Everton picked up an invaluable three points against a red-hot Brentford side at Goodison Park on Saturday, further lifting their survival hopes and collective belief in Sean Dyche’s plan. Dwight McNeil’s stunner just 35 seconds into the match proved to be enough after a staunch performance from the Blues which saw Thomas Frank’s Brentford side held to fewer total shots and shots on target despite keeping two-thirds of the possession. Although it wasn’t pretty, grinding out gritty wins just like that seems to be the formula for Everton’s survival bid, and Sean Dyche seems the perfect manager to facilitate it. Although all the teams around them have games in hand, the win takes the Toffees out of the relegation zone until at least next weekend when the team travels to Stamford Bridge.
1. Sean’s Swift Success
It hasn’t taken much time for Sean Dyche to equal the three wins Frank Lampard mustered this season before his sacking. Since the 51-year-old’s appointment, Everton have earned 10 points (1.42 points/game), which places them sixth in the form table since his first game on February 1st. When you compare that to the measly 15 points (0.75 points/game) that Lampard collected, the improvement jumps off the page. Sean Dyche has delivered wins and hope, it’s just a shame he wasn’t appointed earlier, or Everton may well be comfortably clear of the drop zone by now.
Everton have won as many Premier League games under Sean Dyche (3 in 7) as they won under Frank Lampard this season (3 in 20). pic.twitter.com/1yTRp5qFwD— Peter Guy (@Getintothis) March 11, 2023
2. Streak Stoppers
One of the most encouraging things about the victories Sean Dyche has managed thus far is that two of them have come against good teams in great form. Although Leeds were struggling mightily even before their Seamus Coleman-inspired loss to the Toffees, both Brentford and Arsenal were enjoying lengthy unbeaten streaks upon their visits to Goodison Park, and both left without them. In fact, Arsenal’s 13-match run and Brentford’s 12-match run are the second and third-longest unbeaten streaks endured in the Premier League this season respectively, but both were put to the sword by Dyche’s Treacherous Toffees.
Brentford had the longest active unbeaten streak in the Premier League…— Constitution Hill (@WilliamHill) March 11, 2023
…then they came to Goodison Park.
3. Wonderful 1-0’s
In true Dyche-ball fashion, all three of Everton’s wins in the new year have come by 1-0 scorelines. In fact, 4 out of Everton’s 6 league victories this season have come via that same result. Although some may not think that is sustainable, it is clearly a founding principle of Dyche’s footballing philosophy. With 3 clean sheets in 7 compared to just 4 in 20 under Lampard, the solid defensive foundation needed for any survival charge has been laid, and safety is in reach should the Toffees sustain it.
Most 1-0 wins in @premierleague since February 1st (Sean Dyche appointed Everton manager on January 30th):— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) March 11, 2023
3️⃣ - Everton
2️⃣ - Bournemouth, Southampton
1️⃣ - 9 teams
Everton kept 4 clean sheets in 20 PL games from August-January - kept 3 in 7 games since Dyche appointed pic.twitter.com/NUIYsymxVd
4. Noble Ninety Minutes
After Dwight McNeil’s 1st minute goal, Everton were happy to sit deeper and defend their lead knowing it could be all they needed for the three points, and that it was. The lads put in an absolute shift for those 89 minutes plus stoppages and defended resolutely. Seamus Coleman, James Tarkowski, and Jordan Pickford were all excellent at the back and earned a clean sheet against a team that, entering the match, had scored over twice as many goals as Everton. Brentford’s xG was inflated heavily by Ethan Pinnock’s “shot” which was cleared off the line by goalscorer Dwight McNeil (0.71 xG according to FotMob), but I personally don’t think he knew that much about it. Outside of that, Everton limited Brentford to half-chances, the most dangerous of which came when Rico Henry’s attempt was saved by Jordan Pickford’s family jewels. Despite living a bit dangerously towards the end of the second half, the Toffees were able to see the game out and hang onto a precious three points which, for now, move them out of the relegation zone and up into 15th place.
Dwight McNeil's goal after 35 seconds is the earliest winner for #efc ever at Goodison— Gavin Buckland (@GavinBuckland1) March 11, 2023
5. Gray Galvanized
Despite playing in an unfamiliar role as the lone striker, Demarai Gray has made an instant impact since finally being included in Sean Dyche’s Starting XI. He provided a key outlet today for relieving Brentford’s relentless pressure and was quite simply robbed of a goal by a VAR review which deemed he had scored using an accidental handball despite a total lack of evidence to suggest a “clear and obvious error” was made by the referee. As I outlined last week, the 26-year-old leads the team in nearly every attacking metric this season and has provided a real spark upon his justified re-selection. Easily the most dangerous and incisive player in the squad, Gray seems to be hitting his stride at the perfect time for the Blues, and hopefully, that will only continue once he either further familiarizes himself with the striker position, or is moved back to the wing once Dominic Calvert-Lewin is 100% fit. Regardless, Gray is filling in for the injured #9 admirably, and should unquestionably keep his spot over Neal Maupay and Ellis Simms for the time being.