Everton Need Last Season's Jelavic Back If They're To Take All Three Points Off Of Reading
There’s a creeping fear that has troubled me of late, the sense that something unbearable and terrible is going to happen. There’s an inevitability about it that sickens me, one borne from past experiences. It means that however I try to rationalise things or attempt to create alternative outcomes, a nagging doubt undermines my efforts. And the root of this doubt is the fact that in my heart I know, I just know that Liverpool are going to finish above us this season.
From a purely statistical perspective, one devoid of emotion, our respective recent form is travelling in different trajectories. Liverpool’s puts them in the top eight, Everton’s in the bottom six. But beyond the last six games, Liverpool have also been gaining ground on us for some time. From their terrible start to the season, the s***e have slowly begun to creep up the league, incrementally advancing upon us like a snake advancing upon its prey. In turn, we have been doing half their work for them by abandoning our blistering early season form and becoming the ultimate drawing machine, slowly descending down the league in the process.
From my most pessimistic perspective I can see Liverpool leapfrogging us as a result of beating Everton in the upcoming Anfield derby. That view might sound unnaturally jaundiced but it’s the kind of thing Liverpool excel at; making Evertonian's feel shit in the most perfect of ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if they topped it off by claiming fourth position and earning themselves a Champions League place in the process.
If Everton have any hope of ensuring that this outcome never comes to pass then we have to start winning again and tomorrow’s game against Reading presents the perfect opportunity. Despite their recent good form, Reading are still not a great side. The club have the joint-second worst defensive record in the league along with Wigan, with both sides letting in 51 goals this season. Only the hapless Villa (52) have let in more.
The three points are certainly there for the taking. But will we take them? It would be understandable if Evertonian's were slightly buoyed by our good result against Oldham in the week. A win is a win, regardless of the opposition and it will obviously have done something to boost the confidence of the squad. But, whether that will be enough to make any tangible difference to our recent lacklustre form is debatable.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the cup game was the continued inability of Jelavic to score. If he can’t manage to nab a goal against lower league fodder then how likely is it that he’ll manage to grab a goal against a Premiership defence, even one as leaky as Readings?
If Everton ultimately end the campaign with nothing, when we look back on this season from the vantage of the summer, the form of Jelavic will obviously be one of the main talking points. It’s clear that Everton’s attempts to capture a top four place have been seriously undermined by the absence of a real goalscorer. Just a glance across Stanley Park has illustrated just what a difference it can make if you have somebody who can regularly find the back of the net. For a significant chunk of this season Liverpool might as well have renamed themselves Suarez FC. It’s hard to think of a clearer example in the modern game of one man carrying such a poor team. In fact, I’d go as far to say that were it not for Suarez, then Liverpool would probably find themselves batting relegation right now rather than pushing for a Champions League place. His impact on their goal tally and confidence as a team has been immense this season, which is why it will be so interesting to see how they cope when he buggers off to pastures new in the summer.
Imagine what Everton could have become this season with a play half as good as Suarez? There’s no question that the team which Moyes has assembled is the best to have graced Goodison since he took over the job a decade ago. All we have really lacked has been the ability to do something with the endless chances that the team has created over the course of the season. If Jelavic had been able to continue the wonderful form that he illustrated when he first joined the club then there is every chance that our position in the top-four would now be cemented.
Instead, he’s slowly turned into something of an embarrassment. Despite his hard work and tireless energy, you just don’t get the feeling that he is ever likely to score. Everton sorely need Jelavic to at least find a modicum of last year’s form. We desperately require a forward who can get us goals and not one who huffs and puffs his way around the pitch like he’s looking for little pigs houses to blow down.
The really worrying thing for Everton is the fact that we have to face so many of the big clubs before the end of the season. Over the coming months we have games against Arsenal, City, Spurs and Chelsea. There’s also that away game at Anfield to consider, in which a defeat is probably guaranteed.
So you could look on today’s’ game as something of a must win for us. If we have any hope of avoiding the seemingly inevitable advance of Liverpool then it’s teams like Reading that we have to start beating.