Could a remarkable year for Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin be about to get better?
It has been some 2017 for Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The forward, now 20 years of age, was brought to Goodison Park in a £1.5 million deal from local club Sheffield United on the August transfer window deadline day of 2016, scoring his first goal for the Toffees in March 2017 in a 4-0 Premier League triumph over Hull.
With 11 appearances and one goal to his name following the end of last season, he put pen to paper on a five-year contract to keep him at Everton until 2022.
His stock rose even higher over the summer, when he featured in the England Under-20 side which triumphed at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in South Korea, Calvert-Lewin himself netting the winner in the final against Venezuela.
However, following the departure of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United over the August transfer window, too much pressure too soon has been heaped on the shoulders of the young striker, ultimately culminating in Ronald Koeman’s dismissal as Everton manager.
Granted, Wayne Rooney returned to his boyhood club as part of the deal, and the Dutchman succeeded in bringing Málaga front man Sandro Ramírez through the door, but with no direct replacement for Lukaku, he was forced to turn to Calvert-Lewin as a focal point as the Toffees struggled for goals.
Such pressure on such young shoulders has stifled Calvert-Lewin’s ability to produce.
It started well enough, the youngster scoring in the club’s Europa League qualifier against MFK Ružomberok back in August, but consistent profligacy in front of goal soon followed.
He missed key chances to score in Everton’s 2-2 draw with Apollon Limassol in the group stages, while enduring similar frustration in the Premier League.
He did fare somewhat better in the Carabao Cup, however, netting a further three goals which came against Sunderland and Chelsea, prior to their Fourth Round exit.
Then, following Ronald Koeman’s sacking and the appointment of David Unsworth as caretaker-manager, came the visit of Watford on the 5th November.
The Hornets were 2-0 up on Merseyside by the 64th minute, but following in-form Oumar Niasse’s reply on 67 minutes, Calvert-Lewin headed home less than 10 minutes laters from Everton’s first corner of the match to equalise, scoring his first Premier League goal of the season.
Everton would go on toe complete the comeback with a Leighton Baines penalty to seal a vital 3-2 victory.
With the goal likely to come as a much-needed and timely boost of confidence for Calvert-Lewin, the triumph over Watford may just represent a turning-point in his season.
Despite seemingly struggling in front of goal, Calvert-Lewin has actually had a hand in more goals than any other Everton player so far this season, with five goals and two assists in all competitions.
His average shooting accuracy is at 30%, with seven of his 23 attempts on goal in the top-flight finding the target.
Yet, in his 11 appearances so far this season – already as many as he made in 2016/17 – he has played a total of 183 passes, created three key chances in addition to his two assists, and attempted nine crosses into the box.
The latter statistic perhaps highlights an issue in Everton’s build-up play, particularly under Koeman.
Calvert-Lewin’s only Premier League goal has come from a headed opportunity. As useful as it is for the player to drop off, run the channels and attempt to play crosses into the box, he should be the player looking to get on the end of such opportunities more often.
The youngster has remarkably shown great aerial prowess this season, despite a relatively modest height of five feet and nine inches. This is something David Unsworth should be sure to take note of as he attempts to adapt the Toffees going forward.
Calvert-Lewin also does his bit defensively too, and this also is reflected in the statistics. The forward has put in a total of six blocks, five interceptions, eight clearances, and five headed clearances throughout his 11 top-flight matches.
It may have been wishful thinking on Ronald Koeman’s part that the Under-20 World Cup winner would enjoy a prolific breakthrough season on Merseyside, but if the standard of service into the final third improves, the potential is certainly there for Calvert-Lewin to get on the score sheet more often.
Equally, it is no coincidence that Calvert-Lewin’s strike came at a time when he was featuring up-front next to Oumar Niasse, the Senegalese’s strength and physicality offering the 20-year-old an option to feed from, rather than having to hold up the ball himself and create opportunities for others.
Niasse himself has four goals in four appearances at Goodison Park this season. This could render him a useful option as a partner to the Calvert-Lewin to help relieve some pressure. Unsworth, therefore, may just be tempted to trial a partnership of the two forwards in future matches.
With winnable fixtures on the agenda, providing the Toffees get their approach right, there is a certain opportunity to put together a run of back-to-back victories for the first time this season.
The hunger is there in the Everton camp, with the desire of Calvert-Lewin and the belated breakthrough of Niasse. However, the challenge now, particularly for the former, is to convert promise into end product consistently as the Toffees seek to climb the table.
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