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KEVIN MIRALLAS has set himself a top ten goals target for his first season in English football.
Everton’s Belgian forward has made an instant impact in the Premier League since his £5m switch from Olympiakos in the summer, with a string of thrilling displays quickly confirming him as a crowd favourite.
But while the 25-year-old has been notable for the number and quality of his assists so far for the Blues, Mirallas wants to add to his goals tally.
After two goals on his full debut against Leyton Orient in the Capital One Cup he has scored just once in the Premier League at Swansea.
But after top-scoring for champions Olympiakos in the Greek Super League last season with 20 goals, Mirallas believes there is more to come from him at Everton.
“I think at the moment I have more assists than I have goals,” he said.
“I’ve provided one or two decent passes for my colleagues to score, but at the same time I’m hoping to continue to improve in front of goal and I think 10 goals is a reasonable target for my first season.
“If I can manage 10 goals that would be decent.”
Another penetrating run and cross for international team-mate Marouane Fellaini at Craven Cottage last Saturday, added to a dazzling run and pass for Nikica Jelavic against Southampton and a foul on him for a penalty at Wigan means that Mirallas has been involved in the creation of six goals already this season – even better than prime goal creator Steven Pienaar’s record.
He admits that it’s a part of the game which comes naturally to him.
“It’s a part of the game I’m not bad at and my delivery is quite good,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s easier to supply the pass for a goal than to add that finishing touch, especially when you have lads in the middle of the quality of Nikica Jelavic and Marouane,” he added. “It encourages you to put crosses in when you have players like that in the middle.”
Mirallas’ club captain Phil Neville, meanwhile, has urged his team-mates to be more ruthless in front of goal to start turning the chances that are being created by Kevin and co. into victories.
"Saturday at Fulham was probably the best we've played all season, maybe the best we've played since January," he explained. "We went to Fulham and totally dominated the game, we had all the possession, we had all the quality and they had nothing, probably two shots on goal, and scored two goals.
"I think we created maybe six or seven chances where maybe if we'd been a bit more clinical we'd have come out probably 7-2 winners. That's how if felt playing. We just need to be a little bit more ruthless, not totally dependant on Nikica Jelavic scoring all the time and chip in with goals from centre midfield, wide areas and at the back. It's up to us all to do it.
"Drawing is our Achilles heel at the moment and we need to win these games," he added. "But we've got to take confidence from the performance – it was outstanding.”
LOUIS SAHA managed 35 goals in 115 Everton FC appearances prior to his switch to Spurs last season.
But while the French forward is still searching for his first goal in Sunderland colours after 10 outings he hopes that if he does break his duck at Goodison on Saturday, it’s not a meaningless strike.
Sunderland come to Merseyside looking to shake off an ignominious stat.
The Black Cats are the most shot shy team in the Premier League, with only marginally more shots on target all season than Everton managed in total at at Fulham last Saturday.
Saha, 34, who arrived as a free agent and signed a one-year deal with the Wearsiders, said: “You always work hard for that first goal and the pressure is off when you get it.
“But you want to make sure you get it, when it is the right moment.
“You don’t want to score when you are 3-0 down and you do not need it.”
Steven Fletcher is the only Sunderland player to have found the net in the Premier League this season, reflected in Sunderland’s position in the bottom half of the Premier League.
“You always want to do more and I think the team can do it and as a player I think I can do more as well,” said Saha.
Sunderland have drawn six of their nine top flight outings this season, while Everton have drawn their last four in a row.
Saha added: “When you’re drawing many games, you always expect more because we’re here to win games. But we’re training to improve. We’ve done okay, but the fans can ask more because they see things.
“But football is a difficult job and I really think we are close to winning games.”
But while the Frenchman is set for a Goodison reunion on Saturday, there is unlikely to be a Royal Blue return for James McFadden, who recently penned a short-term deal at Sunderland.
The 29-year-old Scot picked up a hamstring problem in training last Thursday and although the extent of the damage is as yet unknown, it is anticipated that McFadden could be ruled out for the remainder of his short-term contract, which runs until the end of January.
“I don’t know if we will see James in the team any time soon because on Thursday he pulled up with a hamstring,” revealed Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill.
“It is a real shame because James has worked exceptionally hard on his fitness and was enjoying the training.
“James has not accepted the length of the contract, but it was as much for him because I think he felt if he had not made an impact by the end of January, particularly with the number of games coming up, then he might need to look elsewhere.
“He needs to have a chance and I hope the hamstring is not too serious.”
ON-LOAN Everton FC midfielder Ross Barkley has won Sheffield Wednesday’s Player of the Month award for October by a landslide.
And the young midfielder has credited former Everton defender Dave Jones, now Hillsborough boss, for the progress he has made in Yorkshire.
Barkley scored his fourth goal in just 10 appearances for The Owls against Peterborough on Saturday, but more importantly feels that his game is progressing from the experience he has gained playing regular football in The Championship.
“I have followed the career of Dave Jones for a long time, to when he was at Cardiff.
“He’s a Scouser from the same area as me so I have always taken an interest in his career. I was made up when I found out he was interested in bringing me to Wednesday.
“I have really enjoyed my time here so far. I feel as if I have made a lot of progress and that is the most important thing.
“The manager and the coaching staff talk to me all the time and that’s a great help. I am playing regular football at a good level in the Championship so I am really pleased with how things are going.”
After an inauspicious start to his loan spell – Wednesday lost the first four matches he featured in – The Owls have now won back to back games against Ipswich and Peterborough, with Barkley scoring twice at Portman Road and a clinical finish last Saturday against Posh.
“We have just come out of a bad run of results with two wins but I was always confident we would start winning games again,” he added.
“There are some really good players here and I’m enjoying playing with them. I wouldn’t like to pick out any individuals because everything we do is a team effort.
“I’m taking things one step at a time and we will see what happens from here. I see my future in the long term with Everton but right now, I am enjoying my football and the experience I am getting with Sheffield Wednesday.”
Wednesday’s experienced Portuguese star, Jose Semedo, has been Barkley’s midfield partner and has been enormously impressed by the young Blues star.
“He’s a top player,” said Semedo. “He’s going to be one of the best midfield players in England within a few years.
“You can see he wants the ball all the time; he wants to play; he wants to be involved in attacking play, and he can run back and defend.”
“It makes my job easier: when he gets the ball he wants to go forward if we are attacking, I am resting, waiting to defend afterwards!
“Ross is looking more for the goal, for the spectacular things, and to take players on.
On his Player of the Month award, Barkley said: “Any award is great but coming from the fans makes it all the more special.”