The 23-year-old has grown in stature as his debut season on Merseyside has worn on, becoming an integral part of Carlo Ancelotti’s side since making a £25m switch from Norwich City last summer. As Ancelotti told i in February, “he adapted really well and really fast.”
Ancelotti has picked Godfrey in a variety of roles including in both full-back positions and central defence, and his versatility enabled the Italian to tweak his tactics at the London Stadium on Sunday.
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Godfrey lined up in a right-sided central defence role as Ancelotti sent Everton out in a 3-5-2 system for only the third time in the Premier League this season in a bid to restrict the attacking threat provided by West Ham’s full-backs, Aaron Cresswell and Vladimir Coufal.
It was a ploy that worked well as Everton frustrated their hosts with Godfrey, alongside fellow centre-backs Michael Keane, Yerry Mina and substitute Mason Holgate, keeping West Ham’s danger man Michail Antonio subdued. He also doubled up with right wing back Seamus Coleman to mark Cresswell, limiting his space to whip crosses into the box.
Impressive as Godfrey’s defending was – he made a match-leading four tackles over the course of the 90 minutes – it was his attacking efforts that caught the eye as he played a sumptuous, defence-splitting ball from the back through to Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score the game’s only goal.
There didn’t appear to be much on when Godfrey received a square pass on the halfway line, but after advancing into West Ham’s half, the chance to slip Calvert-Lewin in opened up and he duly accepted the invitation to dissect their defence.
Ancelotti will have hoped that one of his players stepped up to fill the creative void left by James Rodriguez, but he might not have expected one of his centre-backs to provide it. It was Godfrey’s second assist of the campaign, following on from a first against Leeds in February which was also for Calvert-Lewin.
During his time as England manager, Southgate has championed the selection of players who have risen through the age groups and Godfrey fits that mould having featured a couple of times at U20 level before establishing himself as a regular starter for the U21s.
So far a senior international call-up has eluded Godfrey but there aren’t many English centre-backs who are performing as consistently well as he is at present. One of the few who are in good form ahead of the Euro’s this summer is Harry Maguire who limped off during Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa on Sunday, before leaving Villa Park with a protective boot on his left foot.
There was a case to be made for Godfrey to be named in England’s 26-man squad anyway – he was selected in i‘s writers England squad this week – but if Maguire’s injury proves to be a serious one, he has surely moved up the pecking order.
Southgate’s trusted assistant Steve Holland was England’s designated representative at the London Stadium and is sure to have been impressed by Godfrey’s impact, as well as Calvert-Lewin’s as he scored his 16th goal of a career-best campaign.
Adaptable players are always useful to have around during a major tournament and while Uefa’s decision to increase squad numbers from 23 to 26 means managers have more flexibility than usual, they will also look to include a couple of all-rounders when making their picks.
Godfrey, who started out as a holding midfielder for hometown club York City, has certainly proven his credentials in that regard and would be a useful option for Southgate to call upon as he seeks to lead England to continental glory.