Everton’s defeat at Liverpool was a brutal reality check for Sean Dyche

If Sean Dyche got the old Everton experience in his first game as manager at Goodison Park, he has the same again at Anfield.

Against Arsenal he used his established playbook to deliver a dismal win and enlivened the snarling Goodison beast of an atmosphere many feared was dying.

Perhaps it emboldened Dyche’s claim that his new players were better than their position in the league would suggest. He may have a pause for thought on Tuesday morning.

Given that those predictable Stanley Park contests tend to go out for the blues, this was a classic: same old, same old.

After the script felt so eerily familiar after 36 minutes, what can one really expect but a 16th Premier League defeat at Anfield?

James Tarkowski’s header hit the post and 13 seconds later, Mohamed Salah hit in front of the Kop. The visitors never really looked to recover.

Dyche is unlikely to recall dates like March 13, 2012, when Everton arrived at Anfield unbeaten in 10 games to take on a side from Liverpool who had lost their last three Premier League games. “There’ll never be a better time to beat them,” was a common sentiment among neutrals. Steven Gerrard scored a hat-trick and the hosts won 3-0.

Or skip another 17 winless Merseyside derbies to January 2020 and the FA Cup third round. Jurgen Klopp made nine changes, sending a young team, and Carlo Ancelotti appeared ready to capitalize. Everton’s full-strength side lost 1-0.

Each time they have found a new way to fail and so it continued on Monday with a sobering defeat which, while not unduly damaging Everton’s hopes of Premier League survival, nonetheless underscored the magnitude of the task before which her new manager stands.

The drop in some elements of their performance from nine days earlier was alarming, especially considering the extra time Dyche had to work with the players on the training ground ahead of this game. Muscle memory of what happened to them at Anfield seemed too noticeable once inexplicably poor positioning from Jordan Pickford helped them fall behind.

Up until then, Everton had been in the game. The pressing and transplant instilled in Dyche before Arsenal’s win was evident again. But from the moment Salah’s goofball left his boot, Everton seemed at a loss as to how to react and their passing deteriorated along with their faith.

Yes, it was a tall order for Everton to go there and win despite Liverpool’s poor form, especially without Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the side leading the line as effectively as he did in defeating Mikel Arteta’s title contenders .

But Dyche must be quick to recognize the psychological baggage carried by much of this squad – particularly at Liverpool – and in general. Even more so when things don’t go so well.

Managing transitions and defending counter-attacks was a repeated Achilles’ heel, and it’s where they allowed a team that thrives on such passages to score two crucial hits.

Conor Coady bemoaned that blunder in his post-game interview, and it was difficult to disagree. His team-mates were too reticent as Liverpool scored both goals and no one was willing to risk a caution with a cynical foul at the right moment.

There was also not nearly enough of the brawn or determination to nullify Arsenal; Watch Alex Iwobi meekly lose the ball ahead of Liverpool’s second-place finish to 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic (who played excellently).

Then there was her offer of attack. A shot on target is the stark end result of a night that underscored the lack of options available following a disastrous January transfer window from Everton.

Without Calvert-Lewin, who Dyche later said might not be suitable for Saturday’s game against Leeds either, the manager opted for a striker loaned out from Championship side Sunderland in December. The decision to bring Ellis Simms back smacked of desperation from former manager Frank Lampard – a desire simply to add body to a weak forward line. Simm’s goals in the second division point to a talented player but the fact that Dyche had picked him ahead of Neal Maupay, who signed £15m ($18.2m) in the summer, seemed to say a lot.

In the end it was a gamble that failed as the 22-year-old took a good chance to put his side ahead and spent most of the time on the periphery, losing to Joe Gomez.

He wasn’t the only one who posed little threat, and by and large had to struggle in isolation. The lack of creativity in midfield also hurt Everton, epitomized by the sight of Dwight McNeil – so impressive against Arsenal – hitting long balls too far into goal, or Seamus Coleman overlapping and sending a cross over the heads of all his team-mates swung in the area.

Given these facts, it is not surprising that Everton are the top scorers at the top flight (16 goals, one behind Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest). Even when Tom Davies offered a late rally opportunity, he missed it.

“There are good players here,” he said in his first press conference as Everton coach. “They may not have shown it, but we have to remember the good players here. We need to brush them up a bit.”

It seems that Dyche has a lot of fine-tuning to do in the coming weeks.

“The details are forever important in football,” he concluded on Tuesday. “We got them right last weekend, we didn’t get them right tonight. It was obvious. In both boxes too many details went against the grain.

“The next level is working with the players and defining the things that we need to do better. We have to get everything we want to achieve into the players quickly.

“They have been a very good group to work with so far. I assume that this will continue.”

With their only reliable forward physically challenged and a team prone to mental weakness, Dyche has to dig deep to get details right fast enough.

There will be other games far more important to their hopes of survival, but that latest derby humiliation was another dose of painful perspective. Dyche clipped his work.

(Top Photo: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

https://theathletic.com/4193916/2023/02/14/everton-liverpool-sean-dyche/ Everton’s defeat at Liverpool was a brutal reality check for Sean Dyche

Russell Falcon

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