When Dominic Calvert-Lewin was out of the Everton lineup last season, everyone knew that the scoring slack would have to be picked up by everyone, starting first with Richarlison and then everyone else. In the five Premier League matches where DCL was not available to play last season, the club was only able to score five goals, winning just once against Wolverhampton in the earlier part of the campaign.
Without the English international striker against Sean Dyche’s well-marshalled defence, the Toffees were able to nick three goals en route to a big win on Monday night at Goodison Park. Scoring thrice (in a seven minutes spell!) without your best scoring threat is a really positive sign for Everton. Last season 52% of the team goals in all competitions came from DCL and Richarlison alone. This season that percentage stands at 33% and will likely decrease further with Calvert-Lewin’s absence.
As Benitez said to the team, nothing has been accomplished yet
It is good to be excited and happy, there is no doubt. Everton, however, started last season just as well going unbeaten in eight games before incurring their first defeat, and then flamed out as the campaign went on under the duress of a lack of depth and quality in the absence of their main players.
In this season, James Rodriguez hasn’t even seen the pitch for the Toffees yet, while players like Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend continue to make real and true impacts on the team match in and out. Andre Gomes however looks a man revitalized and even Tom Davies was excellent in his holding midfielder role in the Carabao Cup game.
The absence of Abdoulaye Doucoure towards the end of the last season was, also, a very big issue that likely doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves for the way last season turned out; with him returned and paired with Allan, the Blues look a much more organized, sturdy and innovative sight than they did towards the tail-end of the last campaign. As was seen against Burnley by Doucoure, and against Brighton by Allan, the vision and skill of the outlet passes to Gray for eventual goals was simply breathtaking in each instance.
Getting regular goal contributions from the lesser lights of the squad is what will get Everton into positions of ending their European drought as well as finally picking up a domestic trophy. The added benefit of getting balanced goalscoring will come from giving opponents further headaches on who to attempt to mark out of the game without letting in goals from elsewhere.
As Salomon Randon rounds into match fitness, his impact as a like-for-like replacement for Calvert-Lewin could be of great benefit, especially in upcoming ties against Queens Park Rangers and Norwich City after that.
That brings us back to one James Rodriguez. While the player has claimed on social media that he is fit and ready to play, the manager has chosen to send a pretty telling message by not even including him in the squad on Monday night, likely indicating to the player that he has more work to do at Finch Farm to win himself a spot back in the matchday squad.
Form is temporary, but class is permanent
While Townsend and particularly Gray are looking to have been absolute steals for Marcel Brands and Rafa Benitez, the financial condition of the club has been long discussed, and so prohibited the club from making as many moves as anyone with an interest in the Blues would like; yet that is simply life currently.
Rafa has recently said that he hopes that can change in January, and that some moves can be made to help bolster this lineup. The wing could still use more assistance, as could both fullback positions. Whatever should come of the winter window, the club Rafa has at his disposal right now is definitely better than what was fielded last season.
Without Dominic Calvert-Lewin for however many matches it ends up being is a hardship that the club will have to overcome. If this match against Burnley is a sincere indication of what may or could come, then the team and its supporters should be in much better spirits as attention turns to the match against Aston Villa on Saturday; with or without our number nine, Rafa will have the Toffees prepared to compete against the Villans, that’s for sure.