Colm Hayes discusses the signing of Samuel Eto’o by Everton and the fact that the striker will need no extra motivation when he faces Chelsea at the weekend.
Samuel Eto’o has signed a two-year deal with Everton in what looks to be an excellent free signing by the Merseyside club. Despite being the Chelsea striker who bagged the most goals for the club last season, he was deemed surplus to requirements by the Chelsea boss and subsequently released rather than being offered a contract extension.
Of course, this could also be down to the deterioration of the pair’s relationship after some choice comments made by Jose Mourinho regarding Eto’o’s age, or possibly the fact that his wage demands are fairly astronomical for a player of (at least!) 33 years.
Eto’o’s nine Premier League goals and the fact that he led the striker’s scoring chart at Stamford Bridge speak more of the toils of the club’s forwards rather than any particular brilliance from the Cameroonian, who made 16 starts and 5 sub appearances last season in the league.
However, it wasn’t a wholly bad return in his first season in the English top-flight and he now enters a club in a much different situation. Last year, Mourinho was constantly critical of his striking options and making thinly-veiled comments suggesting Chelsea needed a top-class forward to take them to the next level. It is very hard to see Martinez acting in such a manner, and Everton are a side challenging for fourth place rather than the title.
This means there should be a lot less pressure on Eto’o who has had a season to bed into the physical demands of the Premier League. Of course, with a reported £70k-a-week contract making him one of Everton’s highest earners there will come certain pressure.
Realistically, he has been signed as back-up to bruising Belgian Romelu Lukaku. However, we saw on Saturday how Lukaku can be a devastating force when used in a advanced position on the right-hand side for the Toffees. Granted, the goal he created against Arsenal should have been ruled out but it showcased his potential in making life extremely tough for opposition left-backs. This is a tactic Martinez enjoys using against Arsenal and certainly has worked to great effect.
However, it would be no surprise to see such a tactic employed against other teams in the division. While Nacho Monreal is certainly one of the weaker left-backs in the league, he’s not the worst and is certainly not the least experienced. Lukaku could also cause mayhem when playing against a side employing the much talked about 3-5-2 formation.
Playing on the left-side of a back three seems to be causing problems for players, including our very own Richard Dunne. This is the kind of situation that the Belgian international could seriously exploit, and therefore leave the central striking berth free for Eto’o to occupy.
Of course, Steven Naismith’s form makes him a front-runner for this position at the moment. However, the Scotsman is equally adept at playing behind the striker and while Ross Barkley is injured he offers an extremely potent option in this role. Naturally, due to the huge fee forked out for Lukaku and his own personal preference, he will be likely be fielded as the lone forward more often than not this season. Nonetheless, Eto’o does offer an intriguing option for Martinez when he decides to push Lukaku out wide, as well as being a quality option to use from the bench.
Lukaku also limped out of action after 76 minutes at the weekend and this could mean a much quicker starting debut for Eto’o than expected. He will have to prove his fitness after being clubless during the off-season but could come into contention for Everton’s showdown in Saturday’s late kick-off against none other than former club Chelsea.
It has all the makings of a grandstand Premier League encounter, and Roberto Martinez will be hoping that the Toffees’ new signing can unleash his “fear factor” upon his former colleagues. Eto’o himself will be out to prove a point to his former coach, and one wouldn’t be surprised to see him limping towards the corner flag at Goodison after rippling the back of the Chelsea net.
Colm Hayes, Pundit Arena.