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Can Sean Dyche help Everton stay up?

Everton begin their first full season under the management of Sean Dyche with a clear objective – remain in the Premier League for another season.

While meandering sagas and grand spectacles continue to unfold during the Premier League transfer window, Everton have been relatively inactive.

Yerry Mina departed the club on a free transfer, while Ellis Simms and Moise Kean were both sold. Arnaut Danjuma, Ashley Young, Jack Harrison and 19-year-old Sporting Lisbon striker Youssef Chermiti are the only additions made to the squad. With many teams around them improving and an opening day defeat to Fulham, this season is shaping up to be another year of fighting relegation for the Toffees.

While their squad has significant deficiencies, in Sean Dyche, they have an astute manager who, in his short time at the club, has already demonstrated his ability to improve the team’s prospects with intelligent tactical adjustments.


Tactical Analysis – Can Sean Dyche Help Everton Stay Up:

Pressing in the 4-5-1

While Dyche was seemingly wedded to the 4-4-2 at Burnley, he has made intelligent use of the 4-5-1 system since arriving at Everton. On paper, the formation seems inherently reactive and defensive, committing significant numbers to defence and midfield. However, Dyche has used the system to implement a higher, more assertive press than what many fans expected.

The 4-5-1 allows more targeted pressure on the opposition because a line of five in midfield provides license for one midfielder to push up and press the man on the ball. The remaining four can swing back across to cover the space, providing the team with balance and coverage. As opposed to remaining in two fixed lines of four to protect space passively, by allowing whoever is closest to the ball to apply pressure and reflexively create two lines of four, Everton can have similar defensive security while also having a more proactive defensive stance.

The profile of the midfielders are particularly well-suited for this approach, as Abdoulaye Doucouré and Amadou Onana are both tremendously athletic and capable ball-winners, allowing them to both push up and cover space laterally.

It’s worth noting that Dyche has also used the 4-4-2 at Everton, indicating a level of adaptability for the team. The basic tactical template may be similar and relatively simple, but it allows the team to better react to opposition strengths and weaknesses and potentially gain marginal advantages that could pay dividends come the end of the season.

Demarai Gray, Arnaut Danjuma, and the varied use of strikers

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin injured for significant spells last season, Everton utilised Demarai Gray as a lone striker. While a surprising choice for the role in many people’s eyes, given his lack of hold-up play and physicality, Gray’s role indicated a potential shift in the way Everton could seek to use their centre-forward under Dyche.

With the aggressive midfield trio of Doucoure, Onana, and Idrissa Gueye, and the capacity to press effectively and compactly in a 4-5-1, Dyche implemented a defensive system that lends itself well to transitional attacks.

The team is at its best when it wins the ball back by pushing up and uses that forward momentum to generate direct, fast attacking moves. Gray as a striker worked within this set-up. He had the speed and movement to go past the last line, and while none of the midfield trio are especially creative passers, the forward movement of the entire team reduces the space between the midfield and attacking lines and makes interplay between the two easier.

While Gray is no longer in Dyche’s plans, the loan move for Arnaut Danjuma indicates that he is looking to replicate similar traits in a new forward. Furthermore, the return of Dominic Calvert-Lewin also provides Everton with an intriguing forward combination. Regardless of the benefits in creating counter-attacks, having a player such as Gray or Danjuma lead the line has issues. They struggle to make the ball stick in the final third, unable to hold onto the ball under pressure and bring others into the game. They also can’t win the sorts of duels Everton need their striker to win, especially in games where they are forced to sit deeper and need to relieve pressure with long balls to a different profile of forward.

In pairing Calvert-Lewin and Danjuma in a 4-4-2, Everton could maximise their attacking output, particularly in games against superior opposition. A more passive defensive approach, concentrated on maintaining shape, with one forward to hold-up play and another to attack space, is the kind of seemingly basic yet relatively effective style that saw Dyche have success at Burnley.

As mentioned earlier, he has the necessary nous and players to deviate from this slightly if needed. However, the coherence of Dyche’s usually aggressive defensive approach and his transitional attacks, as well as his capacity to tweak that style with Calvert-Lewin up top, gives Everton a range of attacking strategies from a relatively meagre offensive unit.

Maximising set-pieces

With many sides in the division simply boasting better quality than Everton in open play, set-pieces will be incredibly valuable. Dyche’s Burnley were known for being a significant threat from dead balls, and while that was undoubtedly aided by the team’s numerous aerial threats, there are broad ideas that underpin the way they approached these situations. Many of these principles continue at Everton.

From corners, Dyche likes his teams to crowd out the six-yard box. It’s not uncommon to see one of Everton’s primary aerial threats right against the opposition keeper, trying to limit the possibility of direct claims from a corner. The crowding of the six-yard-box can also overwhelm teams that play a zonal form of defence from corners. If the opposition restrict the number of players devoted to that zone, Everton can gain a certain numerical advantage in that area.

Decoy runners are also an important part of the set-up from set-pieces.

From longer free-kicks, there are rarely intricate sequences to generate space in the box. Rather, Dyche trusts the physical prowess of his players to front up against their opposition markers and win aerial duels.

What this allows is for Everton’s set-piece takers to deliver the ball into larger areas. Even if the spaces they are aiming for are congested, Everton’s willingness to trust their physicality ensures that these safe targets can remain relatively fruitful.

Everton’s safety is far from assured, and many teams around them appear to have coaches at the cutting edge of modern tactics and with more sophisticated styles than their own manager. Yet Dyche remains an incredibly astute strategist who is able to adapt and tweak a relatively simple style around the strengths of his players and the weaknesses of opponents.

He has sufficient flexibility within his formations and uses of players to make Everton a difficult opponent for any team. Whether his tactical nous will be enough to keep the Toffees in the Premier League remains to be seen.

Read – Unforgettable Debuts: Rooney-mania reaches Old Trafford

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