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Iwobi better than Ronaldo? Lampard gets Nigeria star ticking at Everton

8:56 AM SGT 13/2/22
Alex Iwobi of Everton vs Leeds
The Super Eagles wideman delivered one of his best performances in blue on Saturday

Comparing Alex Iwobi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s performances on Saturday, and you’d be hard pressed to know who's arguably the greatest player of his generation.

The latter toiled in Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Southampton, while the former enjoyed one of his best displays in an Everton shirt as Leeds United were trounced 3-0 at Goodison Park.

It was a valuable comeback for the Nigeria wideman, who was making his first start since receiving a red card after only seven minutes of the Super Eagles’ 1-0 Africa Cup of Nations defeat by Tunisia in the Round of 16.

Ronaldo may have created one goalscoring chance against Southampton, but Iwobi created five against Leeds—more than any other player on the pitch as Marcelo Bielsa and Frank Lampard’s sides went head to head.

Iwobi also surpassed Ronaldo in terms of pass accuracy, registering 34 passes with a pass accuracy of 85.3 percent – eclipsing CR7, who registered just 14 passes with a paltry 71.4 percent success rate.

The Nigerian took more shots than Ronaldo, and—a sign of his pivotal involvement in the Toffees’ attacking play—took 61 touches (no one took more), which come in sharp contrast to CR7’s 33.

Defensively, unsurprisingly, Ronaldo contributed little to the Red Devils—one tackle and zero interceptions—whereas Iwobi put in a shift for the Toffees, registering three tackles and also making one valuable interception as Everton blew away struggling Leeds.

One game doesn’t really take Iwobi anywhere close to Ronaldo, nor will it convince the vast majority of Everton sceptics that he can prove to be worth the whopping outlay the School of Science parted with to sign him from Arsenal.

We’ve long known his form is intrinsically connected to his confidence—similar to other Everton players such as Michael Keane or Ben Godfrey—and it’s little wonder that Iwobi has lost his way since moving to Goodison Park.

The terraces on Merseyside have rarely been a happy place, with fans already on the players’ back upon his arrival—during the troubled tenure of Marco Silva—and then disappearing altogether (intermittently) as the coronavirus pandemic enveloped Carlo Ancelotti’s reign.

Rafael Benitez was never truly taken to the heart of Toffees fans, even during his initial strong start at the club, with some portions of the supporters never accepting him as a potential Everton head coach due to his Liverpool connections.

As the team’s form has slipped, the atmosphere has become toxic, and it’s little surprise that Iwobi has retreated within himself and hasn’t come close to realising his potential in the Blue half of Merseyside.

Yet the arrival of Lampard, and what that means both for morale and for the team’s tactical approach, may well usher in a change of fortunes.

Against Leeds, Iwobi appeared both at times liberated to create, and also committed to fulfilling a more disciplined role—in different phases of play—to serve the team.

In possession, as Everton sought to control the game more than they typically did under Benitez, he appeared to enjoy a freer role to cut inside, overload the heart of the Leeds defence, and create opportunities for those around him.

With the likes of Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli joining Richarlison, Andre Gray, Andros Townsend and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton should enjoy more of the ball, and can be confident going into games that they have sufficient weaponry to hurt opponents.

Without the ball, he focused on his duties as a defensive winger, closing the gaps, protecting the full-back, and neutralising Raphinha.

An Iwobi problem at Everton, of course, has always been consistency; momentary excellence flanked by poor control and a lack of concentration, a game-changing intervention, followed by an anonymous display.

Can he build on this performance against Leeds?

Can he follow it up and repeat the trick against Southampton next weekend? Against Manchester City later in the month?

By and large, Iwobi has maintained his work rate at Everton, even if the decision-making or the technical execution has been lacking.

It’s imperative the work rate doesn’t drop, and if he can add the kind of quality he showed against Leeds on a consistent basis, then Lampard could have an awesome asset in his ranks.