David Moyes issues challenge to Everton’s misfiring strike pair
Everton boss David Moyes is urging Nikica Jelavic to re-discover the devastating goalscoring form that included a clincial brace in last season’s corresponding Premier League trip to Norwich.
Jelavic plundered an impressive 11 goals for the Merseysiders last term following his January arrival from Rangers, but has followed that up by netting only seven times so far this campaign and only once since early December.
Moyes knows it is crucial the Croat weighs in with goals to maintain the Toffees’ push for glory on two fronts.
“We need Niki to come back into it,” said Moyes. “He was a big player for us this time last year, scored a lot of goals and did a good job. That is what we could with now, him coming up and giving us the goals. I don’t think we’ve played too badly – in fact, I think we have played quite well, and in a lot of the games we’ve maybe just been missing a little bit of the edge to get us the goals.”
Moyes also had a word of warning for Kevin Mirallas with the Belgian international having only scored once in the Premier League since his £6m move from Olympiakos.
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“I don’t think he is firing on all cylinders,” he said. “He has not returned the way I would like him yet. He is still getting used to the Premier League and I think he has to create me more goals and score me more goals.
“That is what I am waiting for him to do, and he knows that – I have told him that. We are hoping for more. I think his form at the start of the season was excellent and we saw what he was capable of. I don’t think we have really had that from him since he came back from his (hamstring) injury.”
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Moyes’s side drew 1-1 with Norwich before Christmas – Sebastien Bassong rescuing a point with a stoppage time header at Goodison Park to cancel out Steven Naismtih’s early opener –and the Scot believes Chris Hughton’s squad are still a difficult propostion despite falling away from the form of their Premier League club-record 10 match unbeaten run.
“There is very little (difference) between when Norwich were winning their games early on, and where they are just now,” he said.
“I think it can simply be maybe a centre-forward not scoring when he was doing it in the early part of the season, or a simple goalkeeping mistake changing a game. The games are so tight and there is very little between the teams.”
Everton head to Carrow Road trailing fourth-placed Tottenham by six points and midfielder Darron Gibson insists it is vital to close that gap in the race for a Champions League berth.
“It’s a big game,” he told Everton’s official website. “I think if we want to kick on and get fourth place we need a win. We’ve got Manchester City and Arsenal coming up in the next few weeks and they’re two massive games as well. I think if we could get three points at Norwich it would be a big result.
“It’s a tough place to go and we found it tough last year. The fans get behind them and it’s a tight ground with a tight pitch. But I think if we play the way we’ve been playing and we get a bit of luck, I think we’ll get a result.”
Gibson is backing Jelavic to come good again but knows the goalscoring burden needs to be shared around Moyes’ entire squad.
“I think all strikers go through periods like this,” he said.
“It’s a big part of being a squad – you need everyone to chip in with goals, and the lads have done that while Jela’s not done it, so that’s been good. He’s doing it in training every day so hopefully he gets a bit of luck on Saturday and bangs one in.”
Gibson aims to play a big part in Everton’s chase for Europe and further FA Cup progress after a season blighted by injury which has seen him miss three months of the current campaign.
“I think I’m getting back to where I was before I got injured,” he said. “It was a bit unfortunate getting injured and then it was a bit more serious than we first thought it was. Then it recurred a little bit when I came back at the end of December. It was disappointing but, fingers crossed, this time everything’s alright.
“Obviously it’s not nice being injured. I’ve just been unlucky really, things haven’t really gone my way. When I’ve been fit I’ve played nearly every game and we’ve done well as well. I think we’ve only lost six games in a year. It’s a great record.
“I’m just getting back to my full fitness really but hopefully I can kick on from here and play the rest of the games between now and May.”