May 18, 2024

Talking Point: Everton’s dramatic 3-2 win at Crystal Palace was very different to a previous trip to Selhurst Park last year.

Everton celebrate their second goal by Abdoulaye Doucoure in the 3-2 win at Crystal Palace and (inset) manager Sean Dyche

They’re still way off where Sean Dyche and Blues fans would want them to be but Everton are now a different beast than they were in the not-too-distant past thanks to his managerial endeavours.

It was only on March 20 last year that an Everton side came to Selhurst Park and were torn apart 4-0. Following that meek capitulation, then Blues boss Frank Lampard said: “There is only so much you can keep trying to butter someone up to get confidence. You’re playing at the cut-throat end of football; this is the FA Cup quarter-finals. If you haven’t got the confidence to play, you can flip it and say: ‘Have you got the b****** to play?’ Apologies but that’s the football term. We didn’t play that badly today, Palace didn’t play that well. It was a lack of confidence, and a lack of what I just said. It wasn’t tactics.”

While Lampard was subsequently able to secure his own dramatic 3-2 win over Crystal Palace a couple of months later to preserve Everton’s Premier League status for another season, plus another Goodison victory over them, 3-0 in the October, the latter result proved to be a false dawn in a season that produced the lowest equivalent points total in the club’s history. A serial winner throughout his glorious playing career, the Chelsea legend was able to heal the rifts at a club fractured by Farhad Moshiri’s misguided appointment of former Kop Idol Rafael Benitez, who in addition to his past employment across Stanley Park with Liverpool was a manager long past the peak of his powers. But the reality was that the Blues were diving headfirst towards a first relegation in 72 years on Lampard’s watch last term before he was finally relieved of his duties.

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Let’s not forget that Everton will still joint bottom of the Premier League with Southampton when Dyche was appointed in late January. But even though they were the only club fighting against the drop not to add to their squad in the winter transfer window – despite the best efforts of their new manager, director of football Kevin Thelwell and others – he still managed to keep them up. It’s been far from plain sailing for the 52-year-old, who previously spent the best part of a decade getting Burnley to punch above their weight on a relatively shoestring budget – he’s proclaimed that he reckoned he had one book in him from the tales of his time at Turf Moor but he’s already got enough material for a trilogy from his first few months at Goodison Park – but the signs are now there that this group of players are starting to turn a corner.

It’s not just personnel who have changed – goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and Abdoulaye Doucoure, scorer of Everton’s second goal were the only survivors in the starting XI from their Selhurst Park thrashing 20 months ago – but a major shift in both attitude and application. Pegged back twice by a fleet-footed Palace side with their vociferous home crowd behind them, many recent incarnations of the Blues might have crumbled rather than had the backbone to overcome the setbacks of equalisers that came in the shape of a soft penalty and a defensive lapse to keep their heads and still find a winner.

Dyche, who has overcome the huge disappointment of the early home defeats this season when his side squandered a string of goalscoring opportunities – something he describes as almost “unfathomable” – spoke in his post-match press conference about the importance of finding different ways to win Premier League matches, especially when you’re not at your best, and he was spot on. While Everton’s 1-0 win at West Ham United on their previous trip to London less than a fortnight earlier was more typical of what we’ve seen so far from his sides in terms of getting their noses in front and then doggedly defending a lead, this was a contrasting type of test.



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