Nowich v Everton: Nikica Jelavić is the real deal

Foreign strikers tend to struggle when they first move to the Premier League, but not Nikica Jelavić. Another two goals for Everton against Norwich has the Toffees eagerly awaiting their F.A. Cup semi-final with Liverpool...
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Foreign strikers tend to struggle when they first move to the Premier League, but not Nikica Jelavić. Another two goals for Everton against Norwich has the Toffees eagerly awaiting their F.A. Cup semi-final with Liverpool...

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Nikica Jelavic: At £7m could this striker be the signing of the season?

Whenever a foreign import first touches down in the Premier League he inevitably finds himself the subject of the same old debate: can he adapt to the English game? Even when proven in top European leagues, as Robinho and Andriy Shevchenko were in Spain and Italy respectively, some players, for whatever reason, can never replicate their form in this country. And so, when you are arriving from a league which, in truth, is a very poor one, the question marks are only larger.

Nikica Jelavić, however, has been able to answer them.

Since his January switch from debt-ridden Glasgow Rangers, the Croat has found the net five times. The first, at home to Tottenham, a sweeping half-volley from the edge of the box. The second sealed three points at Swansea and the third sent us to Wembley. The fourth and fifth, his twenty-first and twenty-second of the season, came yesterday as Everton twice threw away the lead at Norwich.

Maybe it's too early to make judgements like this just yet, but Jelavić looks a proper player. Great touch, awareness, strength and, most importantly, superb movement inside the six yard box are his best attributes. His goal against Swansea and his second at Carrow Road were tap-ins, but it was the sharp, six-yard box movement and subsequent escape from the defender that made the finishes so comfortable.

Another of our January acquisitions, Darron Gibson, also deserves praise for the way he has settled into life at Everton - we still haven't lost in eleven games with him in the side! He reminds me a bit of Joe Parkinson, the way he likes to sit and win the ball before using it intelligently. He was the butt of many a Manchester United fan's joke, but has shown already in his short time at the club how good a footballer he is. He hardly ever gives the ball away and it is his composure and solidity that brings out the best in other, more creative players.

Maybe it’s too early to make judgements like this just yet, but Jelavić looks a proper player.

Everton were excellent for periods of yesterday's game and, although a draw away to Norwich is no bad result, we probably deserved all three points. In the end, however, we only had ourselves to blame, as we were made to pay for a couple of defensive mistakes. Jelavić's clever finish was Everton's reward for an opening half hour which we had dominated, and Tony Hibbert - yes, Tony Hibbert - came as close as he has in over three hundred games to scoring, but his cross hit the post.

Jonny Howson equalised before the break after both Magaye Gueye and Tony Hibbert were caught out of position, but Jelavić restored Everton's lead on the hour. Norwich's second, eventually tucked home by Grant Holt, was disappointingly avoidable. Tim Howard saved well from Aaron Wilbraham, but the ball should have been cleared before it fell to the Canaries' number nine.

The defensive lapses will give boss David Moyes his biggest dilemma for next week's FA Cup semi-final. It's two from three with regards to the centre back position; John Heitinga, Phil Jagielka or Sylvain Distin. I would have laughed in your face if you had told me in August that Heitinga would be our player of the season, but he's had an imperious season and is playing better than he ever has in a blue shirt. Distin is strong and pacy, and on the whole very consistent, but then again he's always prone to a sloppy error. Jagielka has been largely kept out of the team by the aforementioned duo, but is still a classy and bullish defender.

It's a decision I'm glad I don't have to make!

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