In an exclusive interview, Everton boss Dyche explains his plan of attack for this weekend's trip to the City Ground. Watch Nottingham Forest vs Everton live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm.
Saturday 2 December 2023 07:02, UK
When Sean Dyche reflected on Sunday's 3-0 defeat to Manchester United, the overriding feeling for the Everton boss was frustration. This is a game which could have gone differently.
Everton spurned a series of good chances, particularly towards the end of the first half, and by the final whistle had recorded a higher Expected Goals total than their opponents. The shot count read 24 vs 9 in the defeated side's favour.
He is seeing enough in his team's performances to believe there are reasons to be positive for Evertonians and that the 10-point deduction handed down by the Premier League for financial issues, which dropped his side into the relegation zone, can be overcome.
The key, though, will be scoring the goals to make that good play count.
Everton rank fifth in the Premier League for shots. They rank bottom for shot conversion. No side has a greater negative difference between their Expected Goals figure and their actual goals figure.
Much of the wastefulness has come at Goodison Park, where Dyche says he has been left scratching his head at how Everton haven't managed to gather more than four points from their seven home games.
"You've got to keep getting in the right areas," he says, when asked what the solution is. "You've got to keep mixing your play to be putting players in a situation to score.
"The hardest bit is putting it in. That's the reason why strikers cost so much money!
"But we've been scoring well away from home and creating a lot of chances at home. Over a season's work, as long as we maintain the standards, then we'll look after ourselves."
Everton's away form has been positive. They've won three of their last four in the Premier League on the road, surpassing the total number of away wins they managed in each of the past two seasons already.
Dyche says his players have worked hard to change the perception of the team away from home and praised the developing mentality of the group after the recent, battling, 3-2 win at Crystal Palace.
But there is perhaps also an element that Everton are well suited to being the away side. They top the Premier League's running stats and work hard across the pitch out of possession. With it, they are direct and get forwards quickly.
It adds up to the fact their last 11 wins have come when they have had less than 50 per cent possession. They've lost their last 10 when they've had more than 60 per cent.
"We want to play on the front foot. We don't want to sit in," says Dyche when those stats are put to him. "Some games you have to by the nature of the game. Some games we're doing it deliberately. Other games, particularly at home, we've taken the game on by pressing higher up the pitch.
"There are different ways of operating. There was a popular misconception many moons ago about possession, that you can't win without possession. That's been disproved.
"I've never really been too worried about possession all of the time. It's what you do with your possession. How often can you penetrate the opposition? Are you playing effective football or are you just playing football? That's been one of my obsessions: playing effective football and asking the team to be effective all over the pitch."
Everton's effectiveness on the road will be tested at the City Ground, live on Sky Sports this Saturday. They face a Nottingham Forest side which, prior to Saturday's defeat to Brighton, had gone eight unbeaten in the league on their own patch. Steve Cooper's men would be a point below Everton in the table had there not been the points deduction but Dyche knows how difficult it can be for opposition sides at that stadium.
"These are not easy games," says Dyche. Everton's approach, though, will be a confident one. "You have to go in the right frame of mind and in the form that we've been in we certainly want to go there positively and take the game on."
"There was a big group of us," Dyche says with a broad smile when asked about his time as a youth team player at Nottingham Forest. "We used to run around Nottingham now and again, have a couple of beers, like you do after a game."
The Everton boss chuckles, perhaps at the memories he doesn't reveal of those nights out with team-mates such as Roy Keane. "They were good times, without a doubt."
Dyche never made a first-team appearance for Nottingham Forest but it is clear the club played an influential role in his formation as a footballer and as a person. "They were important years for me," he says.
Dyche, a youth team player at Forest before going on to forge his career elsewhere, was struck by the "tenacity" of Keane, who he lived with for a period and who would go on to command a British record transfer fee before captaining Manchester United. "His desire was very powerful."
And of course, with Brian Clough at the helm, this was an iconic period for the club.
"Everyone knew the way the team played," Dyche says about Clough's work. "Everyone knew the expectation of how to play. It was kind of ingrained in the whole club. That's a valuable thing to have if you can build it. But of course, nowadays, people want to change a lot. So it takes some doing when you've got to build a whole club."
Dyche's coaching staff have Forest connections, too. His assistant, Ian Woan, spent 10 years there as a player. His first-team coach, Steve Stone, helped them win their previous promotion to the Premier League in 1998.
He is still in contact with former midfielder Tony Loughlan, who coached with Dyche at Burnley, and defender Gary Charles. There are occasional dinners with Keane to reminisce. "We have a bit of a laugh at old times and life back then."
But there will be no sentimentality when the whistle blows at 5.30pm on Saturday. Dyche will be targeting another memorable night in Nottingham with a much-needed three points on the pitch.
Watch Nottingham Forest vs Everton in the Premier League on Saturday December 2, live on Sky Sports from 5pm; kick-off 5.30pm.