Things feel different at Everton this season.
We’ve been here before, of course. There’s a decent chance this will all combust in our faces. But there’s an elite man on the sideline, some elite lads on the pitch and excitement is simmering among supporters.
Yet in among the feeling of upbeat flux engulfing the football club, there’s one thing that feels increasingly predictable—Dominic Calvert-Lewin netting.
Although James Rodriguez’s glorious left foot and apparent thirst for rough wine were the talk of L4 following the 5-2 win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, it felt like another significant step forward for Calvert-Lewin, who fired in his first hat-trick for the club.
It makes it four in two games to start the campaign and he’s now on 14 goals in 25 outings under the management of Duncan Ferguson and now Carlo Ancelotti.
He would have felt emboldened clutching the match ball in the Merseyside sun, as it felt like a rubber stamp on this section of his development. In keeping with that progress, the nature of his goals—predatory and anticipatory finishes—were poignant, as they were the kind of moments many doubted he was capable of conjuring earlier in his career.
“I had a fantastic striker in Inzaghi, who scored 300 goals and 210 with one touch,” Ancelotti said on Saturday. “A striker has to be focused in the box and I think Calvert-Lewin understands really well because in the box he has speed, he jumps really high, he has power.”
Calvert-Lewin’s four goals this season have been one-touch finishes. Last term, 11 of his 13 strikes in the league were first-time strikes.
So watch out Pippo mate, yeah?
But on a more serious point, there’s been a significant shift in Calvert-Lewin’s game. He’s gone from the man who puts in the graft to the man who slots in the goals.
Before his goalscoring boom last season, the striker’s best games for Everton haven’t featured him netting.
In the twilight of Marco Silva’s first season with the Toffees, Calvert-Lewin was a force in the wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. He bullied defenders, was colossal in the air and relentlessly ran into the channels. But he didn’t score in any of them.
Now? He’s no longer a roaming target man who unlocks avenues for others. He maintains his position at the point of the attack and waits for his opportunities. In a goalless man-of-the-match display in the 1-0 win over Arsenal in April 2019, he touched the ball 41 times; on Saturday he had 25.
While there’s no doubt been instruction from his coaches to be more selfish in terms of his positioning, Calvert-Lewin appears to have acquired a taste for goals too.
Earlier in his career he relished a battle, as his anatomical gifts so often allowed him to come out on top. Closing down defenders earned him plaudits from the Goodison crowd and doing the hard yards up top would have been well received by more senior figures in the Everton dressing room. Despite his lack of productivity, he was contributing.
The sacrifices he has made in terms of playing style puts him in a desirable position as he now seeks to become a premier goalscorer, because he’s almost self made. It’s the equivalent of having to do the tea run for years before you get that promotion. Paying your dues as a youngster.
He’s been used to plug gaps, flogged up front on his own and played at right wing-back. Other young players have endured similar challenges in L4, but have fallen through the cracks. That adversity has added a robust edge to Calvert-Lewin.
And now that he’s gone from a facilitator to someone who is to be facilitated? The signs are hugely promising, as Calvert-Lewin increasingly looks like a man who can do it all: win aerial duels, bring others into play, score in big games—against Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham since the start of last season—and be in the right place at the right time.
He remains on an upward trajectory too, meaning it’s difficult to know quite where to put a ceiling on his development. For now, it’s probably best we don’t.
All associated with the club are rightly delighted for him, with his work ethic, charisma and vibrant personality making him one of the most popular members of the current first-team squad.
It’s clear Calvert-Lewin loves being a footballer, loves the fight and to contribute to the team. Now, he loves being a goalscorer too.