It’s a funny time for strikers at Everton; our top ever goal scorer in the Premier League era has lost the respect of the fans because he says one or two things on international duty, his back-up is a notorious camel rider and the second most expensive ever Everton striker has developed into an internet meme. It’s a messy situation and a position almost strengthened by the signing of Sandro Ramirez, a deal we are still waiting to be announced. However, if the sale of Lukaku is going to happen, who should replace him? If he stays, who should be his partner upfront? It’s time for the final part of my transfer targets, and who I believe Everton should be signing for the famous number 9 jersey.
Why Everton need a Striker?
European football effects strikers, even the most “elite”. Throughout his 5 seasons as a starting striker in the Premier League, including his time at West Brom, Lukaku’s worst goalscoring record in the league was the same season we were playing in Europe. Romelu played 48 games in the 2014-15 season, 36 of them in the league, in which he scored just 10 goals that season. It is so, so crucial we not only have his replacement if he moves, but a player to rotate so we still have that danger upfront. Development of Calvert-Lewin and Lookman would be important, but bringing in two more strikers (that is including Sandro) would be perfect.
The Targets: Who Everton should bring in?
#1. Michy Batshuayi – Chelsea
About Michy Batshuayi: Born in the Belgian capital, Michy played for a good few clubs in his youth years, including FC Brussels (on two occasions) and Anderlecht, but it would be rivals Standard Liege that would develop him for 3 years before making his debut at 17 against Gent. His only other appearance that season was against KV Mechelen. It would be the next campaign before the young Belgian start racking up appearances, and scoring goals. His first professional goal was the winner in a Europa League match away to FC Copenhagen. Michy ended the 2011/12 season scoring 9 goals in all competitions.
The young Belgian was proving to be a hot talent, being a regular for the national under-21 squad and becoming a regular in the first team at Liege. After another 12 goals in the 12/13 campaign, Batshuayi would have his best campaign in Liege, scoring 21 league goals in 38 fixtures. After 120 games for Les Rouches, he would join Marseille for a fee of around £4.5m. Michy scored his first Ligue 1 goal against Bordeaux and was used as an impact player for his first season, starting just 6 times in his 26 appearances, scoring 9 goals.
Batshuayi’s following season gave him a proper introduction to the French first divison, getting more chances and scoring more goals. Marseille’s club president stated, “There is not a single top 15 club that is not interested in Batshuayi”, and that was shown after scoring an impressive 17 goals for them. As predicted, there was much interest for Michy, including West Ham, Crystal Palace and Juventus, but it was Chelsea who signed him. Batshuayi scored in his first away game against Watford, but he was used as a bench player once again, starting just one league game for Chelsea last season. In total, Batshuayi scored 5 Premier League goals.
Analysis: It’s not hard to see why Michy was used as an “impact player” in his first two seasons in top divisions, he has fantastic pace and strength which helps him go past any defender and makes him clinical when inside of the penalty area. In France, Michy had an average of 2.3 shots per game inside of the penalty area. Although play time was very limited last season under Conte, to have scored 5 goals from 8 shots on target is an impressive statistic. Overall, Batshuayi ended the season with a 73% shot accuracy (shots on target), nobody in the Everton squad had a better percentage who had played more minutes than the Belgian striker.
Michy has an ability to shoot with either foot, in the past 2 seasons, he has scored 8 with his left foot and 11 with his right. For a striker, he is also quite creative. He registered 9 assists in Ligue 1 during the 15-16 season, only Boudebouz (11), Ibrahimovich (13) and Di Maria (19) got more than he did. He also got one against West Ham for Chelsea last season.
He isn’t a target man, losing a majority of his aerial duels, but that’s covered by his runs behind the defence and sometimes dropping into midfield to retain possession. It’s also worth noting that Batshuayi has played 17 Europa League games in total, in which case he has scored 7 goals in the competition.
Why Everton need Batshuayi: The Belgian has great potential. With a fully-fit Costa in the Chelsea team you can see why he didn’t get much game time, but that’s been his career so far, as an impact substitute. When he got minutes on the pitch for Marseille, the goals came with it and if he gets the minutes at Everton, I’m sure it’ll be the same situation.
#2. Nicolai Jørgensen – Feyenoord
About Nicolai Jørgensen: Produced from the Akademisk Boldklub academy, Jørgensen made his debut in the second tier in a 3-2 victory over Skive IK; only being 18. He scored 7 league goals the following campaign and after 32 games for The Academics, he joined German giants Bayer Leverkusen for a fee just over half a million pounds. Nicolai made 9 Bundesliga and 7 Europa League appearances in his first season, mostly having appearances on the left-wing for them.
Jørgensen would only make one appearance for Leverkusen the following campaign, in the top division, before joining Kaiserslautern on loan for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, he suffered an osteitis pubis injury and missed a majority of the season before being loaned back to the Danish Superligaen, joining Copenhagen with an option to join permanantley. He made an incredible return to football in Denmark, scoring 12 goals in 36 games and signed a 3-year deal at the club. Due to a hamstring injury, Nicolai missed a lot of his second season back, although scoring in a Champions League game against Juventus and going onto score 7 in the Superligaen.
The Denmark international moved from player on the wing into a striker in the 14/15 season, scoring 10 times in 25 games in the league as Copenhagen finished 2nd behind FC Midtjylland. The following campaign would be much more successful however, Jørgensen’s 15 league goals and 7 assists pushing Copenhagen towards the Superligaen title; winning the league by 9 points. His impressive campaign would see him join Feyenoord for a fee of around €3.5 million. It turned out to be an immense signing, scoring 4 braces and being involved in all 5 goals in a 5-2 victory of AZ (he scored three of them). Not only did he finish as the Eredivisie’s top goalscorer but Feyenoord would win the league for the first time since 1999.
