Everton: Sean Dyche must focus Toffees game plan on Martin Ødegaard
Everton manager Sean Dyche faces a brutal task in his Goodison Park debut on Saturday, and the former Burnley boss must focus his efforts on stopping Arsenal’s superstar skipper Martin Ødegaard.
The Lowdown: January disaster
After the sacking of Frank Lampard, Everton fans could have been forgiven for expecting to see some new faces coming through the door during the January transfer window.
Alas, the Toffees ended up as the only team in the Premier League not to make a single signing, despite selling Anthony Gordon, who has played over 1,000 Premier League minutes this season.
Dyche now faces an uphill battle with a squad even thinner than the one Lampard left behind, and his first test is welcoming Mikel Arteta’s red-hot Arsenal team to Merseyside in Saturday’s early kick-off.
The Latest: Ødegaard the key
While it’s fair to say the Gunners have more than a few threats – Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have seven top flight goals each – stopping Ødegaard is surely the new Everton boss’ priority. Arsenal have failed to win in each of Ødegaard’s three lowest-rated performances this season (Whoscored), and they are the only times they have dropped points.
The Norway captain is perhaps the most crucial cog in the Arteta machine, racking up eight goals and five assists on route to becoming one of the front-runners to be named PFA Player of the Year.
The last time these sides met, the 24 year-old, who has four goals and three assists in his last six league matches, scored in a 5-1 demolition job of the Blues in north London, creating five chances – just one less than the entire Everton team – and registering three shots, one successful dribble and a 100 per cent completion rate on long passes.
The Verdict: 4-5-1
One way to trouble the Gunners star is to pack the midfield by dropping an extra forward player when out of possession, similar to how Dyche used Ashley Barnes during his time at Turf Moor.
Setting up in a 4-4-2, either Barnes or Jay Rodriguez would come deep to effectively create a 4-5-1, allowing the two central midfielders to limit the space between themselves and the centre-backs while Chris Wood remained up front as an out ball (The Mastermind Site).
At Everton, Dyche should look at none other than Alex Iwobi for this role, given the Nigerian’s tireless work ethic and impressive versatility. He is capable of playing across the midfield or on either wing, and has been dubbed ‘exceptional‘ by Franck Leboeuf for his form this season.
Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gueye, averaging 2.6 and 2.1 tackles per game respectively, can focus their efforts on stifling Ødegaard, with Demarai Gray and Dwight McNeil the likely candidates on the flanks to get balls into Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front.
According to Whoscored, Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton set up in exactly this system when they took points off Arsenal back in October, deploying a 4-4-2 with midfielder Joe Aribo playing in the ‘Barnes role’. Dyche can give Toffees fans a first impression to remember by replicating the Austrian’s game plan.