Everton’s Worrying Predicament at Center Forward
Everton have consistently displayed their commitment to utilising striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin as an integral name on the team sheet going forward, the England international first cemented his place in the starting eleven in the 2017-18 season, playing 32 games and scoring 4. Although not outstanding for a Premier League number 9, at age 20 the natural ability was definitely shining through under Ronald Koeman.
However it was under serial winner Carlo Ancelotti that the Englishman found his best form, Calvert-Lewin worked in an Ancelotti system that had an emphasis on using wingbacks and crosses to provide for DCL – compatible via Calvert-Lewin’s unusually impressive leap and a natural striker’s instinct. During his best spells, he was unplayable and proved to be one of the best number 9’s in the league at his given role.
In the course of the 2020/21 season, Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored 21 goals and sealed his position of the club’s main striker — so much that England manager Gareth Southgate identified him as a quality option to provide competition to Harry Kane in the Euro 2020 Championships.
Prior to Ancelotti’s arrival, Everton secured the signing of Moise Kean from Juventus for a fee of £27 million in what was seen as a massive coup in world football, but his impact was rather underwhelming. The Italian was loaned out during the now Real Madrid manager’s first summer, joining PSG on a season-long loan.
Mauricio Pochettino presented his fondness of Kean, starting him 22 times as a 20 year-old, scoring on 13 occasions in Ligue 1 and 15 in all comps, only for Kean to find himself surplus to requirements upon his return to Everton, under new manager Rafael Benitez. He was once again loaned out, but this time including a view to a permanent deal – becoming active in 2023 to his boyhood club Juventus.
Following Kean’s departure, Rafa Benitez brought in Salomon Rondon who he previously worked with at Newcastle after spells in China and Russia to provide competition for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Calvert-Lewin once again started the season in fine form under Benitez but regrettably suffered a fractured two 4 games into the campaign and thereon missed out on 16 games over the course of 125 days.
Richarlison was used by Frank Lampard and Rafa Benitez centrally during the absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and although not his preferred role, the Brazilian provided both managers with a get-out clause in Everton’s relegation battle, netting 11 times and assisting 5.
This flexibility caught the eyes of numerous high-profile clubs and Richarlison was eventually snapped up by Tottenham Hotspur for £50 million, leaving Everton with just Calvert-Lewin and Rondon in the centre forward role.
A forward was high on the radar of Everton’s recruitment team, with the club identifying targets such as Emmanuel Dennis to bolster Lampard’s frontline. However, it was another injury to the main front-man Calvert-Lewin that has accelerated the pursuit of a striker, and now the decision for Kevin Thelwell is whether to sign a player that will provide competition or a signing that will challenge Calvert-Lewin and fight for his position, with the latter considerably the more expensive option.
The club loaned out two promising academy prospects as part of Kevin Thelwell and Gareth Prosser’s strategic restructure of football operations. Lewis Dobbin was shipped out to League One outfit Derby County whilst Ellis Simms arrived at Championship side Sunderland to the displeasure of several Evertonians who believed he deserved an opportunity to prove himself at Everton.
Everton deployed the likes of Demarai Gray, Anthony Gordon and Dwight McNeil in central areas to make up for the absence of Calvert-Lewin and whilst the team showed glimpses of positivity, the lack of a striker highlighted Everton’s requirement to obtain a natural goalscorer.
Several names have been mentioned in the pursuit of a striker, most notably Che Adams on an initial loan deal with an option to buy. Adams provides Frank Lampard with the ability to play across the front free in a host of roles but it looks rather unlikely that Ralph Hasenhuttl will sanction a sale, especially to a Premier League rival.
Also linked recently is Albanian striker Armando Broja, returning from a season-long loan spell at Southampton. It’s unlikely that Chelsea will let Broja leave on a permanent basis as Thomas Tuchel views him as one for the future, but it remains to be seen whether the club allow a loan move – which in Everton’s current situation, could prove to be a smart business.
Broja scored on 9 occasions for Southampton so it’s an option that seems to be Frank Lampard’s number one option as they look to replace the goals of Calvert-Lewin. Lampard also gave Armando Broja his Chelsea debut in a 4-0 win against Everton on March 8, 2020, and he could use his contacts to secure a deal.
Also on the radar of Lampard and Thelwell is Ben Brereton Diaz. The Chilean striker also has the capacity to play across the front three and impressed for Blackburn in the Championship last season. Diaz has scored 2 in 3 during the start of the campaign and there’s no reason to suggest he couldn’t progress at the highest level.
Everton’s Worrying Midfield Situation and Transfer Priorities
The Championship is an area that the recruitment have heavily scouted with Viktor Gyokeres also in the crop of names to be considered, Lampard is said to be a fan of the Swedish international and also is a consistent goal scorer, scoring 19 goals for Coventry City last season and also scored on the opening day against Sunderland last week.
Nevertheless, with time running out, the recruitment team will need to get this next signing spot on, with the teams major downfall so far this season proving to be the absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Calvert-Lewin’s expected time-out is reported to be up to 6 weeks so a replacement is largely the priority for Frank Lampard, who aims for a more comfortable season in the Premier League but without a striker soon, the task at hand will get increasingly troublesome.
By: Adam McNulty / @adamEFCDM
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Ryan Pierse / Getty Images