigurdsson, seem to take every shot that's available to them, guys like Calvert-Lewin and Bernard do seem very timid. And Gomes, who can obviously crack a ball hard, never even seems to look at the goal. We definitely could use a bit more hunger.

Ben McVeigh
10 Posted 13/08/2019 at 02:10:24
I would like to see how Lukaku would go under Silva's tactics. As much as Calvert-Lewin is derided, he spends the majority of the game playing the big man role, being the target for long balls, bringing other players in around him, plus being the main protagonist for the high press and chasing down.

When we have the ball, his instinct is to get into a position to be a link, not a finisher. But Silva's current tactics and/or player group feed into this.
Bernard is not an outside forward/winger in a 4-3-3. Yes, he works his butt of and allows Digne to get forward and put in dangerous balls. But isn't a goal threat, doesn't press high. He plays more like a left-sided midfielder in a 4-4-2.

Sigurdsson has a great engine, but not the dynamic pace, and he along with Calvert-Lewin are the two doing the high press while Richy and Bernard drop deeper. But then doesn't have the speed to get back to the middle and help defend, and when we counter with speed, he doesn't have the pace to get up and overlap Calvert-Lewin.
If we are going to play 4-3-3 with the current group. Sigurdsson can't play the No 10 role. Richarlison, Kean and Calvert-Lewin up front, Davies, Sigurdsson or Bernard, Gbamin (this weekend) in the middle.

I think we have the fire power, but just not playing the tactics to utilise it the best way.

Laurie Hartley
11 Posted 13/08/2019 at 04:24:28
Jim # 5 – from what I have seen I think Richarlison operates best on the left hand side of the pitch and I reckon he is a natural goal scorer – remember his goal for us against Wolves away last season. A goal of great finesse. He is good in the air and he is a brave lad but I don't think he is a lone striker.

The more I read through the comments and opinions on this thread and Paul Tran's thread “Shapes of things to come”, the more I am convinced Marco Silva needs to change his approach and set up according to the strength of what is the best group of footballers I have seen at Everton for a long time.

For me, that would start with playing a two of Richarlison and Kean up front. That would take some of the pressure of Kean and between them I think they would score a lot of goals.

As far as creating goals is concerned I think Bernard is capable of that from midfield – my only doubt being has he got the physicality for the role (he is certainly courageous enough)? Plenty of players of his stature before him have had – some of them great players. Collins and Ball spring to mind immediately.

Like Jamie and Ben, I think he is worth a try there this weekend at home against Watford.

Sam Hoare
12 Posted 13/08/2019 at 10:07:02
Mike @7 is spot on. Calvert-Lewin is not super clinical but he's not getting a lot of chances to miss. Our biggest problem is creating enough opportunities and that is not just about the striker. It's about the midfielders and often the system itself.

We need to find more ways of attacking, rather than just using Coleman and Digne to swing in crosses. And we need to find more ways of passing and moving with accuracy in the final third. Having midfielders who run beyond the striker would be a helpful start.

Richarlison is part of the issue because, although he's a decent finisher, he creates very little. Last season, he made only 0.6 key passes per match which is half the amount of Bernard.

Dick Fearon
13 Posted 13/08/2019 at 12:51:51
Ben @ 10, I have already staked my claim as the first to say DCL will one day make a damn fine attacking MF.
Rob Dolby
14 Posted 13/08/2019 at 13:29:19
You don't have to state much of a case.

Our strikers DCL, Niasse, Tosen are bottom end Prem / Championship players.

Judge strikers on goals and our 3 probably didn't score the same amount as a Vardy nevermind a Kane last year.

I just hope Kean hits the ground running.

Peter Warren
15 Posted 13/08/2019 at 13:44:48
They are trying to address the lack of goals by signing Iwobi and trying to sign Zaha.
Don Alexander
16 Posted 13/08/2019 at 14:15:33
To me Gylfi Sigurdsson has had his reputation damaged by playing for us. To me, in a team with an accomplished forward or two (like even Swansea had whilst he was there), he and his team flourish in terms of goal-scoring.

I attach this, in the hope that anyone interested can see the crying need we have had in all Siggi's time with us for a forward with a killer instinct/ability.

Jerome Shields
17 Posted 13/08/2019 at 14:28:34

I agree the problem is the ' the inability to create chances '. I have always felt that the tactic in the final third was to shoot on sight, with a pass to a player in a better position or interplay, was a secondary consideration. This is bore out by stats that show that Everton have one of the lowest rates of through balls and completed passes in the final third in the Premier. In the Palace game only 15 percent of the attacking play was through the centre. Attacking play was dominated by wing play, with few shots on target.

Trevor Peers
18 Posted 13/08/2019 at 14:39:59
I agree totally Don @ 16, Sigurdsson regularly gets slaughtered on here and the main reason is the lack of quality up front since he arrived.

