Everton have only failed to score in three of their 11 matches in all competitions in 2018 so far, but that perhaps doesn’t tell the full story.
The Merseyside outfit were expected to be challenging the for a spot in the top six after bringing the likes of Sandro Ramirez, Davy Klaassen and Gylfi Sigurdsson to Goodison Park last summer, but they have never been anywhere near doing that following a dreadful start to the campaign.
Instead, they were flirting with the relegation zone prior to Sam Allardyce’s arrival at the end of November, but a fine run of results in the 63-year-old’s first month in charge quickly led them away from the bottom three.
Despite a run of six successive away defeats in all competition from December 30 to March 3, the Toffees’ fine home form kept them out of trouble and in the top-half of the table rather than lingering just a few places and points above the danger zone.
Everton finally ended their away-day hoodoo with a 2-1 win against strugglers Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium last Saturday, with a brace from Cenk Tosun giving them the three points.
It was a victory that also helped them reach the magic 40-point mark, which all but guarantees that they will be playing Premier League football again next term.
While seventh-place and potential qualification for the Europa League is still in sight, under-fire manager Sam Allardyce should look to experiment a little with his side in the coming weeks to ensure they make the best possible start to the next campaign – even if the fans are hoping he isn’t still in charge by then.
Despite having the likes of January additions Tosun and Theo Walcott, as well as Sigurdsson, Yannick Bolasie, Wayne Rooney and Dominic Calvert-Lewin at his disposal, the Merseyside outfit haven’t always had the attacking threat you might have expected.
Yes, they scored three goals at home in the win against Crystal Palace and two in the successes against Leicester City and Brighton and Hove Albion on their own patch, but that is the sort of dominance and impact in the final third they should be producing consistently given their ambitions.
It certainly hasn’t always been the case though, and in their opening two top flight matches of 2018 against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, they failed to muster a single shot on target across 180 minutes of football.
If you add in the 2-1 defeat against Liverpool in the FA Cup in between, it was just one shot on target across 270 minutes with Sigurdsson finding the net with that single effort.
That clearly isn’t good enough for a club like Everton and while they have certainly improved at Goodison in recent times, you get the feeling they aren’t quite getting it right on the road.
The latest win against Stoke certainly showed some promise as Everton lined up with a 4-2-3-1 system and had nine shots on target, but Allardyce should look to try something a little different during the run-in.
With Tosun in form after scoring four goals in his last three Premier League appearances and Walcott netting twice and producing a further two assists in eight top flight outings so far, the former England boss should consider playing the January additions alongside each other up top.
Walcott, who Transfermarkt value at £18million, has played as a centre-forward for Arsenal previously and shown what he can do, and with his pace and finishing ability – which Toffees fans got a glimpse of with his brace against Leicester – there is no doubt that he would be a huge threat there for the Toffees.
A target man like Tosun could be the perfect foil for the speedy 29-year-old, who was full of praise for the Turkey international after the win against Paul Lambert’s side, and they would have an opportunity to build on a partnership before next season.
It would probably mean that they revert to a 4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2 formation in the coming weeks, but with Sigurdsson absent because of injury that definitely shouldn’t be out of the question given the strength in depth available in the squad.
Allardyce needs to be bold and make some brave decisions in the next few matches to prove that he has a long-term future at Goodison Park, and playing with a more attacking style would certainly help get some of the fans onside.
An experiment with Tosun and Walcott up top alongside each other could prove to be a masterstroke, and help Everton have that attacking threat both home and away that they have lacked on far too many occasions this term.