Sean Dyche is right – simple is good. As were Everton while claiming their first win of the season and showcasing all the spirit and spark absent against Arsenal…
There is no disgrace in losing to Arsenal – certainly not by the odd goal when you’ve taken only a single point all season and the Gunners have had the ball for three-quarters of the game. But there was a despondency about Everton this week that felt deeper than the dismay that greeted all their other defeats this season.
Why? Because Everton didn’t compete. The Toffees have plenty of form for rattling Arsenal but, last week, the narrow margin of defeat disguised just how far off Sean Dyche’s men were.
Was it too simple to pin it on a lack of intent and desire? Not according to Dyche: “I don’t think it is too simplistic. Sometimes simple is good. Often simple is good.
“When I spoke to the players about it after the game, when we did the debrief, it wasn’t just on the technical side of the game and the tactical, I said: ‘lads, look at the feel, look at the body language, look at the intent’. It was completely different.”
Whatever else was said in that debrief, it worked a treat. Everton were completely different again. They were very, very good. All the purpose and drive lacking last week was present at Brentford where Dyche’s men claimed their first win of the season at the sixth attempt.
A huge victory and one that was fully deserved. They were the better side for all but the first 36 seconds, when Ashley Young was booked for abruptly halting an attack that saw the Bees cut through Dyche’s midfield, which must have given the travelling fans a sinking feeling that a repeat of the last week’s listlessness was on the cards.
But, belatedly by less than a minute, Everton rolled up their sleeves and engaged in some glorious Dyche-ball, evidenced little more clearly than the manner of their opening goal.
A hoisted cross into the box was knocked down by James Tarkowski’s into the path of Abdoulaye Doucoure, who finished with the kind of ruthlessness that Everton, with a miserable two goals from an xG of 7.5 prior to today, have so badly lacked. Simple really is good.
Doucoure almost scored a replica of his opener but this time his effort crashed off the bar as the visitors threatened a two-goal lead that few would have begrudged them. So, Everton being Everton, they conceded an equaliser within a minute.
And they wobbled. But only slightly. Brentford showed some brief spark after Mathias Jensen’s leveller and few would have been surprised to see the Bees take control of the game. But Thomas Frank’s side look somewhat off-colour too this term, no matter what the manager tries. When Everton rediscovered their hustle, no doubt prompted by some half-time cajoling from their manager, the Toffees looked the only likely winners.
Still, though, they had to do what has been so hard for them this season – score. At the back, they were unflustered, and in midfield, the battle was being won. Up top, Beto was busy and while his finishing lacked some refinement, he was creating openings for others. Still, his withdrawal came as no surprise, nor did the boos that greeted it.
In the ascendancy, Dyche could have paired Beto with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, withdrawing the erratic Idrissa Gueye while moving either Doucoure or James Garner, both impressive here, alongside Amadou Onana. Nope. Dyche kept it as simple as he could, going like for like, with Calvert-Lewin replacing Beto rather than partnering him.
Fair play to Dyche. Perhaps the easiest option was to go for Brentford with two up top but the manager recognised that what they were doing was working. Which must have been quite an odd sensation for Dyche.
When Everton scored their deserved second, it was even simpler in its creation than their first. A corner from the right by Dwight McNeil was met by Tarkowski, who nodded past Mark Flekken, with the Brentford keeper’s feet nailed to his line.
Everton were strangely assertive after going ahead for the second time. When they extended that lead, after Garner won possession high and fed Calvert-Lewin with a delicious through ball, they protected their advantage with far more assuredness than you might expect from a side with the capacity for calamity like Everton.
This has to be a turning point for the Toffees, certainly with two home games against Luton and Bournemouth coming up. The blueprint is there – and it is gloriously simple.