Calvert-Lewin ready to play a central role as Everton push for top six
Forward’s hat-trick shows how under Ancelotti he is developing his game to become more potent in the penalty area
The toe poke from one yard might be the most underrated goal in football. Little time is dedicated to offering it the lavish description it deserves, the hunt for superlatives generally abandoned amid the swift and cliched reporting of a “tap-in”.
Everton’s victory over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday offered an example of how the virtue of a poacher’s finish can be criminally neglected. In the immediate aftermath of an entertaining home victory, all the hyperbole was naturally reserved for James Rodriguez’s assist in the build-up to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s second goal of his three in the 5-2 victory.
University dissertations have been dedicated to works of art less stimulating than the Colombian’s looped delivery over a bewildered West Brom defence. Our enthusiasm is always drawn to the unorthodox rather than what, on the surface at least, seems run of the mill.
None of Calvert-Lewin’s finishes for his hat-trick were spectacular.
His treble consisted of a nonchalant flick from three yards when he mistakenly thought he was offside; a nudge over the line from an even closer proximity; and a failed attempt to head a set-piece, the ball ricocheting off his back and past goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
Yet look beyond their apparent simplicity and they were as meaningful and glorious as the 20-yarder from Rodriguez which turned the game Everton’s way shortly before Kieran Gibbs and Slaven Bilic’s meltdowns and red cards.
Calvert-Lewin’s goals revealed more about the player’s rapid development under Carlo Ancelotti, and where this team may be heading. The 23-year-old striker touched the ball on only 25 occasions on Saturday, three of which led to him keeping the match ball. He is mastering the skill fundamental to any topclass Premier League striker – utilising selfish means to serve collective ends.
Calvert-Lewin broke into the side a few years ago seeking to impress by being selfless, occupying every zone in the attacking third, more likely to receive the ball dragging a full-back wide than with his back to a centre-half.
Make mine a treble: Dominic Calvert-Lewin celebrates his third goal against West Brom
Shortly after Ancelotti’s appointment, the Italian made a critical observation to his No9. “He pulled me aside and said ‘You need to stay central’,” Calvert-Lewin revealed in the midst of a goal blitz before last season’s lockdown. “I’m not going to score near the corner flag.”
Initially, the transformation was astounding. Calvert-Lewin struck eight in 11 games under Ancelotti and seemed to be on the verge of the England squad. Then, when football resumed, he did not score once. Gareth Southgate looked to Danny Ings and Mason Greenwood as Harry Kane’s England deputies.
That snub may have been a help more than hindrance, given how swiftly Calvert-Lewin has taken advantage of Everton’s more dynamic and creative midfield in the first two Premier League games, a 20-goal season the minimum he and his manager should expect.
One of Ancelotti’s educational qualities is the number of player references at his disposal. In CalvertLewin’s case, he namechecked AC
Milan’s Filippo Inzaghi as the ideal prototype. “I had a fantastic striker in Inzaghi, who scored 300 goals and 210 with one touch,” said Ancelotti. “A striker has to be focused in the box and Calvert-Lewin understands because in the box he has speed, jumps really high, has power. Where he has improved more is there, in the box.”
This feels like the start of a vastly different era at Goodison. Captain Seamus Coleman said he can sense the change in mentality – not just on match day – but around the club. Rodriguez may be the catalyst for that, but there will be as much pleasure and reward for Ancelotti if Calvert-Lewin toepokes Everton towards the top six.