Lacina Traore's Injury Leaves Everton with Familiar Shortcomings

Matt CheethamCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2014

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Everton player Lacina Traore in action during the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Everton and Swansea City at Goodison Park on February 16, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Lacina Traore's short-term deal at Everton already seems one of the more meaningless January transfers.

The Ivorian arrived in a semi-fit state and, after one goal-scoring start in the FA Cup, promptly injured a hamstring while warming up to face Chelsea.

He's now set for a spell on the sidelines, leaving his temporary employers depleted in attack.

The Toffees expect his absence to be for "weeks rather than months," according to the club's official website, but still leaves a common scenario at Everton.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: Lacina Traore of Everton celebrates his goal during the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Everton and Swansea City at Goodison Park on February 16, 2014 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
Paul Thomas/Getty Images

For many years, the Toffees have seemed potential Champions League challengers. They have often shown that potential for half a season before finishing between fifth and eighth—the club's final position for the past seven Premier League campaigns.

In most of these seasons, it's the inconsistencies of their strikers that restricts them.

Saturday's defeat to Chelsea seems to have ended this year's quest, and once again it's issues up front that have held them back.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: Manager Roberto Martinez of Everton watches on during the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Everton and Swansea City at Goodison Park on February 16, 2014 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
Paul Thomas/Getty Images

After Romelu Lukaku's opening burst of eight goals in 10 games, the Toffees have seen just one strike in 10 matches from their Chelsea loanee. He's also been on the treatment table since January, where his replacement, Traore, will now join him.

Without Lukaku's goals, and without any other recognised threat in attack, Roberto Martinez's side are a much lesser beast.

For all their dogged resilience in defence, energetic craft in midfield and creative guile on the flanks, the Toffees break down where it matters most: in the final third. They cannot capitalise on periods of possession or make any dominant spell count.

Martinez's possession-based approach only emphasises this further, with his side slowing down as they near the penalty area. Fans may never know if Traore could have revived the Toffees' challenge, and selling Nikica Jelavic in January looks an increasingly bizarre call.

As mentioned, such issues in attack are not an uncommon sight for Evertonians. In recent years, whenever a potential Rolls-Royce striker has arrived, he's somehow found a way to lose every shred of confidence. 

OLDHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Nikica Jelavic of Everton looks dejected during the FA Cup with Budweiser Fifth Round match between Oldham Athletic and Everton at Boundary Park on February 16, 2013 in Oldham, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Jelavic rescued a forgettable league campaign in January 2012, scoring 11 goals in 13 starts and steering the Toffees to an FA Cup semi-final.

With that predatory figure established, hopes were high for the 2012/13 campaign.

However, after holding a top-four berth for much of the season, the Toffees eventually fell away. Jelavic registered just one goal in his final 21 appearances and was a huge factor in this decline.

Only a few seasons before that, it was Louis Saha's injuries and sporadic form that hampered his side. Fifteen goals in the first 28 games of the 2009/10 season raised expectations, only for streaks of one goal in 27 games and three goals in 25 games to stifle the following years.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06:  Louis Saha of Everton reacts to a missed chance during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on December 6, 2009 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Im
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Yakubu was yet another example of a forward unable to prolong a single potent season. Twenty-one goals in 2007/08 were followed by 12 over the next three, although serious injury also affected his production.

A striker is always the most expensive commodity to acquire, and for a club with Everton's limited resources, it has long been the area most in need of attention.

Led by Phil Jagielka, the Toffees' defence matches up with the best in the league. James McCarthy and Gareth Barry have proved an effective midfield combination, while Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley bring genuine explosive flair. As ever, that missing piece lies ahead of them.

Without a consistent forward threat, this squad's potential will never be reached.

For too long, this has been left unattended and kept Everton from making long spells of supremacy count. With Lukaku still a Chelsea player and Traore destined for Monaco, the Toffees currently have Arouna Kone as the only first-team striker on their books.

Martinez chose to save his funds during January, bringing in Traore as a short-term fix, and this must lead to a significant striker coming in during the summer.

This has to be the time Everton discover a long-term solution.