Analysis: At 6ft3 tall, Jørgensen has proven to be a fantastic target man and holding onto the ball is one of his key attributes. The Danish striker wins an average of 2.4 aerial duels per game, so when you have a keeper like Pickford who can produce strong distribution, he’s the perfect player to aim for. Koeman has used long ball tactics in the past for Everton, which hasn’t really gone to plan as Lukaku prefers to take the man on rather than pass it off when doing so, Jørgensen is a great distributer. He’s also so threatening when inside the penalty area, he’s averaged 2.2 shots per game from inside of the zone for Feyenoord and out of his 21 Eredivisie goals, 11 have been inside of the penalty box, 8 in the six-yard.
Not only is he a great target man but he’s a fantastic creator for a striker. He’s averaged a key pass every 45.7 minutes, 1.8 key passes per game. This has led Nicolai to attributing to 11 assists for Feyenoord in the 16/17 campaign, only Hakim Ziyech registered more in the Dutch division (with 12). Passing is a strong area for the Danish striker, he has been known to drop back into the midfield to keep the passing play going.
When counter-attacking, Nicolai poses a great threat when going forward. Everton scored just twice from a counter-attack last season, Jørgensen himself scored the same amount of goals in Holland.
Why Everton need Jørgensen: The best partnerships work together with two players having opposite attributes to each other. Imagine our strikers being Jørgensen and Sandro?
Nicolai brings the ball down and gets into the area, Sandro carries the ball into space, it would be an immense combination to deal with for defenders and in my opinion, a much bigger threat than a single Romelu Lukaku upfront. He’s experienced, he scores goals and is an ideal target when going forward, which is what Koeman has implied with Pelle at Southampton and Lukaku at us.
#3. Kelechi Iheanacho – Man City
About Kelechi Iheanacho: There have been many Nigerian strikers playing in the Premier League, Iheanacho is arguably the most promising out of all of them. Born in Imo, Nigeria, Kelechi was part of the Taye Academy. His performance in the 2013 Under-17 World Cup, winning the Golden Ball (the best player), led to much interest from Sporting Lisbon, Porto and other top clubs in Europe, but it was Manchester City he would join in 2014. After a year playing in Man City’s youth academy, Iheanacho starting to become involved in the first team, Pellegrini giving him his debut against Watford in August 2015, he was just 18.
In his first away game, Kelechi came off the bench to score the winner in the 90th minute away to Crystal Palace. He would make a number of appearances of the bench for City, his next goal coming against Swansea City at the Ethiad in December. A month later, Iheanacho scored his first career hat-trick as Man City smashed Aston Villa out of the FA Cup in the 4th round. The Nigerian ended the season on 8 goals and the best goals-per-minute ratio in the Premier League, 1 goal ever 93.9 minutes. With 14 goals to his name in all competitions, Iheanacho finished the season as Man City’s third-highest goalscorer.
Guardiola didn’t use Kelechi as much as Pellegrini did last campaign, although the Nigerian had a fantastic start to the season, 2 goals and 3 assists in his first 4 PL games, including one against rivals Manchester United. Iheanacho ended last season with 7 goals in all competitions, including 2 in the Champions League.
Analysis: To breakthrough into the Man City team from the youth academy is some statement considering the amount of star talent they have. Despite a lack of game time, Iheanacho is just appearances away from becoming one of the biggest upcoming strikers in English football today. The Nigerian is a very strong finisher, 38% of his shots turned into goals last campaign and 57% of all his shots were on target. Only being 20, Kelechi has adapted into many different roles whilst at City, including playing on the wing, moving back into attacking midfield and as a striker. When moving back into attacking midfield, Kelechi can help the build-up play significantly and as a result, he has assisted 3 times for Man City last season.
Creativity has always been a part of the Nigerian’s arsenal, in the PL he has averaged a total of 24.4 accurate short passes per 90 minutes. Not only did he score 6 goals in the under-17 World Cup, he assisted 7 times too.
Kelechi is a keen dribbler, he’s very good at keeping the ball using his strength and burst of pace to get past players. He is a fast player and as a result, this has made him a counter-attacking threat, watch his goal against Bournemouth for an example, his movement and the entire attack was started by him.
Why Everton need Iheanacho: His movement is absolutely quality and to already be scoring so many goals just from the bench, imagine what he can do if he starts more games. He’s not even 21 yet and has got bags of potential ahead of him. Everton would offer the game time he has earned.
Conclusion to Final Part
For quite a while, Everton’s strike force has been reliant on one man and we are so lucky that he hasn’t been injured throughout his time at the club. Regardless if Romelu is leaving, we will be signing a striker or two this summer. The signing of Onyekuru is a huge statement, he is good enough to go straight in but we’ve loaned him out for another season – which is quality business. Sandro Ramirez is pretty much a done deal also, so any 3 of the strikers I have mentioned would provide a fantastic force upfront.
We are still a long, long way away from the club that Moshiri is trying to build. In terms of kit manufactures and brand exposure, Everton are well, well behind the top 6 but having spent £60m before the window has even opened is totally abnormal for The Toffees. The squad is being boosted by youth academy products coming through and more signings are guaranteed over the next two months. With hundreds of players being linked, we could see one of the strongest Everton squads since 1985.
Which striker would you like to see wear the number 9 shirt this season?
Stats via Squawka, Whoscored and transfermarkt.
Up the Toffees!