Everton's No. 9 Dream Needs More Options

Staring at a big basket labelled 'Romelu Lukaku' should not be the sum total of Everton's striker plans. They need two new faces. Remy? Welbeck? Anyone at all?

Last Updated: 30/07/14 at 09:11 Post Comment

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'Steven Naismith did nothing wrong in the central role up front' was the distinctly underwhelmed verdict from the Liverpool Echo after Everton's defeat to Leicester in the heat of Bangkok on Sunday. If ever a phrase summed up the efforts of Naismith, it is that he 'did nothing wrong'. Which is why he started just six Premier League matches (scoring once) last season as a central striker for Everton. The only other current Everton player to start a top-flight game (and it happened just once) in that No. 9 position last season was Kevin Mirallas - their first choice for the right-sided attacking berth. Add in Arouna Kone - who missed almost the entirety of last season through injury - and you get the sum total of Everton's current striker options.

"We need a number nine going into the start of the season and we will make sure we sign one," says boss Roberto Martinez, who has been forced to turn to youngsters Chris Long, Conor McAleny and Hallam Hope in a pre-season that has brutally exposed the gaping hole at the head of Everton's impressive midfield.

It's the word 'one' in that quote from Martinez that will worry Everton fans. You do know you will be dancing that bizarreThursday-Sunday dance next season, right Roberto? While talk turns time and time again to Romelu Lukaku, surely Martinez should be issuing a 'plus one' invitation to the Belgian? One senior striker is not enough to compete on one front, never mind four. Right now, Everton have exactly nobody who can do more than 'nothing wrong'.

There was fanciful talk last week of "three or four signings" within days, and yet the only arrival has been long-expected midfielder Muhamed Besic, while Martinez has stood next to a massive basket labelled 'Lukaku' that is overflowing with blue eggs. Even if the Belgian's arrival was guaranteed - and that seems far from the truth - Everton's striker ambitions should not begin and end there. Or indeed with the name of Lacina Traore.

This is what Martinez said in March when the prospect of a return to European football became a possibility: "100% we'd need to increase the size of our squad. Europe has different demands and that has to be reflected in the numbers you have in the squad and the type of player you bring in too. Sometimes you need to bring in experienced players at an international level."

There's nothing in Everton's summer dealings - in which the squad has actually got smaller - to suggest that anybody with influence was listening to Martinez. Looking at a list of summer transfers, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was Newcastle who were preparing for a Europa League return. And looking at quotes from James McCarthy saying he is 'flattered' by links to Manchester United, you suspect that some of Everton's players are also looking expectantly towards the entrance door and shaking their heads.

Goalscorers are notoriously difficult to find for sensible fees but while Newcastle were paying £6m for France Under-21 striker Emmanuel Rivière, Swansea were signing full French international Bafétimbi Gomis for nothing but wages and Liverpool were mysteriously turning down the £8.5m Loic Remy (scorer of 14 PL goals last season), Everton have been apparently sitting on their collective hands and staring wistfully towards Chelsea and a player who looked far from the finished product at the World Cup.

Is it too late to find out if Remy really is broken beyond repair? Is it worth testing Manchester United's resolve on keeping Danny Welbeck? After all, West Brom tried the 'not really replacing Lukaku' option last season and it really didn't work out too cleverly (though they might do Everton a very reasonable deal on Victor Anichebe).

Sarah Winterburn

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