Dominic Calvert-Lewin's fine early-season form for Everton has earned him a place in Gareth Southgate's latest England squad — and it's easy to see why.
As rain tumbled across the Selhurst Park touchline, Carlo Ancelotti cracked a wry smile. The manager’s grin, however, did not stem from James Rodríguez’s perfectly-weighted pass, or indeed the industry shown by Séamus Coleman to maraud forward and play a ball across the face of the penalty area.
No, Ancelotti’s understated delight was instead reserved for what happened next. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, having checked his run just seconds before, demonstrated acute awareness as he shifted gears, bursting forward to meet Coleman’s cut-back and duly tuck away the chance with great aplomb.
The goal marked Everton’s 15th of the season and a fifth for Calvert-Lewin personally, all of which have come via a first-time finish. “A striker has to score with one touch,” Ancelotti told the media in the aftermath of the win. “I told him [Calvert-Lewin] that with more than one touch it is difficult to score.
“I had a fantastic striker in [Flippo] Inzaghi, who scored 300 goals and 210 with one touch. A striker has to be focused in the box and I think Calvert-Lewin understands really well because, in the box, he has speed, he jumps really high, he has power.”
The Italian has coached his fair share of world-class strikers over the years, and a comparison to one of Serie A’s all-time greats is a key indicator of just how potent Calvert-Lewin has become since the new Premier League season got underway.
The forward’s worked meticulously to refine his game in recent years, with the fruits of his labour finally coming to fruition. “I am working on my movement and it’s not always necessarily on the training pitch,” he told Everton’s website back in January.
“I get on my laptop at home and study the game. I am doing my homework, I am a student of the game and still learning. Analysing the finer details has helped me a lot. Anyone can run and run fast. You have to do it at the right time and get in positions to be as effective as possible.”
Calvert-Lewin’s playing style
Calvert-Lewin is something of a throwback: an old-fashioned number nine, capable of roughing up opponents and preying on mistakes before coming alive in the penalty area to devastating effect. He doesn’t drop back and create play like a Roberto Firmino or Harry Kane, instead opting to contest aerial duels and loiter around the edge of the box.
He may dress like a maverick, but his on-pitch displays speak to a much simpler style. That much is seen in the fact he averages just under 14 passes per match. But while goals may have been lacking from his game in years gone by, the increased ability in Everton’s squad this season is already supplying him with greater service, both in quantity and quality.
For Everton, Calvert-Lewin stars as a sole striker in Ancelotti's 4-3-3 formation. Richarlison’s explosive capacity from the left and Rodríguez’s skillful nonchalance on the right draws defenders out and, in turn, creates the space required for Calvert-Lewin to operate at his best.
Everton’s new dawn
After multiple false dawns, Everton’s early-season form suggests they may, finally, have found the right remedy for success. Of course, this has been helped in no small part by their shrewd business in the summer transfer window.
The signings of both Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré have immensely upgraded the Toffee’s previously stuttering midfield — the former adding some much-needed steel and the latter proving masterfully adept at driving forwards with the ball in transition — while the acquisition of Colombian superstar Rodríguez has made tongues wag well beyond Merseyside.
For all the talent added to the squad, though, it is Calvert-Lewin who has shone brightest. Allan can win the big 50/50s, Doucouré can break opposition lines, and Rodríguez, in typically languid fashion, can pick out passes others can’t even see, but without Calvert-Lewin there to convert the chances, it all amounts to nothing.
Last season saw Calvert-Lewin break double digits for Premier League goals for the first time in his career, and he’s already halfway there again this campaign after only three games. The striker currently sits joint-top of the league’s goalscoring charts with Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, and put away a second consecutive hat-trick at Goodison Park last night as his side overcame West Ham 4-1 in the League Cup.
Calvert-Lewin for England
Those strikes have taken the forward’s tally to eight goals in all competitions this season, numbers which have impressed England manager Gareth Southgate enough to call Calvert-Lewin up for the October internationals.
The Sheffield-born forward has a decent record at youth-level with the Three Lions, notching six goals for the U20s and a further seven for the U21s. Now 23-years-old, Calvert-Lewin will be hoping to break into Southgate’s set up on a permanent basis and earn his senior debut.
Spurs hitman Harry Kane occupies the only striking spot in England’s current system, but Calvert-Lewin will surely fancy his chances of being first in reserve come next summer.
He’ll have to fend off competition from the likes of Danny Ings and Tammy Abraham — and perhaps even Patrick Bamford, Ollie Watkins, Callum Wilson or Eddie Nketiah — but with a world-class manager guiding him at club-level and eight goals already this season, all signs point towards it being Calvert-Lewin’s spot to lose from here on out.
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