Tosun Proving Goalscoring 'Knack'

by Paul McNamara

Ask a top-class striker what goes through their head as they move in for the kill and you will likely be met with a blank look.

The same emotionless expression, in fact, painted on their features when they consider the whites of the goal and prepare to take aim.

There are the moments centre-forwards live for, when the most ruthless marksmen retreat into a mental space occupied by little other than an inner peace, at odds with the damage they are poised to inflict.

Witness Cenk Tosun’s cold-eyed cool at the clutch moments.

“It looks like he has got that knack,” said Sam Allardyce. “He seems to be born with that instinct of where to be.”

Tosun knows what to do when he gets there, too. His raw scoring statistics are impressive enough. But scratch beneath the surface and you are confronted with figures which talk of a man whose predatory flair is innate.

Everton’s January signing from Besiktas has scored four times in his past three matches. All three of his attempts against Stoke City on Saturday were directed on target, with the 26-year-old’s strike-rate of 66.67 per cent in the Potteries bettered by only one player in the Premier League across the weekend.

Tosun’s clinical nature and inherent belief in his own ability enable him to employ a degree of patience on the pitch. He does not go chasing chances where they do not exist, nor does he snatch at openings when they arrive.

Seven of his eight shots in the matches with Burnley, Brighton & Hove Albion and Stoke made the opposing goalkeeper work, at the very least.

Amid the flying bodies and muddled minds of a Premier League penalty area, Tosun retains his head, while all around him lose theirs. To extend the Kipling analogy, he trusts in himself where others have doubts.

He used these qualities to telling effect at Stoke’s bet365 Stadium, assuredly climbing to his feet after seeing a header saved, then detachedly observing the intervening scramble, before swooping in to wrap his left foot around the ball and lash it into the net to open the scoring.

Tosun had used his right foot to net against Brighton the previous week. He sandwiched these two strikes with smart headed finishes – at Burnley and then, decisively, for his second goal at Stoke.

“He’s always had the finishing in his locker,” said Everton manager Allardyce.

“His hold-up play has got better. He’s got the whole array of finishing in his locker – heading, left foot, right foot, tap-ins, follow-ups – he’s got this knack of being in the right place at the right time and he was certainly that with the quality of his second finish at Stoke.”

Tosun thrives on balls into the box. Accordingly, Everton’s wide players are instructed by Allardyce to provide a regular, blue-chip service for their Turkish striker.

Theo Walcott’s perfectly-flighted delivery to set up Tosun at the weekend was one of 13 crosses sent in from open play by the quartet of Walcott, Yannick Bolasie, and raiding full-backs Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines.

Tosun does his bit in this respect, too. He picked out Walcott in front of goal with a wonderful right-wing ball of his own, moments before the two traded roles for Everton’s winning goal.

Wayne Rooney, meanwhile, was the nexus of much of his side’s attacking endeavours. The midfielder is renowned for his execution of pass. But his decision-making is equally impeccable.

Operating in a marginally more advanced position than the one in which he excelled seven days previously against Brighton, Rooney cleverly mixed up his approach. He sprang Walcott more than once in the first half, as Everton sought to expose Stoke left-back Kostas Stafylidis to the pace and directness of the Toffees England international winger.

Rooney used his dead-ball prowess to land an early free-kick on the head of an unmarked Tom Davies – and provided five passes in all which led directly to shooting opportunities.

Of his 60 passes, 32 were played in Stoke’s half of the field and 50 – 83.3 per cent – found their intended mark.

Everton put a total of 26 cross into the hosts’ box, so giving goalkeeper Jack Butland and his serially stretched back four a problem to manage every 3.46 minutes on average.

The Toffees’ defence were subject to an assault of the less subtle variety. Stoke, reduced to 10 men on the half-hour following Charlie Adam’s dismissal for a lunge at Rooney – shortly after Rooney had backtracked to derail a home raid on the fringe of his own penalty area – sought to use Peter Crouch’s height as a means of getting up the pitch.

Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane, quite literally, rose to the challenge. Jagielka completed four headed clearances – only Crystal Palace’s James Tomkins and Steve Cook of Bournemouth recorded more in Saturday’s top-flight matches.

Jagielka made a total of seven clearances, two more than Potters right-back Glen Johnson, the player who was second highest in this particular category in the course the match.

Everton’s two centre-halves jointly epitomised the way in which their team went about grabbing this game by the scruff of the neck.

Keane’s second-half run and shot caught most of the 30,000-odd people in the ground by surprise – not least home number one Butland, who frantically improvised to shovel the ball around the post.

Captain Jagielka and former Manchester United defender Keane adopted higher starting positions following Adam’s dismissal, the pair on the front foot, wresting back possession on halfway and punching passes deep into opposing territory.

The two centre-halves hit a combined 22 accurate passes in Everton’s forward half. Indeed, Jagielka and Keane’s overall passing success-rates – 88.5 per cent and 87.8 per cent respectively, were inferior among the game's starters only to the 91.7 per cent figure compiled by the impeccable Idrissa Gana Gueye, who played 60 passes and found his man with 55 of them.

If midfielder Gueye’s statistics were reflective of a controlled and mature Everton display – the Toffees’ domination further demonstrated by their 56.4 per cent share of possession and 425 passes to Stoke’s 342 – then it was Tosun who sealed the deal.

Ultimately, much like the golfer blessed with a perfect game from tee to green but hopeless with a putter in his hand, a team’s good work counts for little if their striker is not converting it into numbers on the scoreboard.

It takes a formidable and confident personality to ignore that pressure… yet embrace it at the same time.

More than 3,000 Evertonians peering through the snow at Stoke rejoiced with their ecstatic new striker after he headed the winner beyond Butland.

Tosun was jubilant, his mind, you suspect, racing with myriad thoughts and emotions. Seconds earlier, his head had been clear as instinct took over, pulling him into space and demanding he meet Walcott’s cross with a precise finish. That is the life of a ruthless striker.

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