I’ve long been a defender of Sean Dyche‘s intensive and defensive, “long-ball” style. But there’s perhaps no greater victory in his entire career than starting off at Everton with an absolute bang, beating the league leaders in Arsenal, who had previously only lost a single league game. Everton themselves had not won under Frank Lampard since October. But Sean Dyche would have relished the challenge of his first match, and would have taken all the pressure off his players to perform on the opening day. It showed in their performance, with the Toffees achieving a shock 1-0 win over the current title favourites. Here is how Sean Dyche’s Everton beat Arsenal.
SYSTEM OF PLAY: 4-5-1
Sean Dyche made a name for himself at Burnley for stern defensive organization inside a 4-4-2, and he met the needs of his players immediately in deploying a more defensive 4-5-1 on his opening day. Those “needs” we mention include having a heaping conveyor belt of central midfielders, not to mention a history of managers who favoured a midfield three at the club.
Dyche smartly stuck to the formational undertones of his predecessors, not to mention returning the tactics to some of the most basic but effective elements of a team playing against the run of play. They were organized and resilient at the back, shuttling and shuffling around to close down any potential space for exploitation. But more importantly, they were purposefully and immediately vertical in attacking phases, favouring those long passes upon recycles and regains, and using Dominic Calvert-Lewin in a way that completely suits his personality.Embed from Getty Images
Fans might bemoan the fact that it’s not the ‘Everton way’ and only a ‘temporary solution’, but there are piles of players at the club who seem ready made for a Sean Dyche system. Take Jordan Pickford in between the sticks, who will give his heart and soul into absolutely everything he does for his manager. Leaders at the back like Conor Coady and James Tarkowski, who not only never back down for a fight, but never stop communicating.Embed from Getty Images
There’s aerial threats like Andre Onana who can arrive late into the box to receive crosses, and even former Champions League players like Idrissa Gueye who completely hold their own in a defensively-minded system. Combine that with some of his former players and a dream centre-forward for a Sean Dyche system, and it’s a wonderful squad for Sean Dyche to inherit.
Whether or not he imposes his famed 4-4-2 in the future remains to be seen, but for now, Dyche has all the makings of a squad capable of climbing back toward the top ten.
The success of Dyche’s system was in sheer organization. The principles behind their approach were never overly complex, but they also made their high level of coordination and control look seamless. In that 4-5-1, Dyche’s team shuffled with the play in proximation to the ball, opposition, and space. Occasionally, one central midfielder might temporarily jump up to enact more pressure on Arsenal’s ‘Inverted Fullback’ out from the back, creating a fleeting 4-4-2 that would quickly disappeared.
This limited the potentially dangerous, cutting edge passes out from Oleksandr Zinchenko, who can carve open any opposition defense at his will.
Elsewhere on the pitch, players pressured one at a time immediately as the ball entered their zone of proximation. Tarkowski and Coady organized absolutely everything at the back, shuffling and shuttling without ever taking a momentary break in play to stop their train of thought. We wouldn’t expect anything less of two defensive leaders in a Dychean system, but the level of togetherness between themselves and their full-backs was indescribable. If you told me they were secretly tethered together by an imaginary invisibility rope, I’d probably believe you.
But this also doesn’t mean they were always in the same line. Tarkowski often stepped on Ødegaard as he floated about in the right-half-spaces. Coady often tracked Nketiah wherever he roamed, until he crossed paths and went over to Tarkowski’s side – where again, the two men remained in constant communication.
Tarkowski even took his moments to help in the 2v1’s against Bukayo Saka, when he realized that his winger was unable to get there in time, or the situation remained more dire (such as closer to goal).
Speaking of the wingers combining in 2v1’s, this was the major hallmark of Dyche’s defensive victory over the Gunners and their wide starlet Bukayo Saka. At first it was Alex Iwobi playing off the left, and then Dwight McNeil after they switched sides. Either way, the wingers timed their perceptions of when to close down masterfully well.
We’ve already spoken at length this season about how pivotal Ben White has been to creating havoc from an opposition’s attempts to 2v1 Bukayo Saka. But when it came to this particular day, White couldn’t find any space to underlap or overlap given the positioning of Iwobi/McNeil and Mykolenko. He was then forced to receive in the half-spaces, with limited room for vertical progression. This meant he’d be forced to play the ball sideways into the congested middle, where Everton were able to immediately ramp up their pressure and contest the situation back away from goal.Embed from Getty Images
Given the ease at which they dealt with these situations, it was almost as though they wanted to lure passes into Saka as the match wore on. They completely compacted the right side of the field, leaving space for switches of play to find the Englishman, where Iwobi and Mykolenko would immediately come across. With Iwobi then screening passes into his path after he gave the ball to someone else, it then became more difficult for Saka to receive return passes and actually make something of his silky smooth moves.
