We continue our review of the past Everton season, in which each department will be recapped and rated. Next up: the strikers.
After a disjointed and fragmented campaign last year, Everton looked to show their improvement across the pitch, yet especially in the final attacking third in the 2020-2021 season. With the departure of Moise Kean to PSG at the end of the last summer transfer window, the Toffees were left using Dominic Calvert-Lewin as their number nine whenever available, with Richarlison acting as a winger, his backup or even partner depending on the shape used by the manager.
The arrival of Joshua King from Bournemouth at the end of the winter window should have helped take some of the pressure off of both of those players to score, yet he apparently proved so unimpressive that he barely received two hours worth of playing time during his stay which included 11 appearances as a substitute; that simply will not do.
And so as the season wore on, even before the arrival of King, the form of the club began to dip and rise unexpectedly, with remarkably consistent inconsistency, seemingly mirroring the success of both Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison. Further points were dropped against inferior opponents as what appeared a promising season at the start would decay into a tenth place finish by season’s end.
The form of the aforementioned strikers often proved a window into the greater deficiencies on Merseyside, yet it was not all on them of course. While DCL looked and played better this season for the most part, Richarlison seemed to took a step backwards in some respects; with their ages though, each still has so much potential left to tap into moving forward regarding their careers.
Appearances - 39, Goals - 21, Assists - 4, Yellow Cards - 3, Red Cards - 0, PL xG+xA/90 - 0.64
The production of DCL this season was markedly better than last season, as the player secured 21 goals and four assists in all competitions this season; 16 goals in the Premier League alone is a good tally, yet as he is only 23-years-old, there is still so much space between himself and his ceiling.
Calvert-Lewin proved that he was a top young striker in the Premier League this season, yet as the campaign wore on, it was apparent that the wear and tear of it all was simply eroding his precision. His play in the buildup will also have to improve moving forward, as the top number nines can make goals happen where they shouldn’t happen at all; yet with so much weight to score on his shoulders this season, the Blues simply lost or drew many matches in which he was unable to save them himself, which is something that must be addressed during the summer.
He was the most likely Toffee to score this season, with an expected .5 goals per 90’ that he played with Everton; Richarlison was second as might be expected with .22 goals per 90’. DCL didn’t make the 20 league goals target that Ancelotti had set him, but definitely did improve due to the instruction from the veteran manager.
Grade - A-
Appearances - 40, Goals - 13, Assists - 3, Yellow Cards - 5, Red Cards - 1, PL xG+xA/90 - 0.44
The Brazilian meanwhile scored only seven goals with three assists in the Premier League, with 13 in total across all competitions this season, after having scored 13 in the Premier League alone last season. While Richarlison played well for the team at times, he never seemed to flourish this year as a lone number nine during games where Dominic Calvert-Lewin was unavailable, or even as a lone option from his winger position to be frank; he was a solid number two option behind our number nine, that is the long and short of it.
Richarlison’s less productive season than last manifested itself in many ways and in matches where he was relied on as the main man, he disappointed. He will have to work on his fundamentals this offseason, particularly on when and where to pass, and his shooting - 7 goals from an xG of 10.67 is unlike his previous years when he’s been more opportunistic.
While he found success as a striking partner alongside Dominic Calvert-Lewin, as has been the case in prior seasons, he was most comfortable on the left wing, especially with someone of competence on the right to relieve the pressure upon him and when Lucas Digne helped create an overlap on his flank allowing him to cut inside.
There is no doubting his skill, yet his attitude is sometimes also an issue, with body language that outwardly displays frustration or anger; composure is super important in football, and whether its in regards to finishing, beginning or competing, it is the most composed players who ultimately have the greatest impact upon each match.
Grade - B
Appearances - 11, Goals - 0, Assists - 0, Yellow Cards - 0, Red Cards - 0, PL xG+xA/90 - 0.60
The AFC Bournemouth striker was brought in during the January transfer window and simply struggled to get onto the pitch at all once he got to Merseyside. Statistically speaking, he provided the club with nothing in regards to goals or assists, and while some fans question why he was left on the bench for so many matches, I simply conclude that he did not demonstrate the form necessary to make it onto the pitch, or even onto the squad for many matches.
He was unfortunately denied a goal by a refereeing and VAR omission in the win over West Ham United, which would have been a fair return for the 100-odd minutes of action he saw for the Blues. While King is undoubtedly better than he showed for us, there is no reason to suspect that he would’ve made any major difference with more playing time; had he showed this on the training pitch it is logical to suspect that our vaunted ex-boss would’ve featured him more often.
Grade - Incomplete
For DCL and Richarlison, the future is bright, and while the departure of Carlo Ancelotti is stunning, the right manager and staff can keep each player moving on the proper trajectory with little disturbance. Everton need now, not only a boss of course, but better and more efficient depth behind Dominic and the Brazilian; Joshua King simply wasn’t that, and his departure leaves the team none the worse for having taken the chance, at least financially speaking.
With the sale of Moise Kean to PSG or Juventus likely, Everton will have additional funds to play with and attract a new boss with; after finding the next manager, it will be crucial for Marcel Brands and that individual to sit down and plan how they will help this team at each and every level. Getting DCL and Richarlison further help scoring and creating will have to be a major part of whatever plan comes together at this point, because while each player will continue to improve, the team around them will have to improve as well to really allow for each player to shine as brightly as they are capable.
I have high hopes and expectations for DCL and Richarlison, and I believe that with the proper investment, each could really take off this next season, demonstrating the lessons learned from Don Carlo, as well as an extremely tough, grueling campaign that ended in multiple disappointments. If they are not given the proper manager, staff and teammates around them however, then it is quite possible that we witness regression in the coming season, which might ultimately foment greater frustration amongst these young, talented strikers.