Next up in our review of the past Everton season, in which each area of the pitch will be recapped and rated, is wingers, featuring Bernard, Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott and Anthony Gordon.
Another department which needs a great deal of surgery over the summer, Everton’s options out wide would not get anyone’s pulses racing currently.
Richarlison began the season brightly before being moved to centre-forward in December, and Bernard, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott have hardly picked up the baton and ran with it since.
Anthony Gordon offered hope in this regard with a string of promising post-lockdown performances, but Everton will need more than three underwhelming wide men and one precocious teenager next season.
- Between the three of them, Bernard, Iwobi and Walcott managed a disappointing seven goals and as many assists this term.
- Despite this, Bernard was, in fact, Everton’s joint-third-highest scorer with a paltry three strikes.
- Bernard also boasted the highest shot accuracy in Everton’s side at 71 per cent. Then again, he only had seven shots this season. (Iwobi 19, Walcott 22)
- Iwobi’s two Everton goals were both headers - more than he had scored in his entire career before joining the Blues last August.
- Likewise, Walcott’s equaliser against Aston Villa in July was only the third of his 75 Premier League goals he has scored with his head.
- In Everton’s first four post-lockdown games, no player created more chances than Gordon with six.
Marco Silva began the season rather as last term ended - and why not, given Everton took 21 points from the final 33 on offer in 2018-19?
This meant the archetypal Everton 4-2-3-1, with Bernard on the left, Richarlison on the right, and Gylfi Sigurdsson between them behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Only, the introduction of Iwobi, a £34 million deadline day signing from Arsenal, seemed to only muddy the waters.
Silva became increasingly hell-bent on including the Nigerian in his starting XI by hook or by crook, without garnering the return on the pitch from the player to justify it. Bernard was marginalised despite a strong start to the season, before suffering an injury in October which ruled him out for six weeks.
Richarlison’s promotion to the front line following Silva’s December departure paved the way back in for Bernard, with even Djibril Sidibé at times occupying the other flank. Yet none of Carlo Ancelotti’s recognised wingers were consistent enough, and Everton ended the season with a first-choice wide pairing of the rough diamond Gordon and the average Walcott.
The future for Iwobi, if at Everton, should certainly not be on the wing - because he patently doesn’t belong there. Indeed, his best game in royal blue probably came when Silva finally dropped Sigurdsson and had Iwobi deputise as a no. 10.
He is a ball-carrier, which can still be a valuable asset to Everton - as long it’s through the spine of the team and not out wide. He is not quick enough, nor his delivery good enough, to play there.
The jury is out on Bernard and Walcott, not least given how out of proportion their wages are with their contributions on the field. So, hope is placed in young Gordon, who has looked excellent but will need time to mature and grow.
Certainly, this department must be one of Ancelotti’s highest priorities before the kick-off on September 12.
A rather pitiful return, in truth. Only Gordon - despite just 12 appearances - can truly hold his head high out of Everton’s wingers this season.
Iwobi, for a multitude of reasons, has transpired as an abysmal signing so far, Walcott delivered pretty much more of the same, and Bernard continued to flatter to deceive for the most part. Much work is needed here.