Everton striker James Vaughan's imminent knee surgery has ruled him out until the new year and manager David Moyes' resources up front could yet be depleted further. Vaughan was injured in training on Friday and the club's medical staff have decided the best course of action for rectifying the cartilage problem is an operation.
Fortunately for the 20-year-old, it is his right knee and not a recurrence of the injury which forced him to miss the majority of the 2005-06 campaign and the final three months of last season.
However, he will be sidelined for several weeks and with Louis Saha complaining of hamstring problems, it could leave Moyes with only two fully-fit senior strikers – Yakubu and Victor Anichebe – for Sunday's trip to Tottenham Hotspur.
"James twisted his right knee last Friday," said Everton head physio Mick Rathbone.
"He will be out until the new year. The only saving grace is that it is not the knee he has had so much trouble with in the past. It's a terrible shame for James after all the problems he's had in the past. But, unfortunately, that's football."
Saha, who missed the first month of the season with injury, was substituted in Monday night's 1-0 defeat at Wigan after complaining of tight hamstrings. The former Manchester United striker will be monitored throughout this week to see whether he has a chance of travelling to White Hart Lane.
On the positive side, midfielder Steven Pienaar's recovery from a knee injury is going well. The 26-year-old missed South Africa's friendly with Cameroon last week with a bruised knee, which also ruled him out of contention at the JJB Stadium.
"Steve's making progress this week but it's too soon to say if he'll be available for the Spurs game," Rathbone said.
Tim Howard, the Everton goalkeeper, admits his side must improve dramatically at Tottenham if they are to erase the pain of the miserable defeat at Wigan. But for Howard's excellence between the posts, the result would have been more emphatic and depressing.
"When you lose a game, maybe it's easier to sit down and assess it," Howard said. "We've now got to lick our wounds and get back up – starting at Spurs. Even during our little five-game [unbeaten] run, we knew things needed to improve."
Everton began brightly during the opening exchanges and the way they allowed Wigan to gain a stranglehold on proceedings left Howard frustrated. "We expected big things and wanted to keep our run going but it didn't happen. We have got to do a lot better. We wanted to be hard to beat and we looked fairly comfortable.
"We had a great chance with Louis [Saha] early on, but in the second half we fell apart.
"We didn't really look like ourselves. We weren't composed and it's difficult to put a finger on why it happened, as I thought we played pretty well in the first half. All of a sudden we were under pressure and ran out of ideas, which was very disappointing."
The number of days James Vaughan broke Joe Royle's record by in becoming Everton's youngest player in April 2005 at 16 years and 271 days old.