Everton go full Dyche before Johnson goes half Mbappe in Premier League classic
Everton were very Sean Dyche and that made for a very entertaining game of football, sprinkled in some astounding quality from Nottingham Forest, and one man in particular.
It was always going to be a passion-fueled occasion. Sean Dyche will have been growling at his Everton players about the importance of snapping into challenges, and the Nottingham Forest fans always require that same commitment from their players at the City Ground. It was as though the midfielders were in fact playing American football, constantly reacting to fumbles, with the ball seemingly never under control.
That was more down to the energy and manic pressure applied by each side rather than a lack of quality, and actually this is the sort of game in which composure is the enemy. It was frantic, all the more entertaining for it, and, one suspects, exactly what Dyche wants in a game of football.
Without Dominic Calvert-Lewin or another biggun as a target man, Everton’s best recourse is to win free-kicks or set pieces, fill the box and win first and second balls, in the hope the third or fourth can end with a shot and a goal.
That’s exactly what happened with their second goal. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford booted a free-kick from inside his own half towards James Tarkowski (big f***er No.1), who headed the ball to Michael Keane (big f***er No.2), who headed it to Abdoulaye Doucoure (big f***er No.3), who headed it past Keylor Navas. It’s hard to imagine a more Dyche-y goal.
They were awarded a penalty after a similar display of their aerial physicality, with Forest players failing to deal with a ball into the box before Jonjo Shelvey hung out a leg to bring down Dwight McNeil.
Dyche is frequently criticised for his direct, often negative football. And in games – often against the bigger teams – in which they sit back and absorb, that criticism is understandable, if not fair. But there’s little doubt in games like this, against a relegation rival, that Dyche’s management is a bonus for the neutral.
There were lots of ‘I didn’t touch him’ protestations from Everton players flying into challenges, with the counter-argument being ‘perhaps not, but if you did you may have ended his career’. Soft touches under Lampard, the same Everton players now look like a bunch of absolute b*stards to play against.
Forest tried to play ‘their football’, passing through the lines, but had little joy in attempting to bypass Doucoure, Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gueye, and crosses from wide are exactly what a Dyche team wants to defend.
The game was less about who’s better, and more about who’s harder, save for two moments of the highest quality from Forest.
Morgan Gibbs-White drove from midfield, played a brilliant one-two with Chris Wood before forcing a low diving save from Pickford. It was Brennan Johnson who converted the rebound, and it was the Welshman who struck to bring the scores level in the second half.
It was as though Johnson’s half-time orange slice had been rubbed in the essence of Kylian Mbappe, with his fine slotted finish into the top corner reminiscent of the French wizard, whose frightening speed in possession was also mimicked by the Forest forward, who nearly won it for Forest with a wonderfully curled effort which just missed the top corner.
Neither side deserved to lose and both probably reckon they did enough to win it, but those who tuned in for the lesser game on Super Sunday won despite the draw. What a treat that was.
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