Similarly to the beginning of the 2018/19 season, Everton haven’t enjoyed the most illustrious start. However, last season, Marco Silva was starting to mould the squad to suit his style of play. He’s now had three transfer windows of big-money spending and many expected results to be better than two wins, a draw, and three losses through the opening six games.
One reason for optimism has been Alex Iwobi, who burst onto the Everton scene with his first Premier League goal for the club in a 3-2 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers. The goal came in quick succession to his first goal for Everton a few days earlier in the League Cup.
Despite his fairly sparse use in the Premier League, Iwobi has been among the team’s top performers when on the pitch with decent passing accuracy, a couple of shots on goal per game, and a few good dribbles. He was on form once again in Everton’s much-needed League Cup win against Sheffield Wednesday, teeing up the second goal at the ten-minute mark.
But can the Nigerian winger become a key contributor for Everton this season, and how many goal contributions can we expect in the Premier League?
Struggles for the forwards
On paper, Everton has a strong team and a manager who likes to play entertaining football. However, so far this season, their performances haven’t been convincing enough to warrant fans putting the Toffees to win a game in the bet calculator to bolster their accumulators. Due to Silva having a squad of very talented players at his disposal, most Premier League fans would naturally favour Everton to win or take a point on any given match day. However, something just hasn’t clicked yet.
Over the summer, the clear hard target for Everton was to either bring in a natural and trusted goalscorer or players who could give Dominic Calvert-Lewin goals on a plate while also adding some themselves. Everton initially pursued Wilfried Zaha, who would have patched the hole, but their £52 million bid was rejected.
So, the Goodison Park residents turned to a top-class prospect from Juventus in Moise Kean and Arsenal’s squad rotation winger, Alex Iwobi. The new striker is still acclimating himself to the level of the Premier League, and Calvert-Lewin is still not a natural goalscorer. Everton simply aren’t scoring enough goals.
Six games in, Everton had a -4 goal difference with five goals for and nine goals against. There’s something to be said about the struggles of goalkeeper, with Jordan Pickford holding the fourth-worst save percentage in the league after six games – conceding nine goals on 20 shots against – but given Silva’s tactics, the forwards should be doing more to ease the pressure put on the defence and goalie.
So, is Alex Iwobi the one who can step up and bolster Everton’s attack?
Iwobi may just need consistency
Alex Iwobi has never been a prolific goal contributor, tallying 15 goals and 27 assists in 149 games for Arsenal. However, the winger has rarely been used consistently as a 90-minute player, regular being subbed on or subbed off. Last season he played 35 league games for Arsenal to score three goals and seven assists, but a mere 14 of those appearances lasted 70 minutes or more. Six of his ten goal contributions came when he played for over 70 minutes.
Down the wing, Iwobi is a threat with his pace and dribbling ability, but he needs a goal-hungry striker to feed. Marco Silva says that his players cannot hide and need to go out and play football. Everton’s problems can’t be fixed with just Iwobi playing on top form: the whole strike force needs to step up.
Over the course of the season, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison can be trusted to bring in a good 30 goal contributions between them, with the Icelandic dominating set pieces and playmaking from the middle of the park, and the Brazilian being Everton’s most natural goalscorer right now. Iwobi, even if used in rotation as he has been so far by Silva, still looks good for close to ten goal contributions this season.
There were question marks over Calvert-Lewin’s ability to compliment his relentless work rate with goals at the highest level, but so far, he has struggled greatly. But until Kean is trusted and scoring goals, it may be a case of wingers like Richarlison, Iwobi, and Bernard stepping in to find spaces made by Calvert-Lewin and scoring goals between themselves.
As stated by Silva, the whole team needs to step up, but luckily it is still early days. If given consistent first-team football, Iwobi should be able to bolster the forward line, provide assists, the occasional goal, and help Everton finish in the top half of the table at the very least.
Without a trusted, on-form, goalscoring striker on the field, it must become a team effort.