Everton extended their winless run to seven games after they fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of newly-promoted Brentford over the weekend.
That result means that Rafa Benitez’s charges have picked up just two points from a possible 21 since their victory over Norwich City on 25 September, dropping them down to 14th position in the top-flight table.
Benitez will point to multiple injuries to key players as the reason behind their significant slump in form, but the hugely underwhelming performances will also give great cause for concern.
In their last seven outings, the Toffees have scored just four goals and conceded a whopping 13 times, while they have now also failed to find the back of the net in over 270 minutes of action.
The prolonged absence of star striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been a crucial factor in Everton’s attacking woes, and with his return still several weeks away, Benitez will be desperate to find a solution as soon as possible.
However, the answer to their struggles in front of goal could be a rather simple one.
Academy star Charlie Whitaker has long been tipped for big things by coaches within the Merseyside outfit, and now may be the time for the 18-year-old to make the step up to the senior ranks.
In the final game of 2020/21, Whitaker bagged a hat-trick in a 4-0 thrashing of Southampton to take his tally to five goals and two assists in just four starts since being handed his full U23s debut by manager David Unsworth.
The youth team boss lauded the attacking talent in an interview with the Liverpool ECHO shortly after, saying: “I’ve watched Charlie for a number of years, and we always knew he had the quality in flashes.
“He has played out wide, he has played up-front….but we have tried to play him as a second striker, not a number 10, a second-striker because his game is naturally dropping into spaces where you want a number 10.
“We have tried to get someone up there with him, and he has been sensational. He is a great trainer, great to work with, and a great lad.”
Despite his promising performances in several positions, the youth team coach was determined not to get too carried away with Whitaker’s contributions since making the step up from U18’s level, though.
Unsworth continued: “I have really enjoyed the last few months working with him! I really have. He does the hardest thing in the game, which is score goals, and he makes it look really easy.
“For the size of him, he is good in the air, he is brave, we just need him to link play, and the future is bright for him. I’m not getting over-excited, because you can’t, it is too early. But the signs are very, very good.”
And Whitaker has picked up where he left off last season in the opening weeks of the current campaign, bagging five goals and providing one assist in 13 appearances.
Whether Benitez is brave enough to throw an unproven teenage talent into a struggling side desperately fighting for points in the Premier League remains to be seen, but the youngster could prove to be the catalyst required to turn Everton’s season around.