Everton captain Phil Jagielka has admitted that Everton are struggling without the power of Romelu Lukaku up front this season.
The Toffees let their star man join Manchester United for £75m back in July and the Belgian has made a storming start to life at Old Trafford, claiming six goals in as many games.
And Everton, despite making a litany of good signings over the summer, have struggled for much potency going forward – managing just two Premier League goals and suffering consecutive 0-3 defeats.
Speaking ahead of Man United’s clash with Everton, Jagielka admitted that Ronald Koeman’s side were missing Lukaku’s presence up front.
“You normally get somebody who is physical but can’t shift — but once Rom gets going there is no catching him,” he said.
“He is still a young man, but he is just about coming to the part of his career when you expect him to kick on. Hopefully that’s not the case at Old Trafford on Sunday, but we expect him to be one of their key players.
“We knew Rom was going to go on to great things, and he has started his career at United fantastically well. He is a difficult player [to mark]. We have trained against him for quite a few years and played alongside him and, at the moment, we are obviously missing his goals.
“But the way football is, and the crazy way the market is, Rom left us. It’s the way it goes, but when you have played with and alongside somebody for a while, there is a friendship there and a battle to want to come out on top. The only way we can do that is stopping him scoring. It’s obviously vice-versa for him.”
Everton’s start to the season demonstrates emphatically that, at least in the Premier League, signing quality players can matter little if there isn’t anybody on hand to provide that crucial final touch.
Koeman has built a promising side blessed with experience and skill, bringing in the likes of Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Siggurdson, Davy Klassen and Sandro Ramirez, but nothing, really, can replace the instinctive, powerful, consistently explosive influence of Lukaku that United have benefited from so far this season.