The prospect of a Romelu Lukaku-less forward line is not an attractive thought for most Evertonians as the trip to Swansea highlighted all so glaringly.
For the second weekend on the trot, the Blues were forced to play without their hamstrung top scorer and he can’t return to fitness quick enough.
Roberto Martinez’s men got away with it at home to Southampton last weekend when Phil Jagielka’s close-range finish proved to be the difference between the sides in a tepid encounter at Goodison Park.
But the Belgian international was sorely missed at the Liberty Stadium in a game in which the visitors’ toothlessness in the final third was exposed by a single moment of madness from Seamus Coleman as the most avoidable of penalties denied Everton a fourth consecutive victory.
Getting your Kone’s worth, or not
The current alternatives for the Blues are far from convincing.
Arouna Kone’s display in south Wales showed precious few glimpses that he could ever fill Lukaku’s size 14 boots on a long-term basis.
Just as Lukaku and Everton hit it off from the start, the Ivorian in contrast has never really got going.
Martinez’s first signing for the Blues, the reputed £6million fee has not proven to be money well spent.
Kone appeared far more likely to get a red card than a goal at the Liberty Stadium – indeed Swansea boss Garry Monk declared that he felt the former Wigan striker was “very lucky” to stay on the pitch for his elbow on Federico Fernandez which saw him booked and left the home defender with a bloody nose.
Kone’s time at Goodison has been blighted by injury – he didn’t kick a ball for over a year in the first team between October 19 2013-December 11 2014 due to knee cartilage problems – but even when he’s been on the pitch the potency in front of goal is just not there and for someone who is 32 later this year and has endured prolonged periods on the sidelines in the past you fear whether it will ever return at this level.
Kone wrote his own little chapter in Everton history by becoming the club’s 500th different scorer with his goal at Newcastle on December 28 but there have so far been no additions to such a cameo and a single strike in 20 outings now for the Blues clearly falls short.
Martinez remains a big fan of the player who struck 13 times for him in his single season at the DW Stadium but even if he were to point to the fact that Kone has not played 20 full matches wearing the fabled Everton number 9 jersey he has now clocked up over 900 minutes which totals over 10 full games.
You get what you pay for – why Lukaku is worth the big money
He may not be a target man in the most basic, traditional sense in that his game is not based around winning headers from long punts upfield but Lukaku remains a towering presence up front for the Blues.
Yes the 21-year-old’s first touch can be as loose as his new agent’s mouth at times – more of that in due course – and remains a big area for potential improvement but his physical prowess makes him almost unplayable times. Who can forget the image of those Dynamo Kiev players literally bouncing off Lukaku as he drove forward to set up Steven Naismith’s equaliser in the first leg at Goodison?
And crucially he’s a finisher. That’s why Bill Kenwright broke the bank to almost double the club’s transfer record to bring him to the Blues on what we still rather ridiculously call a ‘permanent’ basis last summer.
Everton were willing to shell out £28million on a single player because they have been craving a consistent goalscorer for a generation.
Lukaku netted 16 times for the Blues on loan from Chelsea last season and he’s added another 18 so far this term.
A void like that in the side is difficult, indeed almost impossible to replace.
No Everton player has registered double figures in three consecutive seasons since 1994 when Lukaku was still a babe in arms.
Duncan Ferguson, Kevin Campbell, Aiyegbeni Yakubu and company, none of them have done it over three straight years.
For the record the last man to achieve the feat was Tony Cottee who struck double figures in all six of his full seasons with the Blues before his return to West Ham when Mike Walker decided to swap him for former Liverpool left-back David Burrows in a perplexing deal.
Mutual benefits for player and club
Any potential Lukaku departure from Goodison would be instigated by the player himself. As Martinez remarked last week: “Without a doubt we have been the best club for him because he has had as a professional and we love Romelu.”
Antwerp’s greatest son has been toying with Evertonians’ emotions for over 18 months now.
They didn’t want to fall head over heels straight away because he was initially only on loan and was heading back to Stamford Bridge at the end of the campaign.
But ever since his heroic winning goal at Upton Park on his debut – when he was unable to celebrate after temporarily loosing consciousness because of a clash of heads – Lukaku’s on-field feats, including a brace in his first Merseyside Derby outing, have been endearing him to the Blues faithful.
Last summer there was the long wait – including those desperate last few minutes for fans looking at an empty screen on Everton TV – before Martinez finally got his man and Blues were finally able to call Lukaku one of their own.
While the team’s fortunes have suffered this season, the former Anderlecht wonder kid’s goalscoring touch remains in tact, in European competition at least but just as Lukaku has been good for Everton, they have been good for him.
That’s something that this seemingly charming, polite and intelligent young man and his little sidekick Mino Raiola, who unfortunately seems to be somewhat lacking in such qualities, need to realise.
Ultimately Chelsea and Lukaku were not a good fit whereas Everton and Lukaku quite obviously are.
Speculation this weekend saw Atletico Madrid’s name added to the likes of Wolfsburg and Juventus who have already been touted as potential suitors for Lukaku.
Given an absence of European football next season and Martinez’s insistence that the Belgian will remain an Everton player for the “long run” he may have to make some bold moves this summer to help persuade his most valuable asset that he’s best off staying where he is.