Even Zidane would look hopeless in our set up and his confidence would of soon dried up.

Mike Gaynes
19 Posted 13/08/2019 at 15:04:43
Interesting stats, Jerome #17, and I love stats.

The wing play issue is obvious to the eye... crosses from the fullbacks are prayers at best, particularly since we don't have a dominant header/finisher to attack them. Whether the crosses are well-placed (Digne) or not (Coleman) doesn't really matter, since opponents know that's all they need to play us for. When you can't attack through the middle very well, your goal output will be largely reliant on work, hustle and sheer luck, like Richarlison's chance on Saturday.

Steve Ferns
20 Posted 13/08/2019 at 16:15:36
Silva's sides utilise a number 9 in the mould of Calvert-Lewin. The 9 is not the main goalscorer. At Olympiacos Kostas Fortounis scored 18 from AMC whilst Brown Ideye and Alfred Finnbogason scored 5 and 1 respectively.

At Sporting, Slimani was the big striker, and he did joint top score with 11, but Freddy Montero (the Colombian winger with pace to burn) also got 11 and the midfield and other forwards all weighed in with goals.

Go back a year and again the AMC, Evandro smashed in 11 for Silva's Estoril, whilst Joao Pedro scored as many from midfield as the main striker Luis Leal. There was lots of goals in that side but they were shared about.

Go to Watford and Doucouré scored 7 and Richarlison 5, but only 4 for the main striker André Gray.

Hull? Well Niasse was top scorer with 5, but Silva's tactics were a bit different there.

Point is history shows that Silva is not one to rely on a striker. His tactics have seen his sides be proficient in front of goal, but those goals more often come from the wide positions or an attacking midfielder than the traditional centre-forward.

We need goals, but as long as we score it doesn't matter who gets them. And we need to forget the days of Lukaku scoring 25 and not doing much else. Sigurdsson gets more opportunity than Calvert-Lewin, and that is by design, and history shows this is not unique to Everton.

Rob Dolby
21 Posted 13/08/2019 at 16:26:27
I have to disagree with the comments about us not creating chances.

We had seasons under Smith and periods under Moyes where we could not create chances.

Under Silva we do create chances whether they are from crosses, worked plays or % balls, we do create them. The issue is we don't take as many of them since Lukaku left.

We aren't as good at creating chances as the top 2 but probably create as many as Arsenal who generally score as they have top strikers who create their own chances out of nothing.

With this current team it's obvious our weakness is up top.

Don't get me wrong we haven't got a team of world-beaters and just need a striker. We have quite a lot of players who are decent but only 2 match winners in Sigurdsson and Richarleson.

Jerome Shields
22 Posted 13/08/2019 at 16:39:30
Mike # 19.

Like Sam I am in two minds how this can be changed.

Steve's #20 correctly points out the conundrum of Silvas tactics.

Whilst it looks like the weakness is in passing in the final third and the ability of players to do this, what if this is not part of Silvas coaching and tactics ?

Two striker, one holding and another feeding off may work, but would the high press be maintained. Finishing is often cited as a stats Weakness, with a lot of shots off target, but the inability to create proper chances could explain this. Shoot on sight in the final third seems to be the preference. Link play is rather in the opposition penalty area.

The present tactics play into the hands of teams who set up shop and if the high press is not maintain midfield is over run.

Ironically Everton play better against the top team that come at them. but Arsenal reverted to shutting up shop against us and where successful , last season.

James Stewart
23 Posted 13/08/2019 at 16:42:09
I would substitute “firepower” with just “better players.” Dlc, Tosun, Niasse, Walcott, Sigurdsson and even Bernard in my opinion are just not good enough to hurt teams on a regular basis. Bernard has to start contributing goals and assists this season, he been massively disappointing as I thought he was a step up initially.

We now have Kean, Iwobi and Richarlison so I think we are slowly getting there. Zaha would have made a big difference.

Jay Wood

24 Posted 13/08/2019 at 16:50:28
An interesting 'Moneyball' related article on various clubs summer transfer fees, both incoming and outgoing.


For us, undersold Gana, seriously good value-for-money purchases at the prices paid for Gomes, Keane and Iwobi.

Arsenal skinned both ways, Wolves did good business.

James Stewart
25 Posted 13/08/2019 at 16:51:50
Although after watching @16’s link, I hadn’t quite realised how many chances Gylfie made that were squandered! Some truly shocking finishing in that video.
Laurie Hartley
26 Posted 14/08/2019 at 00:26:41
Don # 16 - thanks for the link. You have placed the evidence before our eyes. Sigurdsson creates chances and good chances at that.

