Within seconds of kick-off, Anthony Gordon crunched into a tackle that reflected the demanding mood of the Goodison Park crowd. The Everton fan recognised the desperate need for a win against Chelsea to ease the club’s growing relegation concerns and created an atmosphere that set the tone for the players on the pitch. Gordon delivered.
Of course, the 21-year-old’s performance was about much more than just crunching tackles and physicality. Indeed, Gordon gave Everton an outlet in attack with the winger willing and able to carry the ball up the pitch and relieve pressure. Without the youngster, the Toffees could have found the pressure applied by Chelsea too much.
This season has been a painful one for Everton. First, they appointed former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez against the wishes of the supporters, then sacked the Spaniard in January after he’d cleared out much of the club’s football department and sold one of the Toffees’ best players (Lucas Digne).
Lampard arrived, but results didn’t improve. In fact, Everton soon found themselves embroiled in a fight against relegation with April’s Merseyside derby defeat to Liverpool dropping them into the bottom three. At that point, with Burnley and Leeds United picking up results, the Toffees appeared to be heading for the Championship.
Sunday’s crucial victory over Chelsea could, however, be a turning point in Everton’s season. Lampard has adopted a more compact approach with attack-minded players like Gordon emboldened to attack the space left in the opposition half. This is what the 21-year-old did to great effect against Thomas Tuchel’s visitors. Everton will need Gordon to replicate this sort of display if they are to stay up.
Gordon’s emergence as a first team figure has been a highlight in an otherwise dark season for Everton. The youngster is held in such a high esteem at Goodison Park that Lampard has already made predictions regarding his international future. In this form, Gordon – an England Under-21 international – is surely on Gareth Southgate’s radar.
“He is growing all the time and we saw that – going and playing against one of the best teams in the world, standing up and going past people and showing energy and quality and dedication,” Lampard said. “The next bit for Anthony is the end product of goals and assists, and he is desperate for it. It will come for him, he needs to stay cool with that, because every day he works on it, he does the right things. He is going to be a huge player for us and a huge player for his country.”
At this rate, Gordon will be an outside bet to make England’s squad for the 2022 World Cup. Southgate isn’t exactly short of options on the wing, but Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were both left out of his latest squad due to poor form. The field could be wide open for Gordon to make his case.
Of course, Southgate must be wary of rushing Gordon into the senior squad before he is ready, but the England manager has previously been keen to use pathway between the U21 team and the first team. Gordon’s promotion would be proof to other youngsters that Southgate is always willing to reward talent.
Ordinarily, it would be too late for Gordon to force his way into the England squad for a major tournament with it being close to the end of the season, but the 2022 World Cup doesn’t kick off until November. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Everton winger could be picked by Southgate. According to Lampard, Gordon will be an England player sooner or later. On recent evidence, it could be sooner.