Frank Lampard must have sensed the impending criticism of Alex Iwobi when he expressed a hope in his post match analysis that his player would not be defined by the error that led to West Ham’s winning goal.
Make no mistake I, like many other supporters, have regularly questioned Iwobi’s contribution to the squad. When he scored a goal in two consecutive games in his maiden 2019 season under Marco Silva, hopes were high that he would flourish at Everton. No more goals came that season, and just two last season and three this term show clearly that he is not exactly a goalscoring solution for the Blues and a lot of his other constructive play over the last two and a half years has been distinctly average to be honest.
However, all permanent managers Marco Silva, Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez and now Lampard, recently echoed by the words of club captain Seamus Coleman, have spoken out in support of Iwobi, highlighting his effort and flair in training. Many Evertonians, me included, have wondered how these training ground performances have not been witnessed when it really matters on a Premier League pitch.
Yesterday, in spite of the supporting words, Iwobi took the merciless criticism on his shoulders for one mistake that led to the winning goal for West Ham. Little mention was made of the perfect through balls from Iwobi to give Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin clear chances which were completely fluffed. Little mention either of the energy and willingness to show for the ball throughout the game, just a verbal battering for failing to control a pass he probably wasn’t expecting from Michael Keane given that the defender had an easier option to pass to Richarlison?
For that goal, which other team at the point they lost the ball inside the opposition half would have five defenders (Ben Godfrey, Jonjoe Kenny, Vitalii Mykolenko, Keane and Mason Holgate) goalside of the eventual scorer Jarrod Bowen and still give up the goal? It wasn’t just Iwobi at fault for that one but you’d be forgiven for thinking so given the lambasting he got in some quarters. The collective lack of alertness and pace to get back and defend was the real embarrassment not one mis-control by Iwobi.
Failure to translate training performances into the pressure pot of real games suggests a lack of confidence which seems as rife at Everton as Covid right now. The last thing Iwobi needs (and we as supporters need as he WILL get selected) is for that brittle confidence to be shattered further. The same applies of course to other players who are way below their best form. There are many of those unfortunately.
Against West Ham yesterday, Iwobi had the joint most touches (60) alongside Abdoulaye Doucoure, and the most passes (55) for the Blues as well. His 38 passes played forward also led the team, and he drove the team forward with 30 passes in the final third.
Iwobi had a very good game yesterday, he mis-controlled one pass and failed with, I think, two more ambitious through balls but his contributions were hugely positive. There is a definite argument to be made that Keane should not have played that ‘hospital’ pass to him with three Hammers on him while Richarlison was streaking free on the left. Some others who seem to be more exempt from criticism did not have good games. I, for one, will be hoping to see more of the endeavour and “bottle” that Iwobi displayed on Sunday in the upcoming games. Keep your head up Alex!