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Dele Alli shows glimpse of form as Everton look for ways to replace Richarlison

After Minnesota’s miss, came Blackpool’s double. One open goal was wasted but two were scored. A change of continent may have brought a change of luck for Dele Alli. After perhaps the worst failure of his life, he scored his first goals in an Everton shirt, albeit in an unofficial capacity. They should have arrived earlier. Its twin strikes did not come in the Twin Cities but on the Fylde Coast. Everton, hampered 4-0 by Minnesota on Wednesday, beat Blackpool 4-2 on Sunday.

Time will tell which is the most accurate marker for his and their season. Admittedly, the most memorable result came in the Midwest, not the West Coast of England, just Alli’s flagrant foul in the United States – the ball hitting his heel when he had a tap-in – is more likely to linger in the mind than two at close range. ends, an even simpler one, at Bloomfield Road. It lent itself to the kind of made-for-social-media clip, as if intended as an encapsulation of the decline of a seemingly unique talent within a generation.

Maybe it’s a microcosm, maybe an irrelevant mistake in a pre-season friendly. “I kicked myself after the chance I had in the other game, but it was a chance to fix that,” Alli said after a late return to the scoresheet. A week brought a form of redemption. It’s a broader quest, trying to bounce back from hitting rock bottom: in that context, a double might seem significant. At his peak, he scored twice in a game against Real Madrid, but he hasn’t scored twice in a competitive game since 2019.

Two predatory finishes account for half of Everton’s pre-season goals. The first, courtesy of Vitalii Mykolenko’s low cut, came from about a yard. The second was a better finish, after a cross from the other winger, Nathan Patterson, after a well-timed run towards the near post.

They recalled that Alli was the type of attacking midfielder who tended to score the sort of goals more normally associated with forwards. His manager too. “These are goals I want to see from him,” said Frank Lampard. “It was his trademark as he broke through at Tottenham for a number of seasons and we all know what happened in the meantime, but if he wants to get back to the best of what we want from him he has to get to those areas and score those kinds of goals.

Lampard tends to be measured in his comments about Alli, as if trying to prevent anyone from getting caught up in the prospect of a revival. “I saw some good things there,” he said. “But he also has to work on his general game and be part of the team and understand what we are trying to do.”

Alli’s rebuilding has been a gradual affair, with his regular presence on the bench last season underscoring that there has been no quick return to his best. The biggest boost came with a cameo that may have changed Everton history: he came on 2-0 down against Crystal Palace and ended up being man of the match, a galvanizing force in a comeback seismic that held them together.

It featured Everton’s last goal from Richarlison and now he’s gone, sold to Tottenham for £60m. The search for a successor was slow. Interest in Armando Broja, Maxwel Cornet and Morgan Gibbs-White has yet to bring any to Goodison Park. No agreement is near. “We want to bring in players who can help fill that void,” Lampard said.

Richarlison was the only Everton player to score more than five league goals last season, a stat that helps explain their struggles. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who ended an injured campaign with the goal that kept Everton together, missed the Blackpool game, although his appearance for the start of the season is no doubt. Alli operated largely on the left of a 3-4-3 formation but spent around a quarter of an hour as a striker after Salomon Rondon left.

In short, he performed in the roles that the late Brazilian tended to fill. Lampard preferred not to task Alli with replacing Richarlison. “It has to be a collective, to lose Richy and what he brought aside, it has to not just be Dele,” he said. “We have to be more clinical and get into the end zones.” This was Alli’s forte. He got goalscoring positions in his last two matches. And in one of them he found the target.