Everton's failure to find a "goalscorer" to replace Romelu Lukaku has predictably led to a season of struggles according to manager Sam Allardyce, who has criticised his side's new recruits for failing to show why the Goodison Park hierarchy paid so much for them.
Despite spending heavily in both the summer and winter transfer windows, Everton, fresh off the back of another dismal defeat against Watford on Saturday (24 February), have still not sufficiently filled the void left by Lukaku, who dragged Manchester United to victory against former club Chelsea on Sunday.
Strikers Sandro Ramirez and Cenk Tosun have both tasked with shouldering the goalscoring burden Lukaku had to carry on his own for the majority of his time on Merseyside, but the former has already departed for Sevilla while the latter can't oust Oumar Niasse, a man once banished from the first team set-up by Ronald Koeman, in Allardyce's starting line-up.
Niasse and young forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin have given their level best but have ultimately fallen short of replacing Lukaku, and Allardyce, whose stock with Everton supporters is decreasing significantly with each passing week, is not at all surprised by the Toffees' floundering campaign after losing a forward of the Belgian's quality.
"I think expectations are always raised at every club at the start of the season," Allardyce said, per The Liverpool Echo.
"What the club achieved last year was exceptionally good. What happened was we haven't really found the goalscorer we had last season. Whatever the rest of the team is or isn't, without that goalscorer you're going to struggle more than you did the season before and that's exactly what we've done."
Despite spending well over £180m [Transfermarkt] in the last 12 months and harbouring aspirations of cracking the fabled top six, Everton are currently ninth with only seven points separating them from the relegation zone.
Farhad Moshiri et al were certainly hoping for more after paying such vast fees for the likes of Gylfi Sigurddson [£44m], Michael Keane [£25.65m] and Jordan Pickford [£25.65m], who has been one of the very few bright sparks in a dismal campaign, and Allardyce has called on his expensive stars to improve during the final 10 matches of the season and presumably his reign at Goodison.
Asked if his Everton stars have so far failed to prove their worth, Allardyce said: "Yes, no doubt about that. But you see Everton is in an inflated price bracket because everyone knew it had got money to spend so every player they went for ended up at a certain price for Everton. If it was Man United it would be even more, but if it's less than Everton it's less.
"We are in that bracket now so we either say we pay that price and bring the player in or we don't. And that's what you live with today. Yes, I would say the players need to be dealing with it more for the money we've paid for them."