In the midst of a season in which Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Danny Ings have established themselves as two of the most potent strikers in the Premier League, Gareth Southgate is spoiled for choice at centre-forward ahead of Euro 2020.
By virtue of Harry Kane’s lengthy injury setback, supporters across the country are keeping a particularly close eye on Everton and Southampton’s star strikers, pondering who they’d select at the spearhead of their attack if they were sporting a navy waistcoat and charged with masterminding the Three Lions’ opening fixture against Croatia in June.
Perhaps it will be the Spurs talisman who lines up in the end. It seems that, providing he is fit enough to start the game, he is an undroppable talent, with Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to include him in the starting XI for the 2019 Champions League final suggesting that a 40% Kane is better than any alternative at 100%.
But the fact Calvert-Lewin is even in the conversation this season is a testament to the strides he has made at Goodison Park. A player who used to be the human embodiment of Bambi on ice has blossomed into a clinical finisher who, for the first time in his career, is beginning to command the trust of the supporters and establish himself as obligatory starter – a process which preceded Carlo Ancelotti’s appointment and has been cemented under the Italian’s stewardship following a return of seven goals in nine league outings.
His flamboyance away from the field, which seemed to dominate Everton’s winter break as he and Tom Davies gave English football’s style icon elect, Hector Bellerin, a run for his money, is seldom replicated on the football pitch.
He is more of a functional, traditional centre-forward and prefers to let creative players around him do the majority of the talking, but his improvised overhead kick against Arsenal proved that he possesses the X factor you’d expect from a striker with 12 goals already this season.
Standing at 6ft 2, it is no surprise that 18 of his 60 shots this season have been taken via his head. Similarly, four of his 12 goals have been headers while three strikes with his weaker left foot serve to underline his ability to score from a multitude of different situations – the cornerstone of any elite level striker.
Calvert-Lewin has now played just 30 minutes less Premier League football this season than he managed in the 2018/19 season, and the statistical disparity in his output between those two seasons is glaring.
He has already doubled his tally from last season, which can be partially be explained by the fact he has been shooting with a greater regularity this season.
That Calvert-Lewin has conceded possession with an unsuccessful touch 2.8 times per game this season compared to just 1.9 last season points to his diminishing reliability on the ball, on paper at least.
However, the reasoning behind that statistic may not be as straightforward as that. Perhaps this can be explained by the nature of the positions he has taken up – high-risk but high-reward areas in and around the penalty area – rather than by a lack of quality in his control.
His progress has catapulted his Transfermarkt valuation from just £3.15m in June 2017 to £19.8m in December 2019, making him the joint 53rd most valuable centre-forward in world football, sitting alongside the likes of Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi and Brighton’s Neal Maupay.
While it’s fair to say that Transfermarkt typically lowball their valuations and Everton would likely demand a figure comfortably in excess of that based on current form, his valuation is relative to the other strikers who also would likely garner a fee in excess of the number detailed on the renowned website.
Even the most patient Toffees supporter boasting the wisest foresight would have been sceptical about Calvert-Lewin’s ability to score 15+ goals a season and ultimately fill the void left by Romelu Lukaku in 2017. The reality, however, is that he looks destined to go beyond the 15 goal mark this season and has a genuine chance of earning a place in Southgate’s squad at Euro 2020, with an audition for a place in the squad likely to take place in friendlies against Italy and Denmark next month.
Following years of steady, meandering progress, the 2019/20 season will go down as a landmark period in Calvert-Lewin’s fledgling career.