Tim Sherwood’s appointment raised a few eyebrows (and still does) but he is making a difference by doing the most obvious thing a manager can do – playing his best XI. Andre Villas-Boas had dispatched Emmanuel Adebayor to train with the youth team, but the Mourinho Mini-Me’s sacking opened the door to the big African and he has barged in and picked up a goalscoring record of almost a goal every other match as if he was never away. That awkward talented types are better employed on the inside pissing out rather than on the outside pissing in, is a lesson the England and Wales Cricket Board might reflect on – with the rapprochement behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge another example.
That Everton are playing “without a recognised striker” is the constant refrain in the media, shorn of the obvious man when Romelu Lukaku is sidelined – but that’s just a bit too easy thirty-odd years on from France at the World Cup and ten years or so after the advent of tiki-taka. It’s not a recognised striker that Everton miss, it’s the kind of player who can make a half-chance into a full chance and a full chance into a goal. Tim Cahill was not a recognised striker, but he would have a scored a few in this side wouldn’t he?
The stats back up the subjective feeling the match provoked: Everton had more possession than Tottenham and more goal attempts, on and off target. But Tottenham, with the man who was awake when our 1000 matches between them men, Gareth Barry and Sylvain Distin were not, took a difficult ball on the chest to make a half-chance into a full chance and then buried it. Striker or goalscorer – Adebayor did the job and the three points never really looked in doubt after that.
Gerard Deulofeu and Kevin Mirallas both have good scoring records, but are playing a level or two up from those days and, if your best chances are falling to Leon Osman, the conversion rate will not be high. Short of waiting for Lukaku to return, something has to be done to improve on a record of eight goals in eight league games since the Sunderland defeat on Boxing Day. The giant Lacina Traore may provide an answer, but not many forwards arrive fresh in the Premier League and start banging them in.
Is it time to try something radical? Could Ross Barkley – big, strong with a good first touch – be deployed at the point of the attack and asked to find a yard in the box and shoot? Might Gerard Deulofeu jink and turn twenty yards from goal and not thirty? Even Seamus Coleman might be worth a try up front late in matches – he has the eye.
The early promise of the season is ebbing away and, with little to lose, unorthodoxy comes with little on the downside. But that may be too much even for Roberto Martinez.