He was in preparation for a game against Arsenal. Sean Dyche showed Dominic Calvert-Lewin a reel of targets. He urged the striker to enter the penalty area between the width of the posts and at the end of the cross. Calvert-Lewin responded with five attempts at halftime.
Certainly not Wednesday’s Arsenal game. Calvert-Lewin was crippled, as he had been for three-quarters of Dyche’s reign and most of Frank Lampard’s reign. There is no timeline for his return, which can be both depressing and plausible given his fitness record since scoring 21 goals for Carlo Ancelotti in 2020/21. Forecasts about his return may seem optimistic amid seemingly endless absences.
Remove Calvert-Lewin and Everton Take on the rematch of Dyche’s debut as the lowest scorer in the Premier League and with the weakest batting available. They are the only team without a player to have scored at least four league goals this season, and one of their three doubles, Anthony Gordon, is now on Newcastle’s records. Specialist strikers surrendered only two. Both goals under Dyche’s management came from the defenders: an incredibly brilliant effort from Seamus Coleman and a stopping headshot from James Tarkowski.
A refrain Lampard repeated often was that he regretted the financial situation and Financial Fair Play forcing them to sell Richarlison, but he has yet to open his best account for Tottenham, but the Brazilian player has not been sufficiently replaced. By the time Gordon left at the end of the window, many Everton targets – Danny Ings, Georginio Rutter, Kevin Schade – had gone to clubs that could fund a deal as early as January; Ings’ steadfast support for West Ham on Saturday showed what Everton were missing.
The end of Everton’s transfer window was frenetic but fruitless. They were arguably both cautious and negligent, reluctant to repeat mistakes from their past and pay for odds or bring in players they didn’t consider good enough, and yet they apparently relied on Calvert-Lewin’s fragile nature to extend their 69-year stay. Top section. Perhaps they were caught between one false economy and another; They certainly realized that no one thought it was expensive and that Udinese striker Beto had not activated the €35 million release clause.
But they appointed a manager with the famous 4-4-2 preference. Still, Dyche had to go 4-5-1 and has only two form forwards: Ellis Simms was recalled on loan at Sunderland and understandably overstepped his depth as he suddenly started a Merseyside derby. Simms at least fits the physical profile of a Dyche striker. Neal Maupay does not: then he is despised, stepped aside without any effect.
Maupay has only one goal for Everton; He has since played 887 minutes and endured a vicious 17-game run. The fact that he fired only 19 shots during his drought, of which only seven were accurate, is a reproach to him, but it also reflects his lack of service. Dwight McNeil, who has looked rejuvenated since his reunion with Dyche, should be fit to fire the supply line Calvert-Lewin, but not the smaller Maupay.
Lampard said he’s loved Maupay ever since he faced Brentford in the Championship in the Derby, whether it was out of genuine admiration or the need to praise a player he signed while other goals were fleeing Everton. Still, if it’s possible to lose speed by a yard on the way from Brighton to Merseyside, Maupay seems to have done it.
Tactics may not help much and the Frenchman may be shunned by his teammates, but he appears to have inherited Shane Long’s title as the Premier League’s ineffective running king. Dyche may feel nostalgic for former strike duo Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes.
Now he may need to consider trying something revolutionary for himself: picking a solo winger at the front. Demarai Gray is the other partner’s top scorer, although a penalty was included in his scant three-point tally. Illness meant that Dyche wasn’t on his starting side, and continuity has been a theme ever since, but Gray’s speed and propensity for the occasional spectacular could have at least offered a scoring possibility.
As it stands, there were only eight in the starting 11 against Aston Villa on Saturday this season, both at kick-off and at the final whistle. If it shows Everton’s impotence, it also highlights a problem with the haphazard formation of the squad. The wingers and midfielders are not scorers; Alex Iwobi’s 16 goals in 207 Premier League games, McNeil scored nine in 156, Abdoulaye Doucoure in 202, Idrissa Gueye three in 153, Tom Davies six in 149, Amadou Onana scored one in 22, Gray in 189 . Dyche means ‘we’re all allowed to score’. But not anyone.
Along with the Wolves, Everton has the lowest conversion rate, both overall and on target. Since the beginning of November, only Chelsea have had so few goals, it’s an oddly damned comparison. They have conceded more than one goal only twice in a game during the entire season, not since October.
Perhaps it made it mandatory to appoint a manager with a proven capacity to get clean sheets. Dyche proved that a few goals can go a long way: Burnley team finished 17/18 in seventh place with 36 goals in 38 games. But even that team had forwards and they found 23 of these 36 goals.
Dyche has no record of scoring midfielders, even if those of Burnley are constrained by the demands of the regular 4-4-2. And so Arsenal, who lost to Tarkowski’s header 25 days ago, might think they’d get a clean sheet if they could mark a central defender a little better in the corners.