Alex Iwobi badly betrayed Carlo Ancelotti with a torrid display in Everton’s Boxing Day win over Sheffield United in the continued absence of James Rodriguez.
Ancelotti confirmed ahead of the Toffees’ trip to Bramall Lane that he would be without Rodriguez for Saturday night’s encounter with Chris Wilder’s Blades, while noting that the Colombian has also been ruled out of Monday’s meeting with Manchester City through a calf injury.
Iwobi has stood in at right-wing for Rodriguez in recent weeks and earned Ancelotti’s praise for his performances, having proved to be Everton’s most dangerous player at Burnley, produced an aggressive end-to-end threat against Chelsea and offered a committed showing at home to Manchester United earlier this week.
Saturday was far from Iwobi’s best performance in royal blue since joining Everton from Arsenal in a deal that could reach £34m last year, with the Nigeria international a distant cry from the player Ancelotti could only wax lyrical over a matter of weeks ago.
“It’s his best moment since I arrived [at Everton]. He is showing confidence, is really good in one-versus-one situations and is working hard. The key is to work hard – the team is working hard,” Ancelotti said after the Leicester City win.
Everton vastly struggled for creativity against Sheffield United on Boxing Day as the visitors were restricted to just three shots on target from seven efforts, per SofaScore.
Anthony Gordon struggled to find a grove in the affair as he stood in for Richarlison after the Brazilian was forced to sit out through the Premier League’s concussion protocol, with the academy graduate unable to fashion any dangerous one-on-one situations as Sheffield United swarmed the youngster.
Gordon departed the action early in the second half to be replaced by Bernard, having offered one successful dribble from three attempts and no shots on goal, yet orchestrated a chance for Everton to score from his 26 touches.
Iwobi registered more than twice as many touches of the ball as Gordon with the Arsenal product taking 60 touches, alongside making six successful dribbles from seven, yet struggled to influence proceedings and saw his night end without a key pass.
The £50,000-per-week attacker further failed to beat Aaron Ramsdale with his only shot of the match, lost eight of his 15 ground duels, turned over possession 17 times, committed two fouls and was dribbled past once.
Only two of the 24-year-old’s four attempted crosses found an Everton teammate, too, as Ancelotti was badly betrayed by a player the Italian was forced to rely heavily on.