The biggest transfer rumor out of Goodison Park these days is that the Toffees may soon sign Wigan striker Arouna Kone for a fee in the region of £5-6.5 million ($7.5-9.8m).
So the question has to be asked – Is Kone the answer for Everton up top?
My immediate reaction is one that I’ve held for many, many months: Yes.
I’ve been an admirer of Kone’s since he arrived at the DW Stadium last summer and, in his second match, stripped Southampton defender Jose Fonte in the 89th minute and proceeded to dribble the length of the pitch before slotting past Saints’ keeper Kelvin Davis.
The goal had been coming Kone’s way the entire match as the Ivorian repeatedly found space and ripped shots on the opposition’s cage.
Six weeks later Everton went to Wigan for what should have been an easy three points and Kone was absolutely suffocating. He opened the scoring ten minutes in, heading home a Shaun Maloney cross.
Thirteen minutes later and Kone was at it again, skunking Leighton Baines on the Everton by-line and crossing to Franco di Santo, who fired into the roof of the net.
The onslaught lasted the entire 90 minutes with Kone shredding the Toffees defense and springing his counter-parts left and right. Man on fire.
The two sides met again on Boxing Day and, once again, Kone was relentless.
Speed. Skill. Vision. Desire. He had it all going. And while, this time around, the Latics were outplayed by Everton, Kone still got on the score-sheet.
But I didn’t hate. I just admired.
I simply wanted that kind of zest leading the line at Everton. Nikica Jelavic was not getting it done and Victor Anichebe, despite drastic improvement, did not seem like ‘The Answer’ up top. So when Kone went on to finish his debut season with 11 league goals and five assists (13 and 7 in all comps), I was sold.
‘Everton need to buy that man,’ I told myself.
A few weeks later Roberto Martinez was crowned successor of David Moyes and, at that point, I was damn well sure the Toffees were in great shape to make that dream a reality.
But, time has a funny way of changing things and now, I’m not so sure.
As always is the case with Everton, it all starts with finances. While £5-6.5 million is a drop in the bucket for most English clubs, it is significant investment for Everton. As such, a transfer for that amount means that the player who is acquired must play a position where the club is truly hurting.
While striker is a position where Everton currently lacks top talent and could definitely improve, the Toffees are in much greater need of a creative central midfielder, a center-back (to provide cover for an aging Sylvain Distin), and a winger (preferably a right sided player so Kevin Mirallas can take up a more central role). Of course, if Marouane Fellaini and/or Leighton Baines is sold, additional cover will be required in the center of the park and at left-back.
Those are the needs that take precedence so spending £5-6.5 million – which could easily be half of Roberto Martinez’ transfer budget this summer – seems misguided.
Is Kone worth that kind of fee? Probably. But keep in mind that at the age of 29, the Ivorian is no spring chicken.
Plus, just because Kone did well in his debut season in the Premier League does not mean he will excel this year. Sophomore seasons are notoriously difficult in England as the bloom is off the pumpkin and defenders are now wise to a striker’s previously mysterious ways.
Just ask Nikica Jelavic. After scoring 9 league goals in 13 matches after his arrival in January 2012, he managed only 7 goals in 37 contests this past season.
After that kind of performance, many Evertonians are ready to close the book on Jelavic. This would be a mistake.
The Croatian may have struggled last season but a lot of his woes came down to being unlucky. He worked hard and got himself into good positions but the ball simply did not go into the net. Expect Jelavic to come into this season with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove, which is exactly the kind of hunger Everton want up top.
If Jelavic continues to under-perform, Victor Anichebe can get the job done. The Nigerian avoided major injury for the first time last season and was a force to be reckoned with up top. Perhaps he lacks the finesse of the league’s top strikers but Big Vic gets the job done. And he’s a nightmare to mark in the box.
That being said, if Martinez is hell-bent on bringing a new striker into Goodison Park then he needs to dig deep into Bill Kenwright’s pockets and get the chairman to pony up for a top striker who is undoubtedly better than Jelavic and Anichebe.
So is Kone is the answer for Everton. It’s debatable. But for me, that kind of money would be better used on another Wigan player, like Callum McManaman, Shaun Maloney or James McCarthy.