It feels like a long time since Arsenal’s loss in the FA Cup last week, and even longer since that dramatic 3-2 winner over Manchester United. Almost two weeks have passed and a lot of squad transformation. Jorginho, Leandro Trossard, and Jakub Kiwior have arrived. Mohammed Elneny is facing a serious rehab session after suffering a knee injury. Plus, Cedric, Marquinhos, and Albert Sambi Lokonga were all loaned out. But Arsenal remains top of the Premier League with a five-point gap over Manchester City and time to refocus on maintaining that form.
Everton’s form of course isn’t great heading into this match and is a primary reason the side elected to bring in Sean Dyche. Since the return from the World Cup break, Everton have played six times with five losses (being outscored 13 to 4) and a 1-1 draw against Manchester City (thanks for that). Their last win came back on October 22nd at home versus Crystal Palace. But how much will the arrival of a new manager reinvigorate the side?
To discuss this match and Everton’s current state we welcome in once again Trent Nelson from Royal Blue Mersey.
TSF: Frank Lampard managed 44 matches with a 27% win rate and was in charge for just under one year. Looking back do you think that he was never a good fit for where the club is at the moment or were other factors primary contributors to the lack of success?
RBM: Frank Lampard was a better man for the job than Rafa Benitez was to be sure, but neither heir to the seat Carlo Ancelotti filled for a time was a great fit. Reports suggest that Frank wasn’t too chuffed with scouting reports and analytic views of football, and with the tactical and technical qualities of football improving by the moment, that certainly was unsustainable.
Lampard will always be remembered around Merseyside for helping the team avoid relegation last season, but it was almost as though he had run out of ideas as boss. That is, of course, not a great innovation when you’ve not even coached your side for a year and a half.
The team continues to have injuries and perform with a lack of creativity; the boss must have backup plans for such a position, and it seems as though the side had no plans beyond what would’ve been ideal.
TSF: In comes the very experienced Sean Dyche. After a decade at Burnley he was known for playing direct, physical, and difficult-to-break-down football. Is the sense that he is the right choice to help save Everton this season? And regardless of how the year ends, do you see the board giving him time to reshape the squad into his image?
RBM: I think that the romantics in many supporters wanted Marcelo Bielsa as the boss - he is this mad professor sort of course, and that style is loads more attractive on the surface than how Sean Dyche looks to set up and play, but I think Dyche was the more pragmatic choice.
His style will not take long for the willing players to get a grip of, and he certainly does inspire a harder, grittier effort than it appears Frank Lampard was able to at the end of his run. The side will be tougher, meaner, and they will have to find some production out of the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Dwight McNeil, Demarai Gray, Neal Maupay, and Alex Iwobi.
I actually do think they will keep him even if the team goes down to the Championship next season; the team would be in even greater shambles than it appears to be already, and I cannot see many better coaches jumping to take the position - even as legendary a club as the Blues are.
TSF: Going into the weekend Everton are 19th, tied on 15 points with Southampton, but ahead on goal difference. On the bright side, they are just two points away from climbing into 17th and half a season still to play. Do you predict that they will survive or drop into the second division for the first time since the 1953-54 season?
RBM: I am the eternal optimist. As the only other side - along with Arsenal - to never be relegated from the Premier League, and with the second longest first division streak next to that side as well, I think the team can harden up and figure this thing out.
Will it be easy? Well, the odds of it being harder than this first portion of the season has already been are small - and if it is harder, then the odds are that the team will most certainly be in the Championship next year.
With that noted, I do think there will actually be moments for this club to cheer about across the second half of the season. The rejuvenation of the side under Frank Lampard is proof that a new boss can have a big impact - even if not forever.
TSF: From the current squad, which underperformers do you think have the best chance to reverse their form under Sean Dyche and play a critical role in Everton’s push up the table?
RBM: Dwight McNeil is going to have to play like everyone thought he would be able to when he was pegged as the main replacement for Richarlison after his departure to your north London best friends. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is an easy answer, but while McNeil has to find some confidence, DCL simply needs to remain on the pitch. Since his fantastic run under Carlo Ancelotti, the player has looked like a shell of what he was. Injuries have taken their toll on the English number nine, but if he can get good service and stay healthy, he will have to be an important figure for us.
The defense hasn’t played very badly this season; this team needs scoring and creativity, and so former Arsenal midfielder Alex Iwobi and young Amadou Onana will have to contribute even more than they already do going forward.
TSF: Give us your predicted starting XI for the match and a final scoreline.
RBM: Oh my. I will say (it’s just a feeling) that the team plays something like a 4-2-3-1, but I could just as well be dead wrong - 4-4-2 is also possible with Neal Maupay joining DCL.
Pickford; Mykolenko, Tarkowski, Coady, Coleman; Onana, Gueye; McNeil, Iwobi, Gray; Calvert-Lewin
3-1 Arsenal - but maybe Sean Dyche’s stone-cold defense will reinvigorate the optimist in me.
Thanks to Trent Nelson and Royal Blue Mersey for taking the time to talk with us.