Everton’s season under new manager Rafa Benitez has already been a tale of two halves, and we’re only 11 Premier League games in.
The Toffees began 2021/22 with a five-game unbeaten run in all competitions, with their 3-0 loss to Aston Villa being followed up by a victory over Norwich City and a draw away from home against Manchester United.
However, injuries to several key players have contributed to the Goodison Park outfit picking up just one point from a possible 12 in recent weeks, and Sunday’s draw with Tottenham Hotspur ended a three-game losing streak.
While the tactics and style of play implemented by Benitez can be questioned, the experienced 61-year-old has had one hand tied behind his back due to the personnel currently available.
The likes of Richarlison, Yerry Mina and Abdoulaye Doucure have all been sidelined for significant lengths of time throughout 2021/22, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s enforced absence has arguably hit them the hardest.
In the opening three league games of the campaign, the England international bagged a goal on each outing, heavily contributing to Everton’s fast start.
A quadricep problem has seen Calvert-Lewin consigned to the treatment table ever since, though, meaning backup striker Salomon Rondon has been leading the line more often than not.
The 32-year-old arrived from Chinese outfit Dalian Professional in the summer after a previous spell on English shores and was excited to make his Premier League return.
“Defending the colours of a club with a history as rich as Everton’s fills me with pride,” said Rondon after his unveiling as a new Everton player.
“I can’t wait to pull on the shirt and be reunited with Rafa Benítez, a coach who has changed the way I understand the game. I’m really grateful for the faith he’s shown in me.”
The Venezuela international, who had a spell on loan at CSKA Moscow last season, had bags of Premier League experience prior to his arrival on Merseyside, scoring 28 goals in 120 appearances for West Bromwich Albion between 2015 and 2018.
Rondon then linked up with Benitez for the first time in his career, bagging 12 goals in 33 games under the Spanish tactician while on loan at Newcastle United from Albion during the 2018/19 season.
But things have not gone to plan for the South American during his time in an Everton shirt.
As per WhoScored, Rondon has had just eight shots during his 432 minutes of top-flight action and via SofaScore, he’s only made three key passes, failed to create a single big chance and won just 32 of his 89 duels (a loss rate of 64%).
He’s also yet to score or assist in his eight Everton appearances as his shocking start to the season continues.
Benitez will, therefore, be desperate for Calvert-Lewin to return to full fitness as soon as possible, providing him with the firepower needed to achieve success, something Rondon appears incapable of doing.