With the busy Christmas period now underway for the Premier League, rotation has become a priority. For Ademola Lookman this could be an ideal time to prove a point at Everton.
This time last year the youngster was an unhappy soul. A handful of appearances was the best he had managed under Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce. By the end of the January transfer window, he found himself in Germany with RB Leipzig.
The Bundesliga proved to be an ideal location for Lookman’s development. 11 games produced five goals, four assists and plenty of plaudits. It also produced a summer-long transfer pursuit from the Germans which Everton resisted. Throughout the summer transfer window, Marco Silva and Marcel Brands insisted that Lookman not only had a future at Goodison Park but a bright one at that.Furthermore, he was a big part of their plans moving forward. Indeed, Brands was open about having before identified the winger as a target while in charge at PSV Eindhoven.
Faith, however, has not turned into appearances. Silva may believe Lookman is an asset but is yet to hand the 21-year-old a serious chance to prove it. Lookman may have featured in 11 of Everton’s 17 games but only one of them has been a starter.
The youngster has again had to content himself with warming the bench. At the start of the season, Theo Walcott’s form justified his exclusion. Two goals in three games earned him a first-team place. Beyond that, though, Silva could argue that in a team changing as much as Everton, Walcott’s experience was necessary.
That argument has been harder to make as time has worn on. The more Everton have adapted to Silva and his methods the less that experience has been needed. Walcott’s performances have not justified his starting role either. He is without a goal since scoring against Southampton in the League Cup at the beginning of October. His last league goal was against Bournemouth on August 25th.
In a team without a top-class striker that requires goals from all areas, Walcott has not been chipping in. Beyond the numbers, his performances have left a lot to be desired.
The same cannot be said of Lookman. While he struggled in his first and only start he has been impressive from the bench. Often appearing midway through the second half he has often been a smart change to make. He brings pace, trickery and directness into Everton’s play every time a chance is handed to him. His ability to open up defences with those skills is an asset that has been well used.
His 33-minute cameo in the defeat to Manchester City provided perfect evidence. That short spell at the Etihad saw him create three chances, more than any other Everton midfielder or forward had managed over the last five games combined. Impressive on Lookman’s part but further proof that something isn’t clicking when it comes to Everton’s forward line. That is hardly likely to improve, especially considering the Blues now face a winter period in which they play a game every three days and have the joint lowest fewest rest days in the league.
The situation is ripe for a fresh, energetic Lookman to inject some impetus into the team. Everton are stumbling of late and could do with a player like him to put some newfound energy into the rest of the squad.
His performances from the bench have warranted it. On the other hand, Walcott’s mean that a change is needed too. It is the most obvious change for Marco Silva to make in this hectic period of games. There is also the argument of Lookman’s development. Taking things slowly is all well and good but sooner or later he needs regular, first-team football to develop. He showed as much at RB Leipzig last season and they benefitted from it.
Of course, it is a brave decision for a manager to throw a 21-year-old into the starting eleven during the Christmas period. It is a testing time that often catches out the best of pros. Lookman, though, has earned his chance. It’s time Everton and Silva showed some faith. They may be handsomely rewarded if they do.
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