On Saturday, after Everton had beaten Brighton 4-2 to continue their blistering start to the season, Toffees’ star striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin took to Twitter to share seven simple words: “Another goal. Another win. What a week.”
He could have added: “What a month. What a year.” Saturday’s towering back-post header to open the scoring at Goodison was his ninth goal in six games so far this season. Under the instruction of Carlo Ancelotti, and expertly backed up by James Rodriguez, Richarlison, Abdoulaye Doucoure and the rest of the
supporting cast, the 23-year-old is flourishing and has become the finest out-and-out centre-forward in the country at the moment.
And this week, Calvert-Lewin’s season is set to improve even further. He has been called into Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the first time, and with three games squeezed into seven days – a friendly with Wales, followed by two Nations League matches against Belgium and Denmark – there will almost certainly be an opportunity for him to earn his first international cap.
“I’m thoroughly looking forward to going away with England,” he said after the Brighton match. “It’s something I’ve worked very hard for and dreamed about for a long time. It’s about age and maturity and learning from my past experiences, and now I’m reaping the rewards.”
It is a reward he deserves, but if Calvert-Lewin is as mature as he claims – and there is no reason to doubt him – then he will know that he will not walk into the England team. There is a significant obstacle standing in his way.
Another goal. Another win. What a week 🦋 pic.twitter.com/rC7CVVHCoe— Dominic Calvert-Lewin (@CalvertLewin14) October 3, 2020
Harry Kane is the team’s captain and leader, he has 32 goals in 47 international appearances and, importantly, he performs a dual role that few others play so well.
If you asked Gareth Southgate which of his England team’s performances have come closest to the style of attacking play he dreams of when he puts his head on the pillow at night, he would, one imagines, pick the 3-2 away win over Spain from 2018.
That night, Kane put in one of his best displays in an England shirt. Interestingly, though, he did not find the net; the goals instead coming from Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling. Kane’s virtuosity was seen not in the penalty area, but in the build up.
For England’s first goal, the Spurs striker received a pass in the centre circle from Jordan Pickford, before playing a perfectly weighted ball to Rashford, who in turn set up Sterling to score. For the second, Kane battled with Sergio Ramos for a long ball, turned and again released Rashford who slotted past clubmate David de Gea. To make it three before the break, Kane ran in behind and squared the ball to Sterling for a tap in.
2018 feels a long time ago now, but the game is indicative of what Southgate expects of his front three. Like Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, he wants the wide men running beyond the central player and getting the goals. That does not mean Kane will not contribute – his record shows he is still plenty deadly – but he must also be creator.
At Tottenham, Kane has a similar relationship with Heung-min Son, for whom he supplied four assists in a single game at Southampton just a few weeks ago.
Despite his magnificent goal-scoring feats, Calvert-Lewin has a grand total of zero assists so far this campaign. That is not a criticism, but an observation. Providing chances is not his job at Everton, where James in inventor-in-chief and the full-backs provide added creative thrust.
After Calvert-Lewin scored a hat-trick against West Brom, Ancelotti left no doubt as to what he desires from the young Yorkshireman. “I had a fantastic striker in Inzaghi, who scored 300 goals and 210 with one touch,” the Italian remarked. “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. Where he has improved more is there, in the box.”
If Calvert-Lewin is to start for England consistently, then, he will either have to adapt his game or the team will have to adapt to him.
Adjusting his own game is not impossible – last season Calvert-Lewin spent far more time outside the box than he has this. But if he is to play, then Southgate would surely want him in the areas from where he is proving so dangerous. So how could the team adjust to that end?
Rashford or Sterling would seem a perfect fit for the former role, whilst Jack Grealish would be the best option for the latter. England’s full-backs, meanwhile, are certainly capable of providing the attacking width that would make such a system work.
It would, though, mean leaving both Kane and one of Rashford, Sterling and Jadon Sancho on the bench – a thought that is not wildly palatable.
Alternatively, then, Southgate could pair Kane and Calvert-Lewin and ask the wingers to stay wider, changing their roles to create as much as they finish.
Kane is more than capable of dropping to become a No.10 and is diligent enough to get back to form a midfield three when England are out of possession, whilst Rashford, Sterling and Sancho all have the skill to beat a defender and put in a cross.
It may, though, be too soon for Southgate to adjust tactically to accommodate Calvert-Lewin; a player who has only recently turned into this unstoppable goal machine.
For now, the onus is on the Everton player to demonstrate that he can be a positive influence around the squad and a useful option from the bench. Yet if Calvert-Lewin can maintain his club form over the whole season, the England manager may well be forced into a re-think.