There is no doubt about it, even at this early stage of the season; Everton are in trouble.
The Toffees sit 15th in the Premier League table, their Europa League campaign has come to a calamitous early end and they are currently without a permanent manager.
Getting that appointment right will be key to the trajectory of the Merseysiders for the remainder of this term, but the fact remains that, until January at least, the new boss will have the same group of players to work with as the recently dismissed Ronald Koeman.
The Dutchman spent in the region of £140 million on new talent over the summer, many of whom are struggling to get regular minutes in the first team.
After 11 league matches, Everton have conceded 22 goals, with only West Ham United letting in more, whilst at the other end they have netted just 10 for themselves.
A major problem seems to be the lack of a distinct plan as to how they operate as an attacking unit without the talismanic Romelu Lukaku, who joined Manchester United in July.
Last season the Belgian was pivotal to the way that the Blues played and the failure to bring in a like-for-like replacement, or alternatively develop a new style of play going forward, has been brutally exposed.
Sandro Ramirez was signed after a strong season with Malaga in La Liga but is yet to score and looks to be taking time to adjust to the English game.
Young starlet Dominic Calvert-Lewin, part of the England under-20 side that won this summer’s World Cup, is a precocious talent but not an out-and-out centre forward and has often been deployed on the wings this term.
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney, who returned from Manchester United in the off season, no longer has the mobility to lead the line on his own.
The boyhood Evertonian has been something of a success and is one of only a small group of players that has scored for the club in the league since the start of the campaign.
One of the others is Oumar Niasse, who Koeman bought back in from the cold in an act of desperation towards the end of his tenure.
Loaned out to Hull City at the back end of 2016-17, the Senegal international’s Everton career looked as good as over, but with four strikes to his name in six Premier League appearances this term, he now seems to be the most likely source of goals in the squad.
The 27-year-old has natural pace and likes to play on the shoulder of the last defender, making runs in behind the opposition backline.
This helps to stretch the pitch and opens up space between the defence and midfield where the advanced midfielders can do maximum damage.
That was the role that Lukaku played in the last campaign and although Niasse does not possess the same physical presence as the former Everton man, he could help to bridge the gap for the time being if handed an extended run in the starting XI.
Another option could see the Toffees take a leaf out of Leicester City’s book; the Foxes deploy Jamie Vardy up front and like to hit teams quickly when they win the ball back, using the Englishman’s pace to work the channels.
Vardy gets his fair share of goals but his overall contribution to the side is huge and it is a model that Everton could use to help them steer clear of the relegation zone, with Niasse as the industrious striker.
At the very least this would give the Merseysiders some sort of game plan to work towards, something that has been lacking in their displays to date.
Niasse may not be the big-name player that the Goodison Park faithful would like to have leading their line, but he has shown how he can contribute if given the chance.
The African’s attitude while he was frozen out was attitude and upon his return the striker could turn out to be the unlikely hero that Everton need.
Written by Gareth McKnight
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