From what I saw a lot of those chances fell to Walcott who made good runs coming in from the right in most cases but failed to finish.

Ben Howard
27 Posted 14/08/2019 at 02:42:29
I'm opening myself to ridicule here but I'd like to see a 4-4-2 tried against teams that sit back. Any two of Kean or Calvert-Lewin coupled with Richarlison seems to be something that could really work. I'd push Sigurdsson deep next to Gbamin or Schneiderlin with Bernard and Iwobi or Walcott either side.

It might be gung-ho against the better teams but against teams thay sit back we desperately need a Plan B. We are good enough to make this work in my opinion and Silva needs to start earning his money. Would be great to see him adopt an old-fashioned English formation and batter teams with it.

James Flynn
28 Posted 14/08/2019 at 02:47:07
Here's a whole bunch of Everton firepower: Link
Si Cooper
29 Posted 14/08/2019 at 02:53:26
It would be interesting to see stats of how many goals scored can be classed as created by pure attacking brilliance versus those that have a large slice of luck or defensive mistakes.

I may be wrong but I thought the RS (own goal, ricochet falling to Salah, Van Dijk just having to stand up to convert) and United (poor challenge for penalty, sloppy defending for 2/3 others) both benefitted greatly from the latter category in their opening games.

Citeh may be the epitome of a creative team but the rest of us are all (basically) hoping for things to fall our way more often than they do for the opponents. Best way to do it is to control the ball as much as we can, cranking up pressure on the opposition defence and limiting the times we are exposed.

I think using our naturally creative flanks is a better bet than artificially trying to promote the generation of openings through the congested centre. What we have often lacked is a player anticipating where the crosses will end up and that is what we have to hope Moise Kean has the natural ability to do, or that his creative play in the final third helps to pull defenders out of position.

It is one of those things where success breeds success, so that players get into the habit of pinging the ball into the danger area because they know that often enough someone will be there to get on the end of it.

Another factor that should be considered is whether VAR will increase the opportunities from dead-ball situations. Hopefully both Keane and Mina will have more chances to create havoc in the opposition box.

David Ellis
30 Posted 14/08/2019 at 11:14:05
Jim #1

I take issue with Rashford being the model of a great striker who can create chances for himself. In approximately 100 games over the last 3 full seasons he scored 22 goals in total – ie, just over 7 a season. for Man Utd. Martial goes one better with 23 goals in 3 seasons. Okay, that's more than Calvert-Lewin (averaging 5 a season the last two years) – but his role is a little different and we're only talking a couple of goals difference per regular season.

I agree that Calvert-Lewin is not currently the answer but there aren't many that are operating in a quantumly higher level – certainly not those at Man Utd.

Steve Ferns
31 Posted 14/08/2019 at 12:00:20
Here's some stats for you from last season:

Shots per game - 13.4 - 7th
Shots on target per game - 4.4 - 8th
Goals from open play - 33 - 8th
Goals on the counter-attack - 2 - 12th
Set piece goals - 16 - 2nd
Penalties - 2 - 15th

There was talk about how the favoured the flanks against Palace so this may interest you:
Left side - 39% - 11th
Middle - 22% - 17th
Right Side - 40% - 3rd
The top for middle was only 31% (Watford) and most sides were no higher than 26%. This is not quite an Everton only trait, although we are 17th for using the middle of the pitch. It clearly shows that in an era of 5 man midfields and usually narrow tactics, that there is more space wide and so teams gravitate towards that.

A stat that will compound a lot of beliefs is shooting:
in the 6 yard box - 7% (14th)
In the 18 yard box - 61% (1st)
Outside the area - 33% (18th)
What this tells us is that we are overplaying it. We are not scoring tap ins, we are not letting rip from distance, instead we are passing into good positions and shooting from just inside the penalty area. Arsenal do this and have very similar stats to our own, but are slightly higher for inside the box. Whilst this is where Burnley lead the league (16%) and shows them scoring in scrambles, Arsenal's overplaying leads them to tap it home in the 6 yard box.

The stats for action zones - ie where the ball is most is interesting:
our own third - 27% (5th lowest in league)
middle third - 44% (joint lowest in league)
attacking third - 30% (4th highest in the league)
So this clearly shows we have the ball in the danger areas more than most and we just need to improve the quality of our finishing.

Tony Everan
32 Posted 15/08/2019 at 06:21:27
I feel we can be too over playing it out wide with Bernard & Digne, Richarlison & Coleman that, when that interplay is done and a cross comes in, Calvert-Lewin is isolated and the cross is easily cleared.

Maybe Bernard and Richarlison (to a lesser extent) have to be more proactive when an attack is forming on the opposite flank to attack the box more and get themselves into a danger area around Calvert-Lewin, distracting defenders and waiting for the knock-down or ricochet opportunity.

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