View: Iwobi importance laid bare by lack of Everton urgency v West Ham
He may not universally adored by Everton fans after a slow start to life at Goodison Park but Alex Iwobi’s absence against West Ham showed how important he is becoming to the side.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side stuttered in a 1-0 home defeat to the Hammers on Friday, with Tomas Soucek’s late winner a dagger in the hearts of Blues supporters.
With James Rodriguez still only fit for the bench Everton struggled to create many opportunities against a resolute side managed by former manager David Moyes.
But it wasn’t just a lack of creativity that was evident, it was also a lack of movement and urgency that was so vital against a team that were prepared to sit back and soak up the pressure.
This is where Iwobi’s increasing importance to the side is underlined.
In Everton’s previous game vs Sheffield United, a 1-0 win on December 26, Everton made 18 dribbles (WhoScored), with Iwobi completing a third (6) of those. Tom Davies was second with three.
Against West Ham, meanwhile, in a game where they had even more possession, Everton posted only seven dribbles with Davies (three again) the top performer in this regard, while wingers Bernard (zero) and Richarlison (one) failed to catch the eye.
In defence of Richarlison he was making his return to the side after missing the Bramall Lane victory with concussion sustained in the League Cup defeat to Manchester United three days earlier.
He is also 11th in the Premier League this season for dribbles attempted with a tally of 6.9 per 90 (Wyscout).
Iwobi (6.81) sits just below Richarlison in 12th, but it is the success rate that is especially noticeable between the pair.
The Nigeria midfielder is the Premier League’s second most successful dribbler according to Wyscout completing an impressive 70.31%, a figure mightily close to that of Jack Grealish (70.47%), the Aston Villa captain who has taken plenty of plaudits this season.
Iwobi is by no means the finished product and he still has plenty of aspects to improve on in order to establish himself as a secure first-team regular, especially his end product which has yielded just one assist and no goals this season.
But he has shown the value of possessing a player that can drive at defences, and his West Ham absence showed that Richarlison cannot do it all by himself as he bids to provide striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin with the service to end his six-game goal drought.
With Lucas Digne still absent from the side and the likes of Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey appearing at full back in recent weeks, the necessity to include a purposeful, forward-thinking ball carrier on the flanks has never been more obvious.
Everton have had to change their approach in recent times with Goodison Park victories over Chelsea and Arsenal in December featuring more resilient performances and deeper defensive displays.
January will be a difficult market to shop in for Everton and they may have to wait until the summer window before they eye the next step in their recruitment challenge and target some more elite level wingers.
Until then Iwobi will no doubt continue to play an increasingly integral role in the side as he battles to prove he is worthy of a lengthy Goodison Park stay.
In other Everton news, see our exclusive interview with Kevin Campbell to see what surprised him against West Ham.