In short, Dyche perfectly implemented a simple system of play, that completely allowed his players to make sound decisions in relation to ball, opposition, teammates and space. This is no easy feat, but it becomes all the easier if you have the right players at your disposal. Sean Dyche has the quality of depth in his squad, and will now bring more togetherness to the team than anyone else before him.
ATTACKING PRINCIPLESEmbed from Getty Images
Sean Dyche’s attacking style is often associated with long passing, vertical counter attacks, and the utilization of aerial threats from set-pieces and overall attacking play. Against Arsenal, he utilized a mix of long passing, vertical counter attacks, and aerial threats from set-pieces all wrapped up in one beautiful concoction.Embed from Getty Images
Any time Everton won the ball, they immediately looked forward. Whether that be off the first pass or after a steady recycle backwards, the Toffees would endeavour to find a long pass forward and use Dominic Calvert-Lewin as the brilliant Target that he can be up front. They then thrived off the second balls as others joined the attacking phase, seeking space through the centre of the pitch. Dwight McNeil or Alex Iwobi would often find space to drive from out to in, before looking for the through pass to find Calvert-Lewin in behind.
But Calvert-Lewin’s fantastic aerial presence also helped to unlock wide attacks. For all their verticality, it’s worth noting that even a Sean Dyche team favour the wide areas as opposed to congested centres. Their centre-forward would then often knock on the long passes to his wingers, where they would then look to deliver crosses into late-arriving central midfielders.
Fullbacks even took a few moments to overlap their wingers and create more chaos down the wide areas, ensuring that Dyche’s team had energy and variability to their quick attacks. In future matches, the quest to both use their ‘number nine’ as a ‘Target’ and as a goal-scoring threat will need to be negotiated. Calvert-Lewin will be their top scorer if the right delivery is in place. While it’s wonderful to add Onana and Doucoure rampaging into the box to get on the end of moves, the team must find ways to free up their ‘Target’ instead, and stop the opposition from being able to double-team his leaps.
The lack of goals was the silent killer behind Dyche’s sacking at Burnley, and it might be rather obvious to say that goals will be something they need to find on a regular basis if they are to reach their full potential. Everton created a high number of chances relative to their possession against Arsenal, but many of those were low-quality chances from distance. Beyond finding those connections on counter attacks, favouring their crossing and any meticulously designed set-pieces where they can use their brute force will be essential. Despite being a centre-back, it was no surprise to see Tarkowski grab the opening goal to Dyche’s reign at the club.Embed from Getty Images
It was even less of a surprise to see it come off a wonderfully worked corner, where several men blocked Arsenal defenders that could have stopped the former Burnley man from heading home the winner. Tarkowski threatened inside the first half, and it always felt like only a matter of time before someone of his nature would grab the go-ahead goal and write their name into the Sean Dyche history books.
CONCLUDING THOUGHTSEmbed from Getty Images
Sean Dyche has made a living out of winning in the exact ways he accomplished over Arsenal. But it was still immensely impressive to implement all those principles of play from his very first match to such a resounding effect, and speaks to the simplicity of his approach. Dychean teams are built off organization at the back and vertical attacks through long passing immediately up the pitch, and this might just be the best way to get the best out of his current crop of players and make a surge up the table. Some fans might not love the ‘old school’ approach, but Sean Dyche showed several signs of that potential against Arsenal.
Embed from Getty Images
So there it is! How Sean Dyche’s Everton beat Arsenal in his first match in charge. Be sure to check out more of our Match Analyses, and follow on social media @desmondrhys and @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
If you want to instill principles as seamlessly as Sean Dyche and help your players perceive moments of ball, opposition, teammates and space, be sure to check out my Consultation Masterclass.
Thanks for reading and see you soon!
Game of Numbers #12 – Erik Ten Hag’s Positional Play Masterclass
Erik Ten Hag has deployed brilliant implementations of positional play all season long, putting on an absolute masterclass of how to confuddle the opposition into oblivion against Leicester City.
The art of staying onside
The art of timing runs effectively as a forward is never an easy task, as it requires adequate scanning of the four pillars to the game: ball, opposition, teammates and space (BOTS). Most notably, the timing of the run has to match the timing of the pass from their teammate, and the timing of the…
Unai Emery – Aston Villa – Tactical Analysis
Unai Emery has been one of the most esteemed managers of the modern era, to little fanfare given that much of his managerial success has come in competitions like the Europa League and Ligue 1. But Emery is yet to truly fail in a managerial role, and looks prepared to only continue his incredible reputation…
How Potter can save Chelsea’s season – Tactical Analysis
Since suffering defeat to his old club at the end of October, Graham Potter’s Chelsea have lost seven of their last eleven matches. Injuries have evidently played a part, but Potter’s problems persist even despite a wealthy eleven still at his disposal. The balance of the team remains up in shambles, even despite a recent…