By Kelvin YapFollow @@plevyakin
Jelavic joined Everton in January last season, played 16 games in all competitions and scored 11 goals - a fantastic rate of 0.68 goals per game which would have put him above Robin van Persie's current goal tally for Manchester United in the Premier League.
The Croatian started this season well enough with four goals in his first six league games, but has since only scored two more goals in 21 appearances - an abysmal scoring rate (0.22 goals/game) which is even worse than that of the beleaguered Fernando Torres (0.25 goals/game) .
It's the stark contrast in the striker's form which puzzles many, especially given that David Moyes' men have improved their performance in front of goal; Everton scored 50 goals en route to a seventh place finish least season (a rate of 1.31 goals/game) while their current tally stands at 44 goals after 28 games (a rate of 1.57 goals/game) this season.
To find out the cause behind Jelavic's bewildering loss of form, we first have to look at what made him stand out in the first place.
What makes Jelavic tick?
Jelavic came to Everton as a classic number 9, an out-and-out striker who stays right on the shoulder of the last defender to poach goals in the box.
A breakdown of his 12 goals last season (including the one which was credited as an David Vaughan OG) shows his preferred modus operandi:
(Graphic A shows the position of Jelavic's shots which led to goals last season)
(Graphic B shows where Jelavic goals finished in goal - nine out of 12 goals were placed into the bottom of the goal)
The fact that 11 out of Jelavic's 12 goals last season were one-touch finishes and that nine out of 12 goals were passed into the net conforms to his style.
The three goals which were not passed into the net (see graphic B) are also worth noting. Goal (8) was the only header he scored last season, goal (10) was a penalty kick while goal (12) was an bouncing loose ball which came about after he made an awkward switch from the left to the right leg to lob a bouncing loose ball into the net..
All the above are indicative that Jelavic isn't the quickest dribbler, doesn't have the most powerful shot and isn't the strongest in the air, but he has the uncanny goal poacher's instinct to peel away from defenders with a late run onto a pass to his right foot before passing the ball into the bottom of the net with a single touch.
Indeed, his clinical finishing was the only factor Everton lacked last season - they had Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill to win the aerial duels, Steven Pienaar to do the dribbling while Leighton Baines and Darron Gibson fired in shots from range. Jelavic was the missing piece in the Everton puzzle and had to simply turn up in the box to poke the ball into the net.
What went wrong this season?
There are a few factors which have frustrated Jelavic's goalscoring exploits this season, the first of which can be summed up in one word: Fellaini.
Cahill was deployed as the attacking midfielder behind Jelavic last season and swept up the area behind him with remarkable efficiency while the Croatian striker thrived thanks to his ability to control short passes around the box.
Following Cahill's departure to New York Red Bulls in July, Fellaini took up the mantle as Everton's man in the ‘hole', impressed in their opening game against Manchester United and has remained there ever since.
Fellaini is a vastly different player from Cahill
The giant Belgian lacks Cahill's sharp passing ability outside the box, preferring to knock the ball down and go for the most direct route to goal instead.
With Fellaini in fine form, it's not surprising that Moyes has tailored the team around him, which means that their main mode of attack consists of early crosses aimed for the instantly-recognisable afro. Everton have benefitted from this, but Jelavic has suffered given that he prefers to receive short passes in the box.
Matters are also not helped by the fact that Fellaini is so good at the air that he almost always chests the ball down to himself or manages to head it down for the midfielders. Again, Jelavic has the shorter end of the deal as he is usually camped out by the shoulder of a defender and has little chance of getting to a ball knocked down at the edge of the box.
The defensive aspect of the game affects Jelavic as well
Fellaini's defensive game relies more on his physical ability to bully players rather than the tenacity to chase down the ball, which is what Cahill excelled at. Because of that, it's natural to order Fellaini to chase down midfielders (who are less adept at physical play) rather than defenders, who are built to withstand battering contests of strength.
And since Moyes' team philosophy revolves around the ethos of grit and hard work, Jelavic has had to make up for it and cover more the distance pressuring the opponent back line, which then means that he spends more time getting close to defenders rather than trying to find space between them - which is what the lethality of his game is based on.
The emergence of Bainaar
Perhaps the most decisive factor is the development of Everton's wing play on the left with the emergence of Baines and Pienaar's partnership.
The duo form a formidable combination that usually start play from deep in their own half since Pienaar frequently tracks back to cover up for Baines' attacking runs.
This leaves an empty flank up front and Jelavic more often than not finds himself drifting wide to pick up the early through ball if needed. Again, the Croatian striker gets the raw end of the deal here.
He lacks the speed and guile to beat defenders and only one of his 12 goals last season came from having more than a touch of the ball.
The facts and figures from the seven goals he scored for Everton this season support the argument:
(Graphic C shows the position of Jelavic's shots which have led to goals this season)
(Graphic D shows where Jelavic goals finished in the net)
It's clear that Jelavic still has the ‘magical' first touch finish to place the ball into the net.
However, the manner in which he receives the ball shows that he is not getting the kind of passes he needs.
How can Jelavic start firing again?
The onus is on the manager to help Jelavic back on his feet.
Moyes has a thin central midfield with first-choice holding midfielder Gibson struggling with thigh problems and this is an ideal opportunity to start re-adjusting their strategy in order to get his side back in form.
Fellaini, who has inadvertently been the source of woe for Jelavic, can be returned to his original role as a midfield hardman in place of Gibson while the second striker slot can be given to Kevin Naismith, who has played alongside Jelavic at Rangers previously to devastating effect.
Naismith isn't as physical as Cahill, but he provides the short, bursting play in the box that Jelavic flourishes on.
It's also a perfect a time to execute such a change - opponents are catching on to Everton's left wing-Fellaini combo play and the Merseyside club have not strung two league wins in a row since Boxing Day.
With a tough run of league games against Manchester City, Stoke, Tottenham, QPR and Arsenal coming up, a switch-up in strategy may be what Everton need in order to fire their way into Europe next season.