February 25, 2024

How rejuvenated Everton are getting the best from Vitalii Mykolenko.

“Vitalii Mykolenko needs to get better in attack”

“Vitalii Mykolenko needs to be more of a factor going forward”

“We need more from Vitalii Mykolenko in the final third”

He heard you.

Early this month the Ukrainian scored his first Everton goal for 18 long months – and to be fair, you could tell by the finish that it had been a while.

His initial shot was well struck but saved at the near post, then he swung a wild leg at the rebound, which deflected in. Hey, they all count!

The following week he scored again, pounding up the pitch from the first whistle against Crystal Palace, taking a shot from 18 yards that was blocked and sent wide, then stayed in the mix so he could direct Jack Harrison’s deft cross home with his head.

From an 18-month goal drought to two in two: There’s an old adage for that.

The second finish was undoubtedly better, but the movement for the first was arguably more intriguing, as it came thanks to an inverted run into the box which counts as a relatively new element to his game.

It’s the type Goodison Park is very familiar with – although we’ll need to see plenty more of it before we can truly start drawing parallels to the legendary Leighton Baines.

These movements are clearly something Sean Dyche has started encouraging, as Mykolenko has historically been a timid attacker, much more focused on the defensive side of the game.

Even as a wing-back under Frank Lampard, he wasn’t particularly adventurous and would naturally stay wide rather than move inside.

 

So this is pretty new, and pretty fun. Its emergence is likely linked to Dwight McNeil’s return to fitness, who has paired up with Mykolenko to create a fairly formidable left-sided duo.

McNeil holds the width on the left while his teammate darts inward towards the box, offering a late run and something a little different for opponents to take into account.

They don’t always use this rotation – sometimes the dynamic is more traditional – but when they hit the switch, it causes carnage.

It probably wouldn’t work unless McNeil, who has always been switched-on defensively, was smart enough and willing enough to cover him. And McNeil couldn’t do any of that from the left if Harrison wasn’t present on the right, offering creativity and crossing. Suddenly, after years in the tactical wilderness, Everton have a few mini-dynamics within the team that are producing results.

In addition to this new layer in Mykolenko’s game, he remains defensively very solid, staying true to his roots in that sense. That essentially means he’s currently one of the best all-round full-backs in the Premier League, hitting his best-ever form at the perfect time.

His recent WhoScored.com Ratings certainly reflect that rise: 3 of his best 4 scores in an Everton shirt have come in the last month, posting superb ratings against Crystal Palace (7.88), West Ham (7.85) and Brighton & Hove Albion (7.73).

Even in the Merseyside derby loss, he was really good. Mohamed Salah scored twice and technically he matched up against the Ukrainian, but neither of the goals were anything to do with him: A penalty and a late counter-attack as Everton searched for an equaliser.

Finally, Mykolenko is matching up strong defensive wits and a dominance in duels with a genuine attacking threat, adding a wrinkle to Everton’s attacking play that teams are struggling to deal with.

Many have been calling for it. Here it is.

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