It's Just Not Happening For Jelavic

Everton are enjoying a fine season - but their Croatian hitman Nikica Jelavic is not. He looks like a broken man. WhoScored's Ali Tweedale studies the striker's stats.

Last Updated: 20/02/13 at 13:30 Post Comment

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Nikica Jelavic: Six goals this season

Nikica Jelavic: Six goals this season

Everton are keeping pace with the top teams in the Premier League as we enter the final straight in the season - but only just.

Having scored in 20 of their first 21 games in this top-flight campaign, they have failed to net in three of their last five matches, and problems may have started to surface for David Moyes' side.

A case in point is the form of forward Nikica Jelavic, who has lost his goalscoring touch as the season has worn on and Everton's results have suffered consequently.

A look at WhoScored.com's player page for Jelavic with his recent performances and ratings shows an incredible drought in goalscoring for the Croatian.

Having had an instant impact after signing from Rangers in January 2012, Jelavic began this season as he ended the last, with four goals and an assist in his first six Premier League appearances in 2012/13.

He has since, however, scored just twice and assisted one more goal in his ensuing 19 league appearances for the Toffees, a run stretching over his last 1467 minutes on the pitch.

Put more bluntly, Jelavic has averaged a goal roughly every 12-and-a-half hours of time on the pitch for Everton since mid-October.

Any centre-forward would be disappointed with that return, and you can tell from the Croat's body language that he is not enjoying himself as he once was. In last Saturday's 2-2 FA Cup draw away to third-tier Oldham, Jelavic's recent travails were typified perfectly when the striker ran through on goal in the left channel, but rather than try and work the ball onto his right foot or take an early effort, he was forced onto his weaker left side and delayed shooting, before sending a tame effort over the bar.

An in-form striker for the Premier League's sixth-placed side would be expected to run riot in a one-on-one situation against League One opposition, but Jelavic is low on confidence and it is plain to see.

His conversion rate in his half-season in England in the latter part of 2011/12 was an impressive 24.3%. That has since dropped to 9.8% over the course of this season, but has been just 4.7% in his poor run over the last 19 Premier League games.

It is harsh to focus on such a specific period of matches, but that is exactly what happens to Fernando Torres on a regular basis - and other strikers need to be similarly scrutinised. Of course, Jelavic has no £50m price tag weighing him down, so much less should be expected of him. Yet with Everton creating countless chances through the likes of Leighton Baines, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman this season, it is certainly not unreasonable for an Everton fan to be unhappy with the fact that his team are relying primarily on Marouane Fellaini for goals.

The Belgian has an impressive ten goals from an attacking midfield berth this season and has suitably replaced Tim Cahill's aerial threat from that position since the Australian left in the summer.

However, further up the pitch, Jelavic has not maintained a high enough level of performance to justify a continued starting spot. But Everton's other option - Victor Anichebe - is hardly consistent enough to hold down a place in the first XI either.

Anichebe is one of those players that is most effective from the bench, and is in distinct danger of becoming a 'super-sub' - a positive term in itself, which also implies, however, that a player is only worth having when other players are tiring. They have a physical advantage that their team-mates would otherwise be lacking.

So Moyes has stuck with Jelavic for the most part of the season, and it doesn't seem to be working as well as he might have hoped. The Toffees are in a more than respectable sixth spot in the table, which Moyes would undoubtedly be content with were they to finish the season there, and while he has built a team that are difficult to beat - four losses in 26 league matches, more only than the Manchester clubs - they have failed to convert draws into wins on far too many occasions. No side has drawn more games this season than Moyes' (12), and six of those have come after being in a losing position, when they might well have gone on to win.

A great deal of Jelavic's goals are scored off one touch. He is not the kind of striker that gets the ball down and plays the ball around outside the area before attacking the box. In fact, he does very little off the ball, currently boasting the worst pass success rate of any regular Everton outfielder this season, completing a meagre 69% of his attempted passes. What is more, all 15 of his Premier League goals since completing his move to Merseyside have been netted from inside the box.

Jelavic is there to finish off moves and little else - and at the moment, he's not even doing that well.

All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com. Follow Ali Tweedale on Twitter at @alitweedale.

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S I've always envisioned him as a Pirlo or a Scholes, though he needs some of Andy Murray's conditioning and shiny, ankle supports to keep his own from buckling under the tackles that will (inevitably) come his way. He's got the physique and low centre of gravity to flourish, but needs to make himself more resilient.

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