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Alex Iwobi’s lack of goals is not for the want of trying

6:18 AM SGT 1/12/21
Alex Iwobi
Goals remain a rarity for the Everton attacking midfielder, but could this season’s change in approach begin to yield results soon?

No wins in two months and with free-scoring Liverpool to come next, where do Everton turn to for a turnaround in fortune?

When Rafael Benitez’s troops picked up a 2-0 success over Norwich City in late September, the Goodison Park faithful probably never foresaw the ensuing bleakness. Having won four of their opening seven games, drawing twice in that time too, five losses in the next six have been dispiriting.

The latest reverse in the unwanted run came on Sunday at Brentford, who came away with a 1-0 win courtesy of Ivan Toney’s penalty.

Both went into the game in appalling form and it represented a chance for either side to halt the free-fall after promising starts in 2021/22.

Indeed, the final score irritated the away support. Thomas Frank’s side had not picked up a win at the Brentford Community Stadium since their opening day success over Arsenal. Surely they were there for the taking.

In fairness, the home support probably felt the same about the Toffees before the weekend owing to the aforementioned run of unwanted results.

As is his critics’ wont, Alex Iwobi was on the receiving end of censure and was unsurprisingly made a lightning rod for the defeat against the Bees.

In a sense, the criticism is understood. For their heavy £34 million investment (initial £28 million) in 2019, the paltry return of a goal in each season and three assists altogether do not make for good reading.

Be that as it may, are Evertonians failing to consider a certain inclination to try even more shots in ‘21/22? At the risk of clutching at straws, what the eye test intermittently indicates is confirmed in the underlying numbers.

Iwobi has tended to go for goal a bit more this term, and he is currently averaging nearly two shots per 90. Compare this to last season and his debut season on Merseyside — 0.88 and 1.30 shots p/90 respectively — and this term’s 1.88 average suggests a greater willingness to make the goalkeeper work.

Indeed, this year’s mean not only outdoes his Everton standard but also outranks the Nigerian’s final year at Arsenal (1.60).

Of course, this may not placate disgruntled supporters but it is somewhat noteworthy that the attacking midfielder has attempted a shot in all but three games in all competitions this term.

A closer look at the three presents a level of mitigation. He came on for the final three minutes against Burnley in the league with the Toffees 3-1 up, the concluding 13 minutes following his introduction against Watford saw the Hornets run riot to stun Goodison 5-2 and there was little he could have done with the approach so negative at Manchester City.

On Sunday, when Benitez’s side looked to play on the front foot after being galvanised by Toney’s strike, Iwobi attempted two efforts, both in the second half as they chased the game.

The first was particularly indicative of the difference in the former Arsenal man. When the ball fell to him inside the box on the hour after Seamus Coleman’s cross caused some confusion, he quickly fired at goal, looking to equalise.

It was, undeniably, a weak attempt on his less-dominant foot, yet the effort was commendable. Noticeably, he did not stop getting into the box, looking to make a difference, evidenced by an 89th-minute header he admittedly got all wrong.

Indeed, his, and the side’s broader effort to halt their poor run was palpable.

“We are frustrated, we cannot complain about the effort of the players and the intensity they put in the game,” Benitez reflected after Sunday’s defeat.“They tried from the beginning until the end. We had a lot of crosses and a lot of shots.

“We couldn’t score and you can be disappointed like everyone because we don’t want to lose, but you can see the togetherness of the players and the way they were fighting until the last minute.

“The fans are expecting something more in terms of results but I think they appreciate the efforts of the players.”

Iwobi’s only league strike this season has been derided, largely due to the fact it was Everton’s only goal throughout November. Be that as it may, that strike to halve the deficit at Wolverhampton Wanderers in the eventual 2-1 defeat showcased the ongoing fondness for hitting his shots early before the opposing goalkeeper has set himself.

13 shot attempts this season is already two behind last term’s tally (15) and 10 behind the total volume of shots he took in his first campaign at the club (23).

Of course, avoiding low-percentage efforts is imperative, while the accuracy of the Nigerian’s shooting still needs some work, but the willingness to try should not be questioned anymore.

In a sense, it represents a step in the right direction and the Goodison faithful should let things play out, rather than avoid the habitual reactionary social media vitriol.