Despite the result, Alex Iwobi let Carlo Ancelotti down on his return to the starting line-up as Everton beat West Bromwich Albion 1-0 on Thursday night.
The Nigerian forward had featured for just seven minutes over the Toffees’ previous two Premier League fixtures, after falling out of the side for last month’s 2-0 Merseyside Derby win away to rivals Liverpool.
Ancelotti sought to offer the 24-year-old a recall at the Hawthorns as Everton played their second of three fixtures in the space of eight days, with James Rodriguez not risked and Gylfi Sigurdsson initially rested after featuring against Southampton on Monday.
Was Ancelotti wrong to start Iwobi vs WBA?
Yes, what was he thinking?
No, he had to rest and rotate
Opening the action away to Sam Allardyce’s relegation-threatened Baggies marked Iwobi’s 13th start in 23 outings during the top-flight campaign to date, having been a staple of the Blues line-up over the festive period.
But his night would end in only the 58th minute as Ancelotti sought to put Everton in control of the midfield battle, with Allan introduced from the bench to instigate a shift in formation from the 3-4-1-2 with which the Toffees initially took to the field.
Iwobi was an easy choice for the Italian tactician to haul off early in the second period, having wasted a handful of promising opportunities in the first half to deliver a cross into Sam Johnstone’s penalty area.
The £22.9m-rated attacker, operating in a right-midfield role, was off the pace in most scenarios and delivered a performance akin to the displays Everton saw throughout last season which sparked Darren Bent to question where his qualities are.
“For all his endeavour – he does work really hard and he tries really hard – there’s no end product, there’s no quality there,” the former England international told Football Insider last July.
“He works really hard, you’ve got to give that to him, he puts a shift in but when it comes to that real bit of quality where it’s the final delivery, scoring a goal or the final pass, he hasn’t quite got that.”
During the 57 minutes in which Iwobi featured, Everton registered eight shots with just two on target. Three of those efforts came from Richarlison, two from Andre Gomes and one from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Bernard and Ben Godfrey, per WhoScored.
As well as not testing Johnstone, Iwobi additionally failed to create a chance for a Blues player to shoot, despite Calvert-Lewin (2), Bernard (1) and Abdoulaye Doucoure (1) – those closest on the field to the £50,000-per-week forward – registering at least one key pass each.
Part of Iwobi’s struggles stemmed from issues getting on the ball, with every outfield Everton player except Richarlison (22) and Calvert-Lewin (28) registering more touches than the ex-Arsenal playmaker (29).
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who took 28 touches, also outpassed Iwobi, with 14 accurate balls from 19 attempts to the Nigerian’s 11 from 15. Iwobi averages 19.8 passes (16.2 accurate) and with an 82% success rate per top-flight game this season, per SofaScore.