Alex Iwobi was Carlo Ancelotti’s real midweek hero having played an influential role in Everton’s 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday night.
Ancelotti was forced to be resourceful with his options at Molineux having decided that Richarlison and Cenk Tosun were only fit enough for seats on the bench, despite top-scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin being sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin’s absences were felt hard by the Blues, who have built a resilient defensive line this season, but proved their grit by securing the result through goals from Iwobi and Michael Keane.
Everton started brightly in the Black Country when Iwobi fired home his first goal in 38 Premier League appearances after a wonderful piece of build-up play involving the Nigeria international, James Rodriguez and Lucas Digne in the sixth minute.
Wolves struck back swiftly with Ruben Neves finding the back of Jordan Pickford’s goal with a sublime sidefoot finish, and looked the stronger side until Keane rose highest in the area to meet Andre Gomes’ teasing cross with just under a quarter of an hour left to play.
Iwobi clearly took confidence from his rare strike in the West Midlands, with the £50,000-per-week dynamo behind much of Everton’s creativity by linking up well with the likes of Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucoure, and coming close to beating Rui Patricio again.
The Arsenal product’s willingness to run further helped Everton in a fast-paced environment at Molineux, even if a toothless frontline meant Wolves were able to stay in the tie and caused Ancelotti’s men issues as they moved back inside the top-four of the table.
Iwobi continually put himself in positions to threaten Wolves and his link up with Rodriguez saw the 24-year-old prove to be Everton’s most important player at Molineux, despite Keane taking the credit for sealing the Blues’ 10th win of the league season.
His crossing could have been better, with Iwobi failing to find a teammate with any of his three recorded attempts, yet kept his head held high to take 60 touches, complete 36 of 41 passes, attempt three shots and be successful with three of his five dribbles, per SofaScore.
Iwobi’s drive on the ball saw the 44-cap forward attempted a game-high tally with 27% of Everton’s total 18 dribbles, with an improved showing to his season-average of 1.9 successful efforts per league appearance.
Taking three of the Blues’ total five shots was also a clear improvement, having averaged just 0.3 efforts a game so far this season.
The £23m-rated winger further won an impressive seven of his 10 ground duels and helped defensively with four successful tackles and one clearance, while never being dribbled past, to offer Mason Holgate support on the right-hand channel in a heroic showing against Wolves.
AND in other news, Carlo Ancelotti must cash-in on a £6.5m-rated outcast unfit for Everton…