Can Romelu Lukaku repeat his Euro heroics in the Premier League?
Most Everton fans rejoiced when the club completed the £28m signing of Romelu Lukaku in the summer. The Toffees were finally competing with the big boys when it came to transfer fees and they had shelled out big money for a proven Premier League talent.
At just 21, Lukaku was arguably one of the most young strikers in Europe – and he was now Everton’s property.
It hasn’t been plain sailing for Lukaku since then. The Belgian has been often criticised for his poor touch and inability to hold the ball up as Everton have struggled. At times he’s look sluggish and out of form, weighed down by the expectation of fans and pundits alike due to his massive price-tag.
And then he went and stuck his size 11 in it when he said that he’d like a move back to a “big club”.
In fact, the only thing that hasn’t suffered this term is Lukaku’s goal return. The Belgian has scored 15 goals so far, just one behind last term’s total of 16, albeit in more games this season.
And just like Everton, it is in Europe in which Lukaku has really blossomed. He’s scored six goals in seven Europa League games, and lit up the two legs against Young Boys with five goals.
But domestically Lukaku has struggled. He’s scored seven Premier League goals but often he has flattered to deceive. After returning a hat-trick hero from Bern, he toiled against Leicester last weekend, his first touch akin to a sledge hammer, his second a tackle.
Granted, he had a hand in the equaliser, but Lukaku should have been on the scoresheet long before that.
Roberto Martinez will be hoping Lukaku can translate this week’s European performance into magic at the Emirates. He’s tormented Arsenal before, namely in last term’s 3-0 victory at Goodison Park.
Lukaku scored his 100th career goal on Thursday, it took Wayne Rooney until he was 22 to achieve the same feat.
Everton have one of the best young strikers in Europe – it’s just high time he proved it on a consistent basis.
Can Everton win the midfield battle with Gareth Barry?
Gareth Barry, Everton
Where has it all gone wrong for Gareth Barry?
He was a key cog in Roberto Martinez’s Everton side last season, but fans have labelled him a liability as the Toffees have struggled this term.
Martinez has often received criticism for his insistence on keeping Barry in the team this season and his recent one-match ban (in which he escaped a three match ban) didn’t exactly worry many Blues fans.
But perhaps the draw with Leicester will prove why Barry is viewed as such an important player in Martinez’s system.
Barry, through years of experience, is tactically disciplined and will sit just in front of the back four to offer protection. Granted, his form hasn’t been great, but Barry’s ability to quietly keep things ticking over in Everton’s engine room is vital when the Blues are on form.
James McCarthy and Mo Besic are supremely talented young players, but both men have an all-action style which is unsuited to the tactically disciplined role in which Barry plays – and perhaps that is why so often Martinez has seen fit to leave Besic out in favour of Barry.
Too often Leicester won the midfield battle last week as McCarthy and Besic charged around the pitch. The game was crying out for a player like Barry, even if the fans weren’t.
With Darron Gibson also in decent form since his return from injury, it is anyone’s guess which midfield Martinez will go with.
But you can bet your bottom dollar Barry will be involved – whether he can attract the plaudits will be a completely different matter.
Can Everton reach the heights of 2013/14?
LONDON, ENGLAND – Sunday, December 8, 2013: Everton’s Gerard Deulofeu scores the first goal against Arsenal during the Premiership match at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
It was a match which Roberto Martinez labelled the best performance of his reign.
Last season’s 1-1 draw at the Emirates might not have been the historic win that the victory at Old Trafford a few days earlier had been, nor was it the total dismantling of Arsenal later in the year.
In fact, it wasn’t a win at all. The Blues needed a last gasp goal from Gerard Deulofeu to rescue a solitary point.
But it was the performance in which the Toffees travelled to a so-called Premier League big gun and went toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose, and proved that they can compete with anyone on any patch.
It was a performance which, Europe aside, the Toffees haven’t been able to come anywhere near to producing this term.
Indeed, many Blues fans won’t exactly be relishing a trip to the Emirates, a ground where Everton have never won, but perhaps they should approach the trip with so much trepidation. Perhaps it’s a chance for the Toffees to aim high and prove they are still capable on producing a performance with as much swagger as they did last season.
After all, Arsene Wenger’s men aren’t exactly a picture of consistency.
They were stuffed at home to Monaco in midweek, scraped a victory at Palace the weekend before and struggled at home to both Leicester and Middlesbrough in the FA Cup.
Whether Everton can go toe-to-toe with the Gunners once again remains to be seen, but perhaps if they are solid, organised and patient they can hit Arsenal on the break, just like Monaco did on Wednesday night.
Do that, and the result they deserved back in December 2013 might just be the result they get in March 2015.