Portuguese training camp may decide Everton and Dyche's future

The Toffees are currently away in Portugal using the extended break in Premier League games for some much-needed work and reflection on a season again in crisis.
Manchester United v Everton FC - Premier League
Manchester United v Everton FC - Premier League / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Everton flew out to the Iberian training camp on the back of yet another defeat, their sixth in eleven games, leaving them without a victory in the Premier League since mid-December.

It is worrying, relegation-type form and leaves the Blues perilously close to the drop zone again, despite the recent boost of having four points restored following their appeal against November's deduction.

Sean Dyche has arguably the toughest job of his coaching career over the next few weeks and months as he faces the task of turning around what appears to be a sinking ship.

I say it is the toughest because although he came into the all-too-familiar crisis situation on the pitch when he inherited the job in January 2023, he wasn't facing the same degree of off-field chaos and uncertainty.

Because of course he has the looming threat of another potential points deduction (and no certainty of how many it might be either) coming down the line with the Toffees facing further charges for financial breaches.

Those charges are due to be made public by early April at the latest, but that will obviously give his side precious little time to absorb and recover from it before the critical season run-in.

On top of that is the issue of whether Everton's prospective new owners 777 Partners will or won't get the go-ahead to take over the club.

While that problem isn't of direct concern to the squad, if 777 are refused the right to complete their takeover it would leave the club in financial limbo and facing possible administration, especially if the Blues were relegated.

You probably couldn't put together a more difficult and challenging situation for a manager and his players to be in.

Inevitably perhaps, this set of circumstances has affected those players and their form has subsided badly since the initial response to November's shock decision provoked a four game winning run that immediately lifted Everton back out of trouble.

The last of those four wins against Chelsea on the 16th December seems like an absolute age ago and while the Toffees have still been generally competitive since, the wins have completely dried up.

Clearly, Dyche has to find a way to turn this around. So what can he do?

First of all he must come up with some mechanism to conjure more goals out of a side that has managed a paltry twenty nine in the Premier League. Only surely relegation-bound Burnley and Sheffield United have scored less.

Both his first-choice centre-forwards Beto and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have struggled badly in front of goal.

Although Beto did get his second goal of the campaign in the recent home defeat to West Ham from what was his first start. Calvert-Lewin however hasn't scored since late October.

In mitigation though nether have been adequately supported and often have to plough a lonely and frustrating furrow up front.

In addition, Abdoulaye Doucoure a regular scorer in the first half of the season and key to Dyche's tactics, has been a shadow of his former self since returning from injury.

There are potential tactical tweeks and formation changes to try and find more attacking threat and I have previously mentioned some, but Dyche seems very reluctant to experiment and move away from his 4-4-2 base.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and so if Dyche won't try something quite different formation-wise then he should pair Beto and Calvert-Lewin together up front therefore enabling him to stick to a 4-4-2 and his basic shape.

I think he must also give Youssef Chermiti more opportunity. Again, what does he have to lose given the goal-shy form of his senior strikers?

Another player who I believe is being wrongly neglected is Nathan Patterson. Defensively he is suspect, but I would give him a run on the right wing in place of a misfiring Jack Harrison.

Patterson is a naturally attacking player with pace and the ability to put a good ball in from wide areas. Everton badly need more pace, width and quality service to whoever is playing up front.

So then perhaps a team of Pickford, Coleman, Tarkowski, Branthwaite, Mykolenko, Patterson, Doucoure, Onana, McNeil, Beto and Calvert-Lewin in a 4-4-2 with Chermiti available to come on for half and hour or so.

There has been much talk of self-reflection and analysis during this break and that is fine and good, and perhaps it will trigger an improvement as it did last season.

But whatever Dyche is thinking and decides he must come back with a clear plan to turn things around as the current approach isn't working. There are now only ten matches left to decide Everton's fate once more.