Talking Tactics

How Dyche has found winning formula ahead of return to Burnley

By Adrian Clarke 14 Dec 2023
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Team analysis: Everton

Winning five of their last seven matches, Everton have hit a sweet spot that bodes well for their relegation battle and their duel with Burnley, as Toffees boss Sean Dyche returns to Turf Moor to face his former club.

Three successive clean sheets point towards Everton's defensive improvement, but it is their attacking play which has developed most.

They are carrying far more of a goal threat this season, averaging 9.25 shots from inside the box per 90 minutes, compared with 7.39 last campaign. 

The Toffees scored twice or more in only six of their 38 matches in 2022/23, but they have already equalled that feat this season, netting at least two goals in six of their 16 outings.

Accelerating their attacks

Dyche has settled on a 4-4-1-1 formation that contains industry, power, blossoming partnerships and a nice balance.

Out wide, Jack Harrison and Dwight McNeil are hardworking players who carry the ball forward at pace, and this is a vital ingredient.

The pair are thriving in a counter-attacking team who currently average only 39 per cent possession.

Opta’s "direct speed" metric measures how fast teams travel towards the opposition goal when they forge an attack, and Everton have shown a huge improvement in this area.

They are playing vertical, purposeful football with more quality than last campaign, leaping from a direct speed of 1.42 metres per second last season to 2.01.

Top PL teams for direct speed 23/24
Team Direct speed (m/s) PL rank
Everton 2.01 1st
West Ham 1.97 2nd
Nott'm Forest 1.95 3rd
Liverpool 1.93 4th
Burnley 1.41 19th

The key to this is the presence of a target man in Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Beto, who have helped to provide a better platform for runners from deep to support.

Everton's style of play is the polar opposite to that of Saturday's opponents Burnley, who move the ball forward much more patiently under Vincent Kompany.

Leading the way for crosses

There is nothing too complicated about Dyche’s tactical approach.

He has constructed an organised, combative, counter-attacking unit who attack at pace before delivering an abundance of crosses into the box.

The partnership between McNeil and Vitalii Mykolenko down the left has been excellent, while Ashley Young and Harrison are also working well in tandem on the right wing.

No side have delivered more crosses in open play than Dyche’s men. By comparison, last season seven teams produced more than Everton.

Most PL open-play crosses 23/24
Team Total
Everton 245
Luton 230
Man Utd 228
Aston Villa 202
Brentford 200
Increased running power

Another significant factor in this upturn in form is athleticism.

Calvert-Lewin’s return from injury has given Everton greater power inside the final third, but from back to front it feels like the Toffees' performances have been more energised.

Burnley are the only Premier League side to cover more distance per 90 minutes than Everton, who have increased their physical output from 109.9km per match last season to an impressive 114.1km.

In and out of possession there is now a fierce collective desire to win individual duels, and to test their direct opponents with physicality. 

Most distance covered per 90 23/24
Team Distance (km)
Burnley 116.5
Everton 114.1
Brighton 113.9
Brentford 113.5
Spurs 113.1
Dynamic Doucoure

Abdoulaye Doucoure was ostracised for a while under Frank Lampard, but he is revelling playing behind Calvert-Lewin in a No 10 role.

In general play he drops in to act as a third central midfielder, but when the Toffees break at speed he charges into the box.

Doucoure is Everton's leading scorer with six goals, boasting an impressive conversion rate of 26.1 per cent, usually with a cool, one-touch finish.

All six of his strikes have come when making runs into the box to get on the end of rebounds or loose balls.

Whenever the ball runs free inside the penalty area at Turf Moor on Saturday, Burnley’s defenders must ensure they are close enough to put a challenge in on Doucoure.

If they fail to get tight to him, the midfielder will punish them.

Also in this series

Part 1: How Fulham have revived attack after Mitrovic exit
Part 2: How Cooper has gone back in time by changing Forest's shape
Part 3: Klopp's dilemma with Alexander-Arnold's new role

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