Stats: 2021/22 Everton Wingers
Stats: 2021/22 Everton Wingers
Last season saw a mixed bag of performances from an inconsistent group of wingers who either changed games or didn’t impact them one bit. At the beginning of the season, Demarai Gray thrived in Rafa Benitez’s park-the-bus system by utilizing his blistering pace on the counter but struggled to retain any sort of consistency after the Spaniard’s departure. Due to DCL’s constant struggle for fitness, Richarlison found himself up top for a majority of the season. Anthony Gordon broke onto the scene mid-season and was a key piece in the Toffees’ survival, but his output and decision-making in the final third must improve significantly for Everton to have a “good” season.
Alex Iwobi found himself playing central midfield many times down the stretch and established himself as one of the hardest working players in the league despite not having much of a say on the scoresheet. Andros Townsend was Everton’s leading goalscorer in all competitions up until an ACL injury at Selhurst Park ended his season prematurely.
In Lampard’s apparently preferred 3-4-3 (aka 5-4-1) formation, the wingers are asked to push higher and into the half spaces in order to allow the wingbacks to provide the width while on the attack. With Calvert-Lewin relatively isolated up top due to the lack of a #10 or a second striker in the system, the wingers are very important not only in providing an outlet for a midfield that struggles to play around the press but also in creating opportunities for the lone striker to score.
Although the departed Richarlison provided key goals and assists during the final stretch of the season, Townsend, Gray, Gordon, and Iwobi all provided a greater input of shot-creating actions and expected assists. That being said, the Brazilian’s goals will need to be replaced, and if Lampard is hoping to make them up through Calvert-Lewin, this crop of wingers will need to further increase their creativity and production. The signing of Dwight McNeil should help as well, but more on him later.
The Finch Farm product announced his arrival on the scene, but this season he will be required to significantly improve on his 7-goal contributions in all competitions last year. Like many of his teammates, Gordon’s defensive effort and output were simply superb, and his dynamism and elusiveness brought a different element to the squad. He split his time between both wings, registering 15 appearances on the left and 22 on the right, but although new-boy Dwight McNeil made 11 appearances on the right for Burnley last year, one would expect him to fill in on the left, leaving Gordon on the right. Andros Townsend is still the only natural right winger in the squad, but until he has completed his rehab that spot is Gordon’s to lose. Having just been handed the #10 shirt, it’s clear that Lampard & co have faith in the 21-year-old, but with plenty of competition in the squad, he’ll have to earn his place in the team each and every week.
As previously mentioned, the former Leicester City winger and one-time Premier League winner had a fantastic purple patch at the start of the 2021/22 campaign when he scored three goals in his first four Premier League appearances for the club. In December, he scored what turned out to be a consolation goal in the Derby at Goodison, and then thundered in an unbelievable winner against Arsenal at the Gwladys Street End, but it would prove to be his final Premier League goal of the season. The 26-year-old’s drop in form coincided with that of the team itself, and fitness problems contributed to his inability to get back to the fantastic football he was playing early on. With the arrival of McNeil and the club’s clear confidence in Gordon, Demarai Gray will have to graft to get a starting spot, but his performances in pre-season have been encouraging and he remains an important cog in the Everton attack.
The Toffees' most recent acquisition is, of course, Dwight McNeil, who has featured heavily in the Premier League for Burnley since making his debut aged 18. Despite being just 22, he has already made 134 Premier League appearances, and although he had a rough campaign in 2021/22, he has plenty of Premier League quality in that wand of a left peg. We saw a few glimpses of his ability in the recent friendly at Goodison against Dynamo Kyiv when McNeil came off the bench, looked very composed and tidy on the ball, and then slammed home beauty with his left boot from outside the box and tapped in fellow debutant Ruben Vinagre’s cross on the noggin. Despite having good underlying numbers, McNeil only registered one goal contribution last season in the form of an assist against Brentford, but should his production more accurately reflect those metrics, Everton will have quite the player on their hands. I’m very excited to see how Everton’s new #7 cracks on this season.
2021/22 was Iwobi’s best in an Everton shirt despite the utter chaos unfolding around him. His versatility was a huge asset for Frank Lampard last season, especially when you consider the consistent stream of injuries that plagued the squad from start to finish. Although he has yet to live up to the hefty price tag on his move from Arsenal, Iwobi is an important contributor to Everton’s industry and guile and provides skill with the ball that the rest of the squad lacks. Iwobi and McNeil are two of the best and most progressive dribblers in the league, and so having them on the same pitch could cause quite the headache for any backline.
Not enough was said about the absence of Andros Townsend during the run-in last season, as I truly believe his ACL injury had a big impact on the team’s potentness. Townsend possessed the best delivery in the squad and had a knack for scoring big and/or stunning goals. Let’s hope for more successful rehab and a speedy recovery!
State of the Position
Once Andros Townsend returns, the wings will likely be the deepest position within the squad, as I believe any of these 5 players can work their way into the XI and impact the game. Although none of them are world beaters (yet), there isn’t much of a drop-off between those that would be considered first choice and those further down the pecking order, and so hopefully the competition between them and a “next man up” mentality can get the absolute best out of this unit in what is a big season for the club. God knows we’ll need it.