Everton 1 Arsenal 0: Blues bring Dyche first game win

Sean Dyche gained a vital and unexpected three points in his first match as Everton manager as his Toffees’ team overcame league leaders Arsenal 1-0 this afternoon.

After protests in the build-up to the game, Goodison Park was rocking this lunchtime as Everton played with passion, determination and no little skill to secure a well-deserved victory over the Gunners.

Although it was unlikely, I thought this result just might be possible if everything went well for the Blues’ and Arsenal were under par themselves and that’s exactly what happened today.

It’s so like this group of players to produce such an effort against one of the top sides in the Premier League when they can’t seem to beat the teams around them for love or money!

We saw something of this jeckle and hyde nature on New Years Eve, when they went to the Etihad and managed to grab a point against Manchester City, in the midst of a terrible run of form that ultimately cost Frank Lampard his job.

Today, they beat the club that is trying to unseat those champions this season and Everton have put a dent in that ambition.

Dyche set up his new team in an interesting way playing a sort of 4-5-1 formation, with three central midfielders as Abdoulaye Doucoure came back into the side, something I had speculated Dyche could well do. He was superb although he should have scored too.

But rather than tactics or formations as such, it was the collective effort and willingness of all the players to fight for every ball, defend resolutely and to press and close their opponents down, that was critical to the win this afternoon.

Certain individuals though in particular did shine with Amadou Onana and goalscorer James Tarkowski perhaps especially outstanding.

Onana produced a barnstorming effort in the centre of the pitch winning the ball again and again and working so hard to drive his team on.

He also produced a good ball in from which Dominic Calvert-Lewin should have tucked away. The ex-England international had a good game overall and looked sharp and powerful and was a real handful for the visitors defenders.

But, he missed several opportunites you feel he should be taking. And this is the fear, that for all his qualities he isn’t a natural goal-scorer and will miss too many chances, not to mention his injury-prone recent history. That’s why Everton needed to sign another centre-forward.

They didn’t as we all know, and we have to hope and keep our fingers crossed he can stay healthy because he’s going to be crucial for this team and how Dyche wants to play.

After dominating the first half without scoring, the fear I had was that levels would dip after the break and Arsenal would come back into it and punish the home side for failing to score.

However, that’s not what happened as the Gunners were still lacklustre and the Blues’ continued to be the better side.

And finally, they made that dominance tell as Tarkowski rose to powerfully head home a Dwight McNeil corner after an hour of the contest.

McNeil is a player under scrutiny after his summer move and I think he’s one who has to contribute more over the next few weeks and months (along with a number of others) if the Toffees’ are to survive.

Inevitably, after a string of attacking substitutions Arsenal began to get on top and create chances with Leandro Trossard going closest for them.

Everton though held on and the final whistle was greeted with tremendous roar from the home crowd, greeting the first three points gathered in since Crystal Palace were beaten in October.

This result is just the start and one win won’t make a season. Remeber we saw similar efforts early on in Lampard’s time before it went wrong again.

The Blues’ need to play like this again and again and show a consistent level of application and determination if they are going to win enough matches to stave off relegation.

Next comes the derby at Anfield. Liverpool are struggling too this season and if Everton are able to grab a point there (or maybe all three?) what a great start to Dyche’s reign it would be from two games most of us expected nothing from.