BARELY 12 months earlier, there wouldn’t have even been a debate. With the ball delivered invitingly from the left wing, Evertonians would have expected to seconds later see it nestling in the back of the net following another unerring first-time finish.
Yet things have not been going to plan for Nikica Jelavic in recent months.
Instead of handing David Moyes’s side a smash-and-grab victory at Southampton on Monday night, Jelavic’s embarrassing air shot from Victor Anichebe’s cross helped condemn the visitors to a second successive goalless draw.
Hardly the preparation required with hopes of Champions League qualification frustratingly hampered ahead of the opportunity to take another firm step back towards Wembley this afternoon.
Jelavic has scored only once in his last eight games and just three in 17, a far cry from his prodigious output of 10 goals in 16 appearances last season after arriving from Rangers in January.
The Croatian was substituted midway through the second half at St Mary’s by Kevin Mirallas, the Belgian making his long-awaited return to fitness after missing much of the previous three months with a hamstring problem.
Moyes retains absolute faith in Jelavic. But, ahead of this afternoon’s FA Cup fourth round tie at Championship outfit Bolton Wanderers, the manager admits he is contemplating taking his suffering striker out of the firing line.
“I’ve got some more options now that I could use and he could benefit from time out but I also think that maybe a couple of goals might change his world and change how it’s seen,” says Moyes, who takes charge of his 500th game as Everton manager today.
“We’ve got three games as well this week which is something I have to consider as well.
“But Jela is not quite firing. The chance against Southampton is the type that last season he’d have been sticking away and we were winning the game and it was making things look a lot easier. There are just a couple of chances that are affecting us getting the wins.
“What we have available has made a difference. In the last week or two we have started to get a few more back which helps, and means I can try something else. In the last month we haven’t had many options.
“I think a lot of Nikica. He is our main striker and because of that I want to give him the opportunity to be the main striker.
“I’m caught between whatever I do, because it might end up being the wrong thing. I will look to try to do the right thing for him.”
Mirallas – making only his second appearance in 10 weeks – was a straight replacement for Jelavic at Southampton, and Moyes is pondering whether to ask the Belgian to lead the line at the Reebok today.
“I’m a bit worried as he’s only played 20 minutes,” he says. “I’m not sure he could complete 90 minutes. Could he get 60 minutes? I hope so.