Everton completed the signing of promising young attacker Dominic Calvert-Lewin in a £1.5m deal from Sheffield United in the summer of 2016, and the then 19-year-old would have been identified as one for the future who could perhaps compete for a place in the matchday squad for the Merseyside outfit.
That largely proved to be the case for the forward in the opening few months of his time at Goodison Park, before he made his debut as a substitute in a 2-1 win against Arsenal in December 2016.
Former Toffees boss Ronald Koeman was obviously impressed with what he saw then – as well as on the training pitch – and the youngster went on to make 10 more appearances in the top flight before the end of the season, scoring his first goal in a 4-0 win against Hull City in March of last year.
Calvert-Lewin featured in all three of the attacking midfield positions in Koeman’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system, showing the versatility that he has in his game.
The arrivals of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez over the course of the summer transfer window looked to have pushed the former Blade down the pecking order however, but Everton’s failure to sign a direct replacement for Romelu Lukaku before the window slammed shut at the end of August turned out to be a key moment for the 20-year-old.
With Ramirez struggling to make an impact and Oumar Niasse frozen out by Koeman, Calvert-Lewin surprisingly started this season in the starting line-up, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Despite not being used as a centre-forward in his outings last term and once again alternating between the different attacking positions at the start of the current campaign, the England U21 international has either started in – or come on in – the centre-forward position in the 10 matches since Sam Allardyce took charge.
Standing at just under 6ft 2in tall Calvert-Lewin has led from the front in a lone striker role and is showing the attributes needed to be a success there, while he has scored seven goals and provided a further six assists in 34 appearances in all competitions.
According to WhoScored.com, he has won 126 of the 291 aerial duels he has faced in 27 outings in the Premier League and the Europa League this term, and while it is by no means a perfect record the potential is obviously there for it to improve greatly in the future given his tender years.
The great thing about Calvert-Lewin is that while he can win balls in the air and isn’t afraid to put his body on the line, he is also quick on the ground and able to pressurise defenders and run the channels, and he has shown at times that he has the makings of a decent all-round centre-forward in the future.
Having worked his socks off in the first-half of a tough campaign that saw Everton in deep trouble in November before their improvement under Allardyce, it doesn’t seem as though the hard work he has put in is to be repaid, despite the fact he was handed a new six-year deal in December.
While it was always likely that the Merseyside outfit would look to finally replace Lukaku this month – which they have done with the £27m addition of Cenk Tosun from Besiktas – Calvert-Lewin would have perhaps expected that his performances would have at least earned him a back-up role, to give him the experience needed to improve.
His form and regular playing time for his club and the fact that he has one goal in five appearances for the England U21 side certainly would have meant that the 20-year-old was on the radar of Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate, who would have been delighted to see a young English getting consistent minutes on the pitch to improve and progress.
It is something that hasn’t been seen that often for Premier League clubs who are often too concerned about winning trophies or staying up to blood young players on a regular basis, and Calvert-Lewin has certainly benefitted.
However, reports emerged in The Sun last Saturday that Allardyce is now keen to bring in another striker – Celtic’s Moussa Dembele or West Ham United’s Diafra Sakho – which could push Calvert-Lewin down to third in the pecking order.
Considering Dembele has never played in the Premier League and Sakho has suffered from his fair share of injury issues during his time with the Irons, the Everton youngster will surely feel hard done by and will lose confidence if either of those arrives at Goodison Park.
While it would be bad news for the player and the fans that have watched him put in 100% for their club every week, the potential addition of another striker for Everton would also be bad news for Southgate and England, with a player that could be key for his country in the future once again likely being restricted to substitute appearances here and there.
Southgate can obviously have no influence on the Merseyside outfit’s dealings this month and Allardyce’s decisions, but he will be hoping they fail to get another deal for a striker over the line and that Calvert-Lewin continues to get the opportunities he deserves after his admirable displays this season.
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