COMMENT By Seye Omidiora Follow on Twitter
Evertonians felt a deep sense of loss following Sunday’s 1-0 Merseyside derby defeat at Liverpool.
For those none the wiser, the feeling wasn’t just a consequence of the derby day defeat at the hands of their city rivals, given they haven’t won at Anfield this century, but it was the manner in which the Blues failed to see out a goalless draw.
Having given a good account of themselves, at least a point appeared in the offing.
The defeat will have rankled with Marco Silva. The latest coach at Goodison Park had promised his side wouldn’t cower in fear against Jurgen Klopp’s charges, but play with emotion and the desire to secure a first win at Anfield since 1999.
It was a promise his side fulfilled on Sunday, and there are positives to take, with Ademola Lookman’s cameo appearance among them.
The winger replaced Theo Walcott right after the hour mark and was bright in the minutes afforded to him.
In 27 minutes, the youngster created twice as many chances as the withdrawn Englishman had done, although it should be noted that it was Walcott that played in Andre Gomes for his first-half miss.
Lookman completed more passes during his half-hour appearance, won more duels than the ineffectual Walcott, and showed really good footwork. He also demonstrated magnificent acceleration to wriggle out of a tight area in the inside-right position before playing in Bernard for an effort from the edge of the area that the Brazilian dragged wide.
However, despite his form, Silva appears to see the youngster as nothing more than a backup to his first-choice selection, irrespective of form.
The youngster’s eight appearances this season have all been off the bench, and when you take into account the recent decline in Walcott’s performances in the last month or thereabouts, it beggars belief that the former Watford trainer hasn’t considered making a change in that position.
Perhaps there is an explination: Richarlison, who has been prolific this season leading the line, and Bernard, are players who want the ball into feet as opposed to the former Arsenal forward, who thrives when running into space behind the defence.
Having three similar players in forward areas, with no one running off the bal,l may be detrimental to Everton's forward line.
However, with Walcott only finding the back of the net a meagre five times (twice this season) in 28 outings since his move from the North London club in January, now may be appropriate time to switch things up.
Things could be about to change, with Silva revealing in Tuesday's pre-match press conference that the wonderkid is ‘100% in contention’ for a start for Newcastle United’s visit to Goodison.
It’ll then be up to the youngster to seize his opportunity and play his way into Silva’s Everton renaissance, following their slump in recent years.
If he cannot, then Lookman runs the risk of becoming another youngster who’s failed to live up to his undoubted promise. He hasn’t kicked-on in the Prem since his debut appearance in the Blues’ 4-0 hammering of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side in January 2016 - a game when he found the back of the net off the bench.
Frankly, his development has been stunted by the managerial upheaval at Finch Farm that has seen him play under three different bosses in under three years; Ronald Koeman (who signed him from Charlton Athletic), Sam Allardyce and Silva.
It’s also disheartening when you take into account the 21-year old departed on loan in January to RasenBallsport Leipzig, against Allardyce’s wishes, only to return to Merseyside with the Englishman out of a job.
For what it’s worth, he did prove Big Sam wrong by enjoying a great time in the German top tier. He scored on his debut for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, before going on to find the back of the net four more times in 10 appearances, which saw him end his short spell with five goals in 11 appearances.
The Bulls recognized his talent and appreciated his impact in his short stay so much so they reportedly had several bids rejected in the summer to make his deal permanent.
It's strange that Silva, who labelled Lookman the ‘present and future’ in the summer, hasn’t followed up on his statement by rewarding the talented wideman with ample gametime.
The Portuguese coach reportedly fought tooth and nail to keep him, owing to his belief in the young forward, so his subsequent dearth of appearances is surprising.
With the Rafael Benitez’s Magpies visiting Goodison on Wednesday, only days after the derby defeat, Silva has an ideal opportunity to put his money where his mouth is.