The 4-4-2 formation was the bedrock of Sean Dyche’s Burnley sides for almost a decade, but what kind of team could he field deploying that system at Everton?
Although the 51-year-old would actually switch to 4-2-3-1 with the Clarets at times – he started his long reign at Turf Moor playing that way – or 4-5-1, according to the extensive information collated by Transfermarkt, he hasn’t used either 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 used by Frank Lampard this term.
A rare foray into the 5-3-2 his Goodison Park predecessor also put out of late included Burnley’s infamous 5-1 home defeat to the Blues on Boxing Day 2018. Transfers are expected before the end of the January window, but here’s a look at how the current Everton squad could line up in a 4-4-2 formation when everyone is fit.
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Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford
Dyche was the man who plucked Nick Pope from relative obscurity at Charlton Athletic to give him his big chance in the Premier League. During his time at the Valley, the goalkeeper – like Jordan Pickford in his early years at Sunderland – was loaned out extensively to Harrow Borough, Welling United, Cambridge United, Aldershot Town, York City and Bury but after spending his first season at Turf Moor on the bench, he established himself as first choice for five seasons before joining Newcastle United for an estimated £10million last summer.
Having worked with Pickford’s international understudy for six years, Dyche now gets the opportunity to manage England’s number one but with just 18 months left on the 28-year-old’s current contract, convincing him to pen a new deal would be a considerable bonus.
Right-back: Nathan Patterson
Currently sidelined with medial ligament damage picked up in the 4-1 home defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion on January 3 – his third significant injury in less than 12 months since coming to the club – Patterson will nevertheless be looking forward to working under his third Everton manager in that short space of time. Dyche will be looking to cultivate the Scottish international’s high energy levels and hard-working approach.
Left-back: Vitalii Mykolenko/Ben Godfrey
Like Patterson on the opposite full-back flank, Vitalii Mykolenko is also preparing to work under a third Blues boss within a year, having been brought in by Rafael Benitez’s replacement after he fell out with Lucas Digne, only for the Spaniard to be sacked within a week of the Frenchman’s sale to Aston Villa. While the Ukrainian has for the best part been first choice in the position ever since, his recent difficulties could see him make way for the more athletic Godfrey under Dyche once the former Norwich City man regains his fitness.
Centre-back: James Tarkowski
Like Pope, Dyche brought the Mancunian centre-back to Burnley in 2016 for around £3.5million from Brentford and he developed into an England international under him at Turf moor, winning two caps in 2018. For four consecutive seasons, Tarkowski made 35 or more Premier League appearances for the Clarets and was picked by Dyche in all but the last seven so you’d expect him to be one of the first names on the team sheet again.
Centre-back: Conor Coady/Michael Keane
This is where it gets interesting because while Coady has been a mainstay for Everton ever since he completed his season-long loan move from Wolverhampton Wanderers, the England international – like many of his team-mates – has been struggling for form of late which could lead to a reprieve for Keane who was frozen out under Lampard this season. Keane, who turned 30 this month, has played just 22 minutes of Premier League football all term off the bench at Brentford in August, but he was a mainstay for Dyche at Burnley for two-and-a-half years before his £25million move to Goodison Park in 2017.
Central midfield: Idrissa Gueye/James Garner
For three years during his first spell at Everton, Gueye was just the kind of industrious worker in the engine room that you’d expect Dyche to admire, but at 33 there are fears that his powers have now faded in what has been a hugely disappointing return so far since he came back from Paris Saint-Germain. The new manager must now assess whether he can get the veteran Senegalese international firing again or whether to turn to youngster Garner, who has good passing range from deep.
Central midfield: Amadou Onana
Everton’s biggest signing of the summer and indeed Lampard’s tenure at £33.5million, the Belgian international cited the former Chelsea midfielder’s presence as a big draw for him as a manager he could learn a lot from. The fact is though that while he shows great promise, performances from him and his team-mates have not been good enough to keep his ex-gaffer in a job and Onana now needs to roll his sleeves up under Dyche, who has got the best out of several imposing physical specimens in the past.
Right wing: Alex Iwobi/Dwight McNeil
For a time, particularly last season, Iwobi looked to be the most-improved player at Everton under Lampard after predecessors Marco Silva, Carlo Ancelotti and Benitez had all failed to tease any kind of consistent form out of him. But for all the hard work he now puts in, the Nigerian’s levels have dropped off recently and the central attacking role he fulfilled in a midfield trio under the previous manager may no longer exist under Dyche. The new manager could either deploy the former Arsenal man out wide or turn to £20million summer signing Dwight McNeil, who he brought through as a youngster at Burnley with the Rochdale-born wide man a more natural supplier of crosses if he can get into his stride.
Left wing: Demarai Gray
Consistently Everton’s most dangerous-looking attacking threat but also consistently inconsistent when it comes to his final delivery, Dyche now becomes the latest manager to attempt to work out this footballing riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Whether or not he can successfully crack the code depends on teaching Gray to start getting balls into the box first time for his strikers rather than repeatedly trying to take opponents on all of the time.
Striker: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Learning his trade on loan at Northampton Town where Dyche's 19-year-old son Max now plays as a centre-back, the Sheffield-born centre-forward took the lumps in the lower divisions (and even non-League) as a youngster and you’d imagine that, if fit, he’s the ideal type of striker for the new manager to get the best out of. Dyche’s top scorers at Burnley included Charlie Austin, Danny Ings, Andre Gray, Sam Vokes, Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, and Calvert-Lewin represents a higher-grade version of some of those target men.
Striker: Neal Maupay
With just one goal apiece this season under Lampard, Maupay and Calvert-Lewin have both struggled with the team interchanging between their very different attributes up front. The Frenchman certainly doesn’t make a like-for-like alternative to Everton’s number nine but perhaps with Dyche’s long-time preference to go 4-4-2, the pair of them might work more effectively in a dual partnership as a classic ‘big man, small man’ combination up front?
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