Dominic Calvert-Lewin future hint as several Everton players say final goodbyes at Goodison Park

<a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Dominic Calvert-Lewin;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Dominic Calvert-Lewin</a> applauds during the English Premier League football match between <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Everton;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Everton</a> and <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Sheffield United;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Sheffield United</a> at Goodison Park in <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Liverpool;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Liverpool</a>, north west England on May 11, 2024 -Credit:Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Johnny back on the spot

Earlier in the season when Abdoulaye Doucoure was banging them in for fun, Everton manager Sean Dyche referred to his attack-minded midfielder as the team’s “Johnny on the spot” but after five months without a goal, he was back on the mark here to secure a fifth straight win at Goodison Park.

With the Blues’ top flight status having been secured in their previous outing here a fortnight ago with what was a third straight league win in the space of a week for the first time in 120 years, the relaxed manner in which this fixture was able to be played against an already-relegated Sheffield United was a world away from the pressure cooker atmosphere when Bournemouth arrived here for the final match of last season, when Doucoure also netted the only goal of the game in front of the Park End. It took a wonder-strike from the former Watford man to secure a third last-day ‘Great Escape’ from the drop for the club 12 months ago but this time around it was a simple close-range header.

With that hit against the Cherries being Doucoure’s fifth since Dyche’s appointment and then half a dozen more by the time he put them on their way to a 2-0 home win over Chelsea on December 10, he had 11 goals across a 26-game period. However, having been hampered by two separate hamstring injuries around the turn of the year, a significant blow to a player who relies so much on his hard running, the 31-year-old signed off at Goodison in style again here.

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Former Blade looks sharp

As a Sheffield lad playing against the club where he started his career, Dominic Calvert-Lewin was always going to be up for this fixture and he looked sharp from the off against the Blades.

Everton’s number nine is arguably the most-dominant aerial centre-forward in the Premier League on his day but we were treated to a fancy flick here that almost brought him what would have been a sensational goal on the volley. Having then teed up Doucoure for a chance that the midfielder squandered, Calvert-Lewin turned provider again to pick out his colleague for the only goal of the game with a smart, lofted delivery having been taken wide by visiting keeper Wes Foderingham with what was terrific, unselfish play to put his team-mate level with him as joint top scorer with seven Premier League goals with one game to spare.

Calvert-Lewin was so pumped for this one, his tenaciousness prompted opposition captain Jack Robinson to shove him in the chest – a melee that resulted in a booking for both players. While some have at times questioned the 27-year-old’s appetite for the fight as he suffered back-to-back seasons of injury woes, he has been a man reborn under Dyche, certainly in terms of his durability.

After netting from the spot at Luton Town in Everton’s previous fixture, Calvert-Lewin – whose current contract enters its final 12 months this summer – claimed not to have thought about his future but rather than risk losing him for nothing, you wonder whether he’s one of those players that director of football Kevin Thelwell says will be sold in the next transfer window. Youssef Chermiti offered some glimmers of promise for the future late on but he – and indeed compatriot Beto – are still well off matching the levels of only the fourth player to reach 50 Premier League goals for the club.

Goodison goodbyes

Along with Calvert-Lewin, there are several other players who many might wonder whether Goodison has seen them in a royal blue jersey for the final time, especially given the uncertainty over the ownership of the club and Thelwell’s comments.

Everton raising funds through selling one of their most valuable assets soon after the transfer window opens would be one of the most-obvious strategies to easing their cash-flow issues. While no Blue wants to see the season’s breakthrough star Jarrad Branthwaite – who again was imperious here – depart, especially so soon, the giant centre-back will understandably not be short of potential suitors.

If the player continues on his current steep trajectory then he could legitimately join fellow Englishmen Jack Grealish and Declan Rice in commanding a nine-figure price tag but Everton will have to hope they can conduct any potential future business on their terms. For all his immense talent, Amadou Onana, who returned to the starting line-up here for the first time since the 6-0 thrashing at Chelsea, looks a rather more palatable option to part ways with if a big money sale has to take place.

Then there are the squad members whose current deals are due to expire. Dele Alli hasn’t been involved all season and will surely go. We still don’t know about old stagers, Idrissa Gueye (the club have an option for a further year), Ashley Young and club captain Seamus Coleman but each one of them produced a typical performance here from what we’ve seen of them this term and unfortunately it was fitting of Andre Gomes’ six years at Goodison Park that what looks like his last act here was to trudge off injured.

Keeping it clean again

Having won just three Premier League games at Goodison Park between August and the end of March, Everton have now finished the season with five straight victories and five straight clean sheets on home turf since April 6.

The quintet of shut-outs takes the Blues to 13 for the campaign, ahead of every other club in the division other than Arsenal on 17 and some four more than third-placed Liverpool and five more than fourth-placed Aston Villa. Such defensive solidity has been the bedrock to a season that would have seen Dyche’s men level on points with a Brighton & Hove Albion side who are in the top half of the table, based on their on-the-pitch results.

Everton are helped greatly by having England number one Jordan Pickford – who was praised in a banner hung across the Gwladys Street before kick-off – as their last line of defence but while his saves have done enough as any individual to maintain the team’s Premier League status in recent seasons, he now has a strong unit in front of him. The aforementioned Branthwaite and tough as teak James Tarkowski are the spine of that shape but whether it has been the now injured Vitalii Mykolenko – the most-improved performer from last season – or others in the full-back berths, they have generally been rock solid and when they do get their noses in front at least, they know how to protect a lead.