Dyche must think differently if Everton have any chance of survival

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Everton's Manager Sean Dyche during the Premier League match between Everton and Aston Villa at Goodison Park on February 25, 2023 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Everton's Manager Sean Dyche during the Premier League match between Everton and Aston Villa at Goodison Park on February 25, 2023 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport/Getty Images) /

On Wednesday night Everton suffered another terrible defeat as Arsenal put four past the hapless visitors in a truly chastening evening at the Emirates Stadium.

The Blues’ fell apart in the second half and couldn’t provide any coherent threat to their hosts with their flaky attack failing to make any impression.

Individual defensive errors also surfaced once again as Everton gifted Arsenal at least two goals through their own mistakes.

It was everything that we have unfortunately come to expect from this team, particularly when they travel away from Goodison Park.

Reflecting on this match got me thinking about how much has changed for these two clubs since they met at Goodison Park back in December 2019.

That day, if you remember, was when the Blues’ announced they had a new manager in Carlo Ancelotti. Arsenal also had just brought in a new coach too, Mikel Arteta.

He had been linked with the Everton job before Ancelotti became available and was pursued with single-minded obsession by Farhad Moshiri as the man he had always wanted.

Both clubs were setting out on a new direction that sunny mid-winters afternoon. The two teams played out a dour, goal-less draw in front of their new respective managers.

For a while it looked as though the Toffees’ had made the best choice as Ancelotti signed several big name players and gradually improved Everton and the team became more competitive.

The two sides met behind closed doors at Goodison Park during the 2020-21 season. The Blues’ won 2-1 and it looked as though Arsenal of the two, might be facing a relegation fight that season.

Fast forward two and half years and the trajectory of the respective clubs could hardly be more different than it seemed that evening.

Arsenal are closing in on their first Premier League title since 2004 while Everton, after Ancelotti’s departure, three more managers and a collapse in form over the last eighteen months, look an almost dead cert to be relegated for the first time since 1951.

Turning back to the loss on Wednesday night, it was in one sense just another sobering reality check, after all no Evertonian really expected that this side would get anything from a trip to North London.

Sunday’s clash at Nottingham Forest was always the more important of this week’s games and has now assumed massive proportions.

Following on from this defeat though I think that only if manager Sean Dyche can think creativly and come up with some different solutions, will there be any chance this side can stay up.

Trying to use conventional defensive tactics getting men behind the ball and hoping to stem the tide witthout a centre-forward who can hold the ball up, isn’t ultimately going to work.

The first thing I think he has to do is stop playing Neal Maupay up front on his own. This strategy simply isn’t working and Dyche needs to play at least two strikers up front.

He could use Ellis Simms and Demarai Gray together. Neither are going to set the Premier League on fire, but Mauapy offers nothing and at least Simms has some sort of physical presence and Gray some pace.

Of course the manager could try something radically different and play one of his big, athletic midfielders up front, as I have repeated suggested. However, I don’t think he will do so.

In terms of the defence, Dyche decided to put Michael Keane in at centre-back at Arsenal in place of Conor Coady.

This was a strange choice as Keane has hardly played for months and anyway wouldn’t do anything to overcome the lack of pace at the back that was especially an issue facing Arsenal. Surely Yerry Mina (the Blues’ best defender) or Ben Godfrey might have made more sense?

If I was Dyche I would also consider doing something that Ancelotti did when he was facing a defensive crisis and his team was conceding goals far too easily.

That means considering playing Godfrey at left-back (where he has excelled before) instead of the desperately poor Vitalii Mykolenko and either Seamus Coleman or Mason Holgate at right-back. This would hopefully shore up the defence putting less pressure on midfield to protect it.

Alongside that he could then use Nathan Patterson on the right flank (hopefully he might be fit for Forest?) to provide more width and creativity for those forwards, along with Dwight McNeil.

To be honest, I’m not at all sure any of this would help because without anyone who can score goals, I simply don’t see much hope for Everton.