From the Handbook: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
This profile was originally published in the Scouted Football Handbook 2018, our massive, 114-player profile e-book published in March 2018. You can download it for free here.
2017 IN REVIEW
An integral cog in England’s U-20 World Cup winning machine underpinned a successful year for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Spearheading a quick counter-attacking side, Calvert-Lewin’s pace and movement was key to exposing space for his Everton team-mates Ademola Lookman and Kieran Dowell to isolate players. More importantly, it opened up the attack for Merseyside rival Dominic Solanke to wreak goal-scoring havoc. Calvert-Lewin scored the goal that crowned England World Cup champions in a 1-0 win against Venezuela; a goal that provides a perfect snapshot of the Englishman’s current level, his strengths and — perhaps surprisingly — what he needs to improve.
Fast forward to the beginning of the 2017/18 season and the complete lack of replacements for high-profile departure Romelu Lukaku meant Dominic Calvert-Lewin was tasked with leading the line at club level. Unfortunately, the expensively but not necessarily intelligently established Everton side fell to pieces after a start filled with false hope. As for Calvert-Lewin himself, a brilliant performance against Man City saw the pace that caused so many problems in South Korea do similar damage to Vincent Kompany and the Manchester City defence. There have been glimpses of his talent during a time when it seemed impossible for any Everton player to stand out.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin was the first English player to score in any World Cup final since Geoff Hirst in 1966
By no means a world beater, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has very much had to fill in the gaps in the squad rather than carve out a set position for himself: right wing-back, right-wing, left-wing and centre-forward, the Everton man has been used in each role whilst playing most regularly in the latter. The appointment of Sam Allardyce cemented his place in the side, charged with hassling and harrying opposition defenders whilst also providing a direct outlet for the likes of Rooney and Sigurðsson to seek out with direct balls into the channels.
A combination of current weaknesses in his own game as well as the problems that plague Everton, 2017 was for the most part a year of discovery through trial and error. A clear style of play has started to emerge, as has a designated position to match. However, because of Everton’s relative instability and volatility, it would be dangerous to suggest this level of exposure will continue. He deserves credit for the role he has played, but even Calvert-Lewin himself will realise his side need a stronger identity which may see him deployed in a different role.
But, whether excelling in the white of England or feeding on scraps in the blue of Everton, there is definitely evidence of his talent and in 2017 Dominic Calvert-Lewin was given his first major chance to show it. For the most part, he did.
STYLE OF PLAY
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s play-style is dictated by his physical profile: strong, quick, fit. The emerging crop of English talent has been praised for its increased technical ability, and whilst Calvert-Lewin is certainly no donkey with the ball at his feet, he is very much a direct player who thrives when hurtling towards defenders at break-neck speed rather than relying on guile and agility. As was mentioned in the review of last year’s performances, his place up front in counter-attacking sides has seen this pace used as his primary weapon.
Running the channels constantly to create space for team-mates operating behind the frontline, Calvert-Lewin already excels in the art of stretching defenders and dragging them away from their posts. When sought out by long-raking passes into the space behind the opposition, his speed and strength not only give him the advantage in terms of getting to the ball first, but also retaining possession when doing so. The Everton forward’s height is also an asset. Closing in on 6’2”, he is becoming just as much a nuisance in an aerial battle as he is in a foot race. Despite not yet fine-tuning the technical aspect of his heading — direction, weight, power — he already has the ability to challenge well in the air due to his size, spring in his leap, and an unyielding determination that serves him so well when leading the line on his own.
Due to Calvert-Lewin’s excellent physical attributes, the ball is rarely played into his feet, with through balls proving to be the best way to exploit his speed and strength. That being said, the more starts he has strung together and the clearer Everton’s identity under Sam Allardyce became, the more one saw the ball at Calvert-Lewin’s feet and how he fared with his back to goal.
With Premier League defences being more compact and organised on the whole compared to those at youth international level, this is something that will develop the more Premier League games he plays. Because of his aforementioned aerial prowess, the Englishman has become a target of Jordan Pickford outlet passes that help to stretch the field for Everton.
Used as a winger when he first broke into Everton’s side, it is no surprise to find that he possesses the necessary splash of flair to excel as the spearhead of his side’s attack. At this moment in his career, however, it is far too inconsistent to be relied upon. The England forward often appears more clumsy than classy with the ball at his feet, far more comfortable galloping into open space than weaving his way out of tighter ones. This is not to say there have not been glimpses of a deft touch that would see him develop into a striker with a complete skill set; but as has been the theme of Calvert-Lewin’s career so far, glimpses are all he has provided thus far.
Overall, the best description of Dominic Calvert-Lewin is a player that is currently better off the ball than he is on it. His running has a purpose and is often intelligent and highly effective. His physical profile allows him to compete both on the ground and in the air for the entire game, giving him the potential to become a focal point for his side. However, given the ‘clumsiness’ of his dribbling at times and the erratic finishing that seems to match, his technical attributes need to be refined if he wants to establish himself as a Premier League centre-forward.
FORECAST FOR THE FUTURE
Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s involvement with the first team post-U-20 World Cup win was perhaps not expected. Most of his team-mates from that tournament struggled to make the breakthrough despite stringing together impressive performances; Ademola Lookman, also at Everton but on loan at RB Leipzig, is the perfect example. The fear for 2018 therefore is that his role in the side becomes diluted. A more robust and consistent centre-forward in the form of Cenk Tosun may push the World Cup winner out of the side, or at least see him used in a different position due to his versatility — a situation that can prove dangerous for young players. Theo Walcott’s arrival also poses problems.
2017 was an excellent year for Calvert-Lewin’s development because of his first team exposure and thus it feels strange to suggest 2018 may not be as rewarding. That being said, the goals he scored and the performances he put in towards the end of last year will have certainly cemented his place in the first team squad. Whether he is given the opportunity to progress and develop in the same way remains to be seen, but my one conclusion is that he certainly deserves a place in a Premier League side.