Everton return to Premier League action this Sunday (2pm GMT kick-off) when they welcome Aston Villa to Goodison Park. This weekend’s contest will be the Blues’ first since the 0-0 FA Cup Third Round draw at Crystal Palace that saw Dominic Calvert-Lewin wrongfully sent off as the visitors held on for a replay at Goodison.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference earlier today, manager Sean Dyche provided a squad update. While expressing his relief that Calvert-Lewin was available after having the successful appeal of the red card, the gaffer added he was pleased with the outcome but remained perplexed that the situation happened.
“It was bizarre on the day, wasn’t it? I don’t think anyone will be shocked. Don’t get me wrong, we are thankful for the process, but I am a bit concerned about how it ended up there in the first place given how long it took to check it. I don’t think it needed all that, but the decision was made and at least the powers that be have changed it back.”
On the injury front, Dyche confirmed that Ashley Young was back on the grass training. Dwight McNeil would not be available for the Villa match but his prospects for a return sooner rather than later was encouraging, possibly even available for the replay against Palace on Wednesday.
“It looked a nasty one, and it felt nasty at the time, but it has settled quick. This one, touch and go; doubt he will make this one, but the next one, he has got a chance. He’s been very lucky, I think, because it did look an awkward one. Obviously, when people go off on a stretcher, it looks alarming. But it turned out it was that moment of truth when he realised it was better than he thought, which is great news.”
As for Abdoulaye Doucoure, the news was brief but very promising:
“He’s been training, so we are hopeful. We are hopeful that he is fine, and he certainly looks fine.”
I always love the Gaffer’s dry sense of humour which tends to be on full display during press conferences. When asked about the transfer rumours surrounding Arnaut Danjuma and the recent social media post from the player where he is pictured on a plane:
”The situation is very simple; he’s an Everton player. He’s been playing and there’s a fair chance of playing in the next one too. There isn’t really a story. He’s an Everton player and he will be part of what we do.
“I had a word with him as it seemed excessive to be going from Manchester to Liverpool by plane. I’d have taken a car, but modern players need to look after themselves. He’s said nothing other than he wants to work hard and play.”
Dyche spoke about the recent run of games that saw the team get pulled back closer to the relegation zone. Everton now sit just one point ahead of Luton Town in 18th place and could feasibly be in the relegation zone again before the kick off on Sunday afternoon.
“The idea of the last few games – we’ve played some very good sides, and I think we’ve played very well in a couple of them. A couple of errors have cost us quite badly and there was one where we stepped off the mark down at Wolves.
“Within the performance levels, I think there have been clear signs of still remaining consistent. That’s what we have to do – still remain consistent to our performance levels. I preach it all the time to the players. The longer we do that; the more times we do that over a season, it pays you back, and it is a season’s work – never more so than this season, having 10 points currently gone.”