Carlo Ancelotti should look to unleash Joshua King when Everton visit West Bromwich Albion on Thursday night after a quiet performance from Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
King is yet to open a single fixture for the Toffees since his Deadline Day arrival at Goodison Park, with the ex-AFC Bournemouth forward given just five outings from the bench to date.
The latest of his appearances came as a stoppage-time substitute during Monday’s 1-0 win over Southampton, replacing goalscorer Richarlison to burn an extra few seconds off the clock whilst Ralph Hasenhuttl’s south coast natives sought a late equaliser.
Ancelotti has shown a frequent resistance to awarding King any prolonged spells on the pitch since completing a permanent deal until the end of the season, with 34 minutes against Fulham and 21 minutes at home to Manchester City his longest outings to date.
The Norway international’s appearances against Leeds, Manchester United and Southampton only reach a combined 13 minutes, whilst he was not given a single second of action during last month’s Merseyside derby win over rivals Liverpool at Anfield.
But Thursday’s trip to relegation-threatened West Brom presents Ancelotti with an ideal chance to hand King his first opening call, with Everton in action again four days later against Chelsea in a crucial tie for the Toffees’ hopes of securing Champions League football.
Calvert-Lewin struggled to shine on his return to the starting line-up following a hamstring injury against Southampton, too, with the 18-goal striker unable to add to his record despite a tireless work ethic, having rarely fashioned chances to break the Saints defence.
The England international offered just a single shot, which was blocked, and only completed 52% of his 27 passes to earn SofaScore’s second-worst match rating by a Blues player at 6.8 out of 10.
Calvert-Lewin has averaged 2.5 shots a game in the Premier League this season with 1.5 on target, having only seen eight of 56 attempts on goal blocked throughout the campaign, per WhoScored. He also completes 69.5% of his passes over 22 top-flight outings to date.
Ancelotti should now look to afford Calvert-Lewin a chance to recharge on Thursday night as playing three games in such a short period of time after just coming back from injury may be a risk. The manager should place his backing in King for the first time, having yet seen the best of the £9.9m-rated maestro
Before joining Everton, King said his goodbyes to Bournemouth with three shots and three successful dribbles from five attempts away to promotion-chasers Reading, along with providing two key passes of which his Cherries teammates could not turn home, per SofaScore.
That performance featured three-times his average shots (0.8) and almost triple his number of key passes (0.7) per game recorded in the second-tier this season, plus a solid increase in dribbles (0.8) and success rate (50%).
Arguably, Everton signed King at the optimal moment after a campaign ravished by injury and testing positive for coronavirus. Yet chances to shine at Goodison have been thin and far between under Ancelotti.
A quiet night from Calvert-Lewin against Southampton and a trip to Chelsea to come after West Brom should surely now see Ancelotti unleash King.
AND in other news, Everton are tracking a prolific 15-goal winger backed to reach another level…