Everton manager Ronald Koeman will be backed with money to spend in the transfer market this summer as the Toffees push to crack the top six of the Premier League. The Dutch coach will have identified the areas of his squad he feels need improvement and signing a new striker could become a priority.
As things stand, the Goodison Park outfit have one of Europe’s deadliest centre-forwards in Romelu Lukaku. But the powerful Belgian marksman reportedly wants to leave and will need to be replaced.
That would mean that, should the former Anderlecht and Chelsea striker be sold, the Toffees would be making a huge return on the £28million they paid to sign him from the Blues in 2014 after a successful loan spell, giving Koeman a significant budget with which to replace his No.10.
Names such as Andre Gray and Jamie Vardy have been linked with a switch to Goodison Park this summer. But Everton would be better served targeting another Premier League striker: Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi.
The Premier League champions signed Batshuayi from Marseille last summer for £33million. But the Belgian has been sparsely used by manger Antonio Conte and is already being linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge.
If the 23-year-old poacher is indeed surplus to requirements in west London, Everton should pounce.
The Deadly Finisher Everton Need
If Lukaku leaves Goodison Park in the coming months, the Belgian international will leave behind a gaping hole in Everton’s attack.
With 25 Premier League goals last term, Lukaku accounted for 40.32 per cent of the Toffees total of 62 strikes. The 24-year-old powerhouse has netted a phenomenal 87 goals in 166 games in total for Everton, leaving no doubt that he is one of the finest striker on the Continent and will take some replacing.
In order to maintain their attacking prowess, the Toffees will need to seek a forward capable of replicating the kind of efficiency Lukaku has shown in front of goal.
Last season, the Everton star required, on average, just 4.4 shots for every goal scored. By way of comparison, that is a more efficient return than Sergio Agüero (6.95), Diego Costa (5.55) and Zlatan Ibrahimović (6.76).
Lukaku also averaged a Premier League goal every 130.68 minutes in 2016/17, better than Costa (154.5 minutes) and Ibrahimović (143.35 minutes).
Replacing that kind of ruthlessness and consistencyin front of goal will be an incredibly tough task for Everton. But Batshuayi‘s numbers suggest that he is well worth a punt.
The Chelsea man only made one league start in the Blues’ title-winning campaign coming off the bench a further 19 times to take his total game time up to a paltry 239 minutes for the entire campaign.
Michy Batshuayi vs West Brom ??⚽️?
The goal that won us the premier league ?
Likes and Rts appreciated pic.twitter.com/kqHXBne6iS
— Victor Moses Babyyyy (@MosesSpeed) May 21, 2017
But the Belgian was remarkably effective when he did play, netting five goals at a rate of one every 47.8 minutes – an astonishing return given that he hardly had the chance to properly assimilate to life in the Premier League due to his lack of first-team opportunities.
Furthermore, Batshuayi required just 3.4 shots for every goal scored – a better average than even the division’s leading marksman, Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane (3.79).
As an out-and-out penalty-box poacher, Batshuayi tends to be less involved in his side’s build-up play that Lukaku is known to be for the Merseyside club. Indeed, the Chelsea man registered only a single assist last season whereas the want-away Everton forward had six.
Batshuayi, a full eight centimetres shorter than his international colleague, would not be the same kind of physical presence in attack and is perhaps less effective at holding the ball up and linking play. But that is a side of the Lukaku’s game that is often overstated.
Due to his size, the Everton No.10 tends to be thought of as a target man, adept and bringing long balls under control, maintaining possession until supporting team-mates arrive before then linking with them intelligently.
But the truth is that, with an often erratic first touch, this is not necessarily Lukaku’s strength, and he is far more comfortable operating as a poacher, gobbling up the chances that fall his was and using intelligent movement to create space inside the opposition’s penalty area.
Lukaku made fewer passer per 90 minutes than Batshuayi last term – 26.6 to 30.1 – suggesting he is not as involved in his team’s build-up play as is often perceived, and is much more comfortable being on the end of attacking moves than contributing to their formation.
Although he may not have provided many assists last term, the season before, while with Marseille in Ligue 1, Batshuayi showed that he is perfectly capable of being a team player, supplementing his 17 goals with nine assists.
Everton’s Bargaining Power
One of the key factors that will play in Everton’s favour should they decide to target Batshuayi is that, with Chelsea in for Lukaku, they have serious bargaining power.
With the asking price the Toffees have set for their star man, they are showing that they will not allow their best players to leave lightly and could offer to soften their stance if the Stamford Bridge club are willing to part with their own Belgian hitman in a player-plus-cash deal.
Such swap deals are rare in football at the highest level but it becomes much more likely when the arrangement, as would be the case with this one, suits all parties.
Even if Lukaku moves elsewhere, it seems Chelsea are determined to improve their attacking options, with Real Madrid’s Álvaro Morata a long-term target, so Batshuayi could still be on the market.
Losing Lukaku would be a bitter pill to swallow for Everton. But it has become almost an inevitability at this point. Bringing in Batshuayi as a replacement, while still making a significant profit, would be making the very best of a bad situation.