Steven Naismith Becoming a Key Attacking Weapon at Everton

Matt Cheetham@@Matt_CheethamCorrespondent IFebruary 17, 2014

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: Steven Naismith of Everton celebrates his goal during the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Everton and Swansea City at Goodison Park on February 16, 2014 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
Paul Thomas/Getty Images

Steven Naismith is finally gaining appreciation at Everton.

Another goal-scoring cameo against Swansea changed the game the Toffees' way and secured a passage through to the FA Cup quarter-finals.

That's now four goals in five games for Naismith, and his seasonal tally of six is only bettered by Romelu Lukaku at the club.

In his first year at Everton, the former Rangers man scored just four goals, rarely receiving any universal acclaim. This season, he's proving he can play a far more significant role under Roberto Martinez.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01:  Steven Naismith of Everton celebrates after scoring the first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Aston Villa at Goodison Park on February 1, 2014 in Liverpool England. (Photo by Malcolm Cou
Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

The key to his improvement has been a larger portion of time spent in attack, where his skills are much better utilised.

His on-field intelligence, willingness to stick to instruction and unerring energy often handicapped his first season in England.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 16:  Samir Nasri of Manchester City competes with Steven Naismith of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park on March 16, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Naismith's role under David Moyes was generally simple: come on during the closing stages of a game, tirelessly track an opposing winger or full-back and help close out a win.

Under Martinez, and helped by a shortage of strikers, the Scot's now finding himself in more central, attacking zones—where he's much more likely to make an impression.

Looking at statistics taken from this current season, his suitability to an attacking role is further emphasised.

Everton Attacking Stats 2013/14 (in all competitions)
NaismithLukakuMirallasJelavic
Minutes Played98215471991468
Goals6952
Minutes per goal164182398234
Shooting Accuracy73%62%49%65%
Chance Conversion40%20%11%12%
WhoScored.com, Squawka.com, TLS Football App

Playing as a striker is clearly where Everton will get the best production out of Naismith. He is arguably the best finisher at the club and frequently tests the goalkeeper when found in the box.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14:  Steven Naismith of Everton scores the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on September 14, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Imag
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

His chance conversion rate is impressively high at 40 percent, doubling that of Lukaku. While that ratio is unlikely to be maintained, it further highlights his ability in the box.

Away from the numbers, Naismith possesses underrated, predatory instincts, as well as some of the best attacking movement at the club.

He's already scored winning or game-changing goals against Chelsea, Aston Villa and Swansea this season, earning crucial results for his side.

While this is certainly not an argument to start Naismith every match, it showcases his worth in a specific role.

There are limitations to his game which affect his claims to be a regular starter. He doesn't possess the size or speed to match top-tier strikersdespite a surprising proficiency in the airand his touch can be a little suspect.

However, Naismith's recent contributions underline his importance at Everton. He is a valuable squad player who can make telling contributions over the course of a season.

He has become the Toffees' most effective impact player, and his days on a flank should be severely, if not completely, reduced.

 

Statistics via WhoScored.comSquawka.comTLS Football App (subscription required).