Everton Risk Making Cenk Tosun Another High-profile Flop
"He is two-footed, perhaps not the biggest but he's very efficient in the air and in the box he gets good space to get his head on the ball. I don’t think you can look at more than what we have done and think that this is, for what is available at the price we are paying, the best in Europe at the moment.” (Sam Allardyce, January 5)
Perhaps only in football could Cenk Tosun's stock plummet so quickly in such a short space of time.
Barely a month after being heralded as the 'best in his price bracket in Europe', the Turkish forward now risks being frozen out of the Everton setup altogether until Premier League safety is secured. 143 minutes of football in a struggling side seemingly enough to suggest to his new club's technical staff that the transition from Turkey to Merseyside has, at least in the short-term, been an insurmountable one.
"He is struggling with the pace of the Premier League which happens to more players than it doesn't who come in in January. It will be important for him to train really, really hard," said Allardyce after Saturday's 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace.
"When it is chucking it down with rain, it is not that he is not used to it, he is, but it's freezing. There is no doubting his goal-scoring ability but you have to have the capabilities to get in those positions to score those goals and that is the hard bit."
Given how forthright Allardyce was in his praise of the January signing from Besiktas upon completion of the £27million deal, it's remarkable that Tosun has been labelled a 'risk that might not work' by the Everton manager so soon into his time at Goodison Park. A damning indictment, if you like, of a transfer policy that says more about internal failings than the 26-year-old's suitability or otherwise to adapt to his new environment.
Indeed, opportunities have already come and gone to ease Tosun in at Goodison in relatively risk-free circumstances. 3-0 up against Crystal Palace, Allardyce instead plumped for Morgan Schneiderlin to replace the injured Idrissa Gueye. In games against Tottenham and West Brom, the Turkish forward was given greater time to make an impression but fell victim to a game-plan largely based on approximations instead of any coherent pattern of play in the final third.
Yet while his manager has criticised a supposed inability to hold-up the ball on rare outings, Tosun's adaptation continues to be a two-way street. Short of support, creativity or runners from midfield in his two starts for Everton, the player with four goals to his name in this season's Champions League has yet to receive a single clear-cut goalscoring opportunity in blue. Surprisingly, despite being extensively scouted by Allardyce, director of football Steve Walsh and major shareholder Farhad Moshiri, Everton have yet to make any real provision tactically for the arrival of a player who had garnered unanimous approval from the three big guns in the Goodison hierarchy.
As it stands, Everton will continue to tread cautiously with Tosun - but for supporters who have already seen two high-profile additions from the continent in Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaassen flop, alarm bells are already ringing. Excuses being readied as though the worst is inevitable. Certainly, while both Ramirez and Klaassen saw shortcomings exposed during the first-half of the campaign, it was also the case that the Blues rarely looked like finding a way to coax out their best form. The necessary supplementary pieces - runners in advanced positions for Klaassen and quick ball into space for Klaassen - not sufficiently in place to paper over other cracks.
The risk is that history repeats itself with Tosun. The longer he is left on the fringes, the greater the monkey on his back with regards to finally hitting the ground running. Comments about his technical and mental shortcomings have only been an added hindrance over the past month. Beyond the exorbitant wages and the high-spec medical care, there remains a duty of care from clubs towards players who need both tactical and emotional support in which to thrive. Even throwing the right player into the wrong setup can be mutually damaging.
There is still time to rewrite the script for Tosun at Everton, but it's on all parties to make it work. And while every signing carries risk to a varying extent, it's hard to escape feeling that Allardyce, in particular, is increasing the chances of things not working out for the Turk at Goodison.