Kone injury provides concern and opportunity

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Shaun Botterill/Getty ImagesArouna Kone joined Everton from Wigan over the summer.

Crack open the champagne, unfurl the banners; get that open top bus company on the phone, Arouna Kone could miss the rest of the season following knee surgery. Frivolous utterances aside, though that is not far off the appalling reaction in some quarters, when did celebrating players picking up injuries become the done thing?

- Report: Kone could miss rest of season

Similar reactions greeted an injury to Leon Osman earlier this season. The idea of revelling in the sidelining of any player is idiocy at its worst, especially when the squad in question is the brittle one belonging to Roberto Martinez. This is a (marginally) stronger squad than last season, but as the treatment table slowly fills, the level of concern slowly builds.

Everton can ill afford further casualties. Antolin Alcaraz is still to feature in a competitive fixture, while Darron Gibson sits alongside Kone on the long-term list. Elsewhere, James McCarthy must tread carefully until 31st December to avoid a one-match ban, having picked up four yellow cards. His loss would leave central midfield terribly exposed.

Those aforementioned injuries, the potential suspension of McCarthy and a number of others battling form and fitness issues only serves to highlight the soft underbelly of a squad unable to cope with significant absentees. For instance, Everton can cope without Gibson (for the most part), yet the prospect of him and McCarthy sidelined is a grim one.

Without both of the above, Gareth Barry would find himself fighting a losing battle. Although utilised in the role quite recently, Osman looks lightweight and more suited to the advanced role in the twilight of his career. After that, there is John Heitinga, a defender by trade, or a tremendous gamble on a youth player.

Returning to Kone, though form evaded him thus far and glaring misses threatened to become an unwanted trademark, this injury merely increases anxiety over a position thin on quality and quantity.

The prolonged loss of the Ivorian swells the already substantial goal scoring pressures on Romelu Lukaku. The Chelsea loanee is a roaring success to this point, but the young forward is still learning and growing as a player. In addition, it is worth remembering that the stay of Lukaku is a temporary one.

Behind Lukaku in the pecking order are Nikica Jelavic, a striker with one goal in 28 matches, and Apostolos Vellios, who is so far on the periphery that he could rival Bigfoot for genuine sightings. Considering the backup options, the extended absence of Kone -- who outscored Jelavic and Vellios last season (individually and combined) -- is a definite blow, regardless of current form.

Still, moving forward, the pain of one could be the gain of another. If Jelavic has designs on recapturing his place in the side -- there is a spot up for grabs once Lukaku departs in the summer -- then this is the ideal time to stake his claim. The Croatian must seize upon his inevitable increase in game time in upcoming months.

Primarily operating on the flanks, Kevin Mirallas is another possibility in the central role. Consistency and form escape the Belgian at present, so recent events and a promising central cameo against Chelsea hint at a position offering possible respite.

Preparing for Crystal Palace and beyond, surely wrapping the rest of the players in cotton wool, Martinez will hope the remainder of the squad remain on-form and full of fitness as the bare bones are in danger of rising to the surface at this rate.

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