Mirallas returns to remedy Jelavic drought
By Cam Melling
A second consecutive goalless draw for Everton on Monday night was a stark reminder about the Toffees' lack of goalscoring prowess.
Nikica Jelavic, one of last season's most feared forwards in the Premier League, again failed to score, making it now over 600 minutes since the Croatian last found the back of the net in the league. His manager, David Moyes, seems to have finally lost patience with the forward, after subbing him for only the second match in his last seven. It was also the earliest he had been replaced this season.
So, what has happened to the striker who fired nine goals in just thirteen Premier League matches last season? A drop in form? A lack of confidence? Or maybe the disappearance of quality service? The latter could well be the answer, with Everton's summer Kevin Mirallas, only now returning from a lengthy hamstring injury.
When Kevin Mirallas replaced Jelavic in the 66th minute against Southampton on Monday he instantly made an impact. He burst onto the pitch, taking players on, floating balls into the box and firing shots on goal. It was the attacking flair the Blues had been missing all game. It was the type of attacking threat that had been absent since his last appearance, way over a month ago. Coincidentally, the Belgian's last league appearance was also in the game that Jelavic had last scored.
Although both were not on the pitch together on Monday night, maybe the Belgian is the service that Jelavic has been crying out for all along. It would certainly seem so. Mirallas has four league assists in 682 minutes (12 appearances) which is just over the amount of time Jelavic has gone without a goal. Mirallas also has two assists in two League Cup appearances this season so it seems that it is not a fluke.
The influence that the winger can have on Everton's side was highlighted recently by Sylvain Distin and David Moyes, who both gave interviews expressing their belief that Mirallas could fire Everton into the much coveted fourth place spot and qualification to the Champions League. And it is no doubt that Jelavic also has a part to play in that assault on the top four. Combine him and Mirallas in the same team and it feels like the winning blueprint, especially on the evidence of this season's performances. Perhaps the groaning of the Goodison faithful should be patient just yet with the Croatian, just enough to see them both link up with each other again on the pitch.
You could quite easily argue that Jelavic was scoring goals last year without Mirallas but there are many possibilities why this could be. However, that is in the past now as he is not scoring goals he did last year but that does not mean this should be forgotten. He still has the ability to score goals - his poacher's finish in the dying moments against Spurs was proof.
Now that Mirallas and Jelavic are fit, do not be surprised if the Croatian starts hitting the back of the net again. It could start this weekend when Everton travel to Bolton in the fourth round of the FA Cup.