When Nikica Jelavic burst onto the Premier League scene last January he hit the ground running scoring 9 goals in 10 starts. Many people believed that Moyes had finally cracked his striking problems by bringing in a natural goal scorer. However, this season, Jelavic’s goals have dried up and his performances have been nowhere near as impressive, so what has happened to the Croatian striker?
|Goals||Mins per goal||Conversion||Shooting accuracy||Mins per shot|
It is abundantly clear that Jelavic’s form has dropped significantly this season. Not only is he scoring a lot less frequently but his conversion and shooting accuracy have dropped also. The number of shots he is taking on has also reduced which may be down to a lack of confidence but is probably indicative of a wider problem in the Everton formation.
Why is he struggling?
Last season Jelavic arrived at an Everton side that were not free scoring and needed a striker to carry the goal scoring burden. This season we have seen some tactical changes from Moyes which has affected the role of Jelavic. The importance of Fellaini is a key factor here. Fellaini is now the focal point of attacks with the club often targeting him with long balls and Jelavic playing off of him, rather than as the most advanced player.
This has been clear in an upturn in goal scoring fortunes for Fellaini who as noted is now a central part of Everton’s attacking tactics. Fellaini only scored three times last season but has scored 11 already this term in just 23 appearances, these are the stats of a striker not a midfielder and this is evident in his style of play. This is also shown by the fact Fellaini is winning 5.7 headers per game, the 6th highest rate in the league. Fellaini is now very much a target man as well as a midfielder. Last season he was much deeper as we can see here in his average position from Everton’s 2-0 victory over West Brom:
Fellaini (no.25) is in the centre midfield position here in a relatively deep area. In fact, himself and Darren Gibson are the deepest lying midfielders which demonstrates the role he played last year. This season however he is operating in more advanced areas which has led to him scoring far more goals than last year.
If we observe his position from Everton’s opening game we can see how close he is to Jelavic in almost a strike partnership, a role he has performed at times this season:
Fellaini (25) is almost next to Jelavic (7) in this tie. Fellaini was a real outlet for long balls for Everton, as he has been throughout the season. This is one of the key reasons why Jelavic has been less effective as a central striker this term. As noted, Fellaini playing deeper means that Jelavic is the focal point, but with Fellaini further forward Jelavic is playing second fiddle as Everton target Fellaini with crosses and long balls.
Jelavic has definitely struggled this season, which is a shame considering how natural he looked in front of goal. A dip in confidence is obvious considering that his conversion has dropped so significantly. But another factor has been the shift in tactics from Everton; particularly the fact that they now play through Fellaini as their main attacking outlet. If Fellaini leaves in the summer it might not be the worst thing for Jelavic, who will benefit from returning to prominence up front, rather than being as much a support man for Fellaini as anything else. Of course though, a drop in confidence has also contributed to a loss of form for Jelavic and Everton fans will be eager for him to re-find his goal scoring prowess that served him well last season.