It’s looking like another season of disappointment on the blue half of Merseyside and arguably the biggest casualty so far is Moise Kean.
The Italian moved to Everton for £29m in the summer after a promising, if not troubled time at Juventus, where he scored eight goals in 21 appearances, but found himself at the centre of a racism row after suffering abuse at the hands of Cagliari supporters. Astonishingly, captain Leonardo Bonucci suggested Kean’s goal celebration was partly to blame.
But his move to Goodison Park presented a chance to put all of that behind him, with Everton supporters even unfurling a tifo in support of him during a home match against Manchester City in September, while he also picked up a nomination for the prestigious Golden Boy award.
Evertonians already seem to hold affection for Kean, he’s at a club known for nurturing young talent, while the footballing world have more than recognised his burgeoning talent. However, there is just one problem: none of this reflects what is actually happening on the pitch.
Thus far, the 19-year-old has started just four games in all competitions, making 11 appearances overall. In that time he has failed to find the back of the net even once and has provided just one assist. This is anything but the ‘Romelu Lukaku replacement’ so many fans earmarked him as upon arrival.
Sometimes, young players can take time to adapt moving to a new club and country, and this might well be the case with Kean, but what is seriously alarming Evertonians at the moment is Marco Silva’s use of the youngster in wide areas, and his comments in defence of that.
“If you look at Moise Kean in the national team, he plays always as a right-winger, always as a right-winger, many, many times as a right-winger,” Silva told the Liverpool Echo at the start of November.
“You are talking about a player who played, maybe, seven games in the starting XI last season at Juventus, he played some games as a striker, some games as a winger, when he came in to some games [from the bench] he played many moments as a winger as well. He can play both positions.”
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Digging underneath the face value of Silva’s comments, there is something strange at work with what is being said. According to Transfermarkt, Kean has made a total of 22 career appearances on either wing – 19 on the left, three on the right – compared to 68 as the main striker and one as a second striker.
Kean has actually scored 16 goals across those appearances on the left wing but it’s important to note that 18 of those 19 appearances from the flank – and all of those goals – came during his time with the Juventus U-17s, where his talent was such that he was making a mockery of players three or even four years older than him.
Since those formative years, Kean has found pretty much all of his goalscoring success when deployed through the middle, grabbing 29 goals and seven assists from that position.
Kean had the opportunity to leave Juventus in the summer of 2018 but opted to stay thanks to the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo. Such an immense player arriving at a club would often put strikers off sticking around, with many preferring to leave in search of regular football. But Kean saw the benefit in staying for another year to learn from the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and, arguably, the greatest goalscorer of his generation.
“During training, I try to watch everything he does, from the way he carries himself on the pitch to his desire to play, to train, and to always be ready,” Kean explained.
“You should not underestimate the benefits of training with a great champion. I observe and then I try to apply what I’ve learned.”
What followed was a season where, granted, Kean did struggle to get regular first-team minutes, but he did manage seven goals and one assist in just 17 appearances for Juventus, with every single one of those coming while playing as a centre-forward.
So far this season, Everton have scored the fifth-lowest number of goals (11) of any Premier League side and fellow centre-forwards Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Cenk Tosun have managed just four goals between them, while Richarlison, who has often been deployed as a striker with the Toffees, has also only scored twice.
In reality, Silva spends every day on the training ground with Kean and likely has his own plan in place for how and when to really throw the youngster into the mix. But the forward has had just one shot on target and 21 touches in the opposition box all season – the 181st and 81st-lowest amounts respectively in the Premier League for an individual player.
The Portuguese tactician faces serious questions regarding his job security at the moment and a look at Everton’s December fixture list only deepens the potential crisis:
- Leicester City (A)
- Liverpool (A)
- Chelsea (H)
- Man Utd (A)
- Leicester City (H) (Carabao Cup)
- Arsenal (H)
A trip to Manchester City on New Year’s Day only compiles the misery.
“He is a young lad, he needs to adapt to the model, to the type of game, for everything, for the moves we want to do,” Silva said of Kean. But the fact is, he isn’t exactly graced with the sort of time needed to ease players in slowly.
Perhaps now, with Everton in desperate need of goals and facing the hardest run of games you’re likely to see in the English top fight, is the time to trust Kean as his main goal threat.