NIKICA JELAVIC is having to learn to cope with the scrutiny prompted by his first six prolific months at Everton, admits Phil Jagielka.
The Croatian striker scored 11 goals in 16 games after joining the Blues for £5.5m from Rangers in January last year, but has struggled to continue that scintillating form into this campaign so far.
Jagielka insists that defenders across the Premier League will have studied the 27-year-old’s traits in the penalty area, and that Jelavic must now find a way to thrive regardless.
He said: “It’s what happens in the Premier League. You’ve got people watching you and with no disrespect to what has happened at his other clubs, when he came in nobody really knew what he was going to do.
“Some of the first touch finishes that he had last season were brilliant. Whether he can do that week in week out for a longer period you never know. People watch videos now and find out how to play against people. They’ll have a rough idea of where he stands and where he wants to receive the ball, which makes Jela’s job harder.
“People are talking as if he’s only got one or two but he’s got seven. It proves how well he did last season and it’s better when people are talking about you rather than not. He’s got all of our backing and we’re all hoping it’s only a matter of time before he’s scoring every week and challenging to be top scorer.”
The England defender believes that David Moyes’ decision to deploy Marouane Fellaini in a more advanced attacking role this season has also had an impact on Jelavic’s goal-scoring exploits.
“This year we’ve had different options to try and score with Felli going up there and posing a different threat,” he said. “He’s had all the limelight and Jela has maybe not had as much to feed off, whereas last season everything that went into the box was for Jela. It’s just a different challenge.
“We’ve got no issues, we see him every day and he scores every day so it’s just one of those things. If we’re doing OK without him scoring all these goals then hopefully he prefers it from January onwards and it’ll be the time we need him to score. We’ve got away with him not scoring as many as we thought he may have done so far.”
Jagielka said he is particularly impressed with Jelavic’s efforts to turn provider for his team-mates, and singled out his assist for Victor Anichebe during the recent 2-1 victory over Newcastle as an example of his efforts.
He added: “He set Victor up in the Newcastle game whereas previously he might have been the one in Victor’s position.”