Everton 2022-23 season review: near catastrophy just avoided, again

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Abdoulaye Doucoure of Everton celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match between Everton FC and AFC Bournemouth at Goodison Park on May 28, 2023 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Abdoulaye Doucoure of Everton celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match between Everton FC and AFC Bournemouth at Goodison Park on May 28, 2023 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images) /
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Could Sean Dyche save Everton?

After flirting with hiring former Leeds manager Marcel Bielsa, the former Burnley boss Dyche replaced Lampard just 24 hours before the January transfer window shut.

On the surface he seemed a decent fit in the short-term and he certainly had plenty of experience battling for points at the wrong end of the league.

Once more though Everton were leaving it all too late. Would the new manager have enough time to bring in the playing reinforcements, especially forwards, that were so much needed?

The answer to that question was emphatically, no.

Supporters endured a truly farcical final deadline day as the Toffees sought in vain to add new signings with players turning them down left, right and centre.

With the hours ticking by, at one point it seemed as though almost every striker in Europe was being linked with the Blues! Some ludicrous names were floating around by the end of the day.

Despite frantic last-ditch efforts, by the 11 pm cut-off no one had come through the door.

Everton ended up in the digraceful scenario of being the only club in the Premier League who failed to add any signings in January, despite the owners’ reassurances they would do so.

So, Dyche began his tenure without a single new player to add to the obviously inadequate squad he had inherited.

In particular, he had no new strikers to replace the now seemingly permanently crocked Calvert-Lewin, leaving him with Maupay who had proved a total flop and a young, still raw Ellis Simms.

As with his predeccessor then, the starkest problem he faced was where on earth would the goals come from that were needed to get the Blues out of the dire straights they were in.

And, as if the start to his rein couldn’t get any more challenging, the new manager then faced league leaders Arsenal in his first game in charge before a trip to Anfield for the derby.

The Toffees produced probably their best performance of the season so far against the Gunners, as they harried and outworked their more skillful opponents and grabbed a classic set-peice goal from James Tarkowski to give Dyche a winning start.

Of course, we had seen this sort of ‘new manager bounce’ many times before and this time it didn’t last the mile or so bus ride to their neighbours, as the Blues were soundly beaten 2-0 by Liverpool.

Everton then hosted fellow relegation threatened Leeds United in a massive match at Goodison. Seamus Coleman’s superb strike (or was it a cross?!) decided a tight encounter. Another 1-0 win for the new boss at home.

Could they make it three on the bounce at the Grand Old Lady? No was the answer as Aston Villa came and got a classic smash and grab, winning 2-0 to end Dyche’s 100% record at Goodison.

With Calvert-Lewin still undergoing apparently endless rehab and Dyche detemined not to rush him back prematurely, goals were at an absolute premium.

After experimenting with Maupay and then Simms for the one match at Liverpool, the manager had settled on Demarai Gray as his main first-choice alternative. It was far from ideal and Gray was failing to make any consistent impact.

However, one player who had initially struggled to find his feet, was beginning to step up now.

Dwight McNeil, after not getting much playing time under Lampard the man who had brought him to the club, was florishing again under his former boss at Turf Moor.

He would end up as the team’s top scorer and got several important goals such as the winner against Brentford.

One of the biggest problems (of so many) with the Toffees team over the last few years, has been the chronic inability of the side to win away from home.

Everton had only managed one win in their travels all season at Southampton and had added just five more points on the road under Lampard.

Dyche had to improve that poor record and he managed to do it, at least to some degree.

The Blues came away with a draw at Nottingham Forest (although they were winning so that was more like two points dropped) and fought back well at Chelsea to grab a point in another 2-2 draw.

At this stage who knew how vital these points might prove to be in the end. However results at home would still surely be the key to survival.

Either side of those draws away, the Toffees managed another of Dyche’s now trademark 1-0 wins at Goodison, over Brentford, with McNeil’s first-minute goal proving enough.

One home match that was seen as important came when Everton hosted Tottenham on a Monday night, needing a win to keep themselves afloat and out of the drop zone.

Up to that point Dyche had been using a 4-5-1 formation with Abdoulaye Doucoure – rehabilitated after falling out of favour with Lampard – proving an effective link between midfield and the lone striker.

Using Doucoure this way was something I had felt could be a useful weapon to improve the team’s anemic attack. And, the Mali international had popped up with two goals, one in each of those away draws.

He and a few other players though had been prone to getting into incidents with other teams particularly on the sidelines and after matches.

Againt Spurs, Everton were already one goal down when Docuoure got involved in a touchline altercation with Harry Kane. The England captain’s Oscar-winning calibre of acting then resulted in Doucoure being sent off.

It was a major setback for the Blues and the game looked gone before Micheal Keane strode forward and fired in a rasping long-range shot that salvaged another point.

Keane’s return to the team under his former Burnley manager, had been controversial with supporters for sure.

The centre-back’s tendancy to make unforced and often hugely costly errors, had made him far from the first choice for most fans. That goal though could have been critical in the end.

Now, Dyche has lost a key part of his tactical approach with Docoure’s suspension for three matches. He was forced to reshuffle his pack as a result.

And it showed as the Blues slumped to a defeat at Manchester United and then heavy losses to Fulham and Newcastle as they conceded a combined seven goals at home.