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'Fighter' Alex Iwobi bounces back for Everton, now for consistency

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Everton prevail in hard-fought win vs. Fleetwood Town (2:00)

Everton hold off Fleetwood Town's second half surge to advance to the fourth round. Watch Carabao Cup on ESPN+. (2:00)

Hold your horses!

One sweeping goal, one cheeky assist and two key passes leading to two more goals in Everton's 5-2 Carabao Cup win against Fleetwood Town on Wednesday, and it is safe to say that Alex Iwobi is not about to roll over and see his Toffees career extinguished.

Iwobi returned to Everton's starting line-up for the cup tie against the Fishermen, and he proceeded to have a major influence on the match.

Iwobi had missed Everton's first two games of the English Premier League -- not even making the squad for the first game, against Tottenham Hotspur -- and there were many who were understandably concerned about his future at the club, even after manager Carlo Ancelotti had pointed out that injury was responsible for the Nigerian's absence.

Meanwhile, new signing James Rodriguez made a blinding start to life in the Premier League, ripping in a stunning goal in only his second game of the season, against West Bromwich Albion, and things looked decidedly worrying for the Nigerian.

But there was one person who was anything but troubled; Iwobi's international head coach, Gernot Rohr.

"Yes, the chances to play I think is now more difficult because they took new players and all these things, and they won the game without him,but Alex is a fighter," Rohr told ESPN.

"He had little injury, so he could not really participate in the first games, but now I think he will be ready in the next days. So the competition will begin.

"For [Nigeria], he's a very important player and I have a lot of confidence in him. We need him with his creativity, with his presence, mental presence and enthusiasm, and all the activity he has. I have good news that he's ready again to play.

"He will do the same with Everton and then he will play and make a good game."

Iwobi did not disappoint.

There was energy in his play against Fleetwood: There was running; there was awareness; and there was movement as he switched from flank to flank, pinched into the middle on occasion, and generally kept his side on the front foot.

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Everton's first goal had his footprints all over it. The Nigerian showed perfect control to touch a high ball right into Bernard's path. As the Brazilian took one touch and floated the ball to the back post, Iwobi was running into the box, attracting three defenders and freeing Richarlison to head across goal for the opener.

The second was even better: Iwobi held up Richarlison's pass to feet inside the box and between three defenders before backheeling the ball into the path of the Brazilian to stab home from close range.

By the time he swept in his own goal, it was clear that this was a better glimpse of the Iwobi for whom Everton had paid GBP28 million in August 2019; the performance was the perfect riposte from the 24-year-old, who was being written off with barely two games of the season played.

The Nigerian has seen his productivity questioned after that high-profile transfer, which took him to Everton from Arsenal; he scored just one goal in the Premier League and one in the Carabao Cup last season for a total of two strikes and one assist.

Ancelotti's response was to dip into his transfer budget for additional bodies, including Rodriguez.

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Rodriguez operates in the same areas that Iwobi enjoys, wide out or floating in the advanced midfield slot just behind the striker. Whether it is the competition that has forced Iwobi to raise his game, or just a personal determination to do better, he quickly threw down the gauntlet, promising to give his manager a selection "migraine", in his post-match interview on Sky Sports

"It was good experience for me to get 90 minutes under my belt as I'm trying to get fit for all competitions so it was good for the manager to give me the opportunity today," Iwobi said

"It's always good to score but the main thing is the team goes through to the next round so I'm glad I was able to help.

"Everyone wants to play so hopefully I can give the manager a migraine and get involved as much as I can.

There is a long way to go until the end of what promises to be a deciding second season at Everton for Iwobi; his talent and potential for greatness have never been in doubt, but he has been challenged to display that ability on a regular basis.

He excelled in spurts last season but underwhelmed overall, and the club's new signings mean the competition for places will be fierce. And as good as his performance was on Wednesday, consistency there and in production -- some of his final balls early against Fleetwood were disappointing -- will be key determinants of whether his career with Everton takes off or crashes.

It starts with the their Premier League clash at Crystal Palace this weekend.