Sean Dyche’s reign as Everton manager began in the best possible way, with a 1-0 win over Premier League leaders Arsenal.
Inside a fired-up Goodison Park, Everton were full of intensity and their set-piece winner will have delighted Dyche, with James Tarkowski out-muscling Gunners captain Martin Odegaard at the back post to head in from a corner (59).
Everton could easily have been ahead before then, with several good chances falling Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s way in the opening 45 – although Conor Coady had to come up with a goal-line clearance to deny Bukayo Saka late in that half.
Arsenal began the second period with purpose but never got up to the levels they showed at home to Manchester United last time out in the Premier League and failed to seriously trouble a resolute Everton backline in the final stages.
They will now have a nervous eye on Super Sunday where Manchester City can close their gap at the top of the table to just two points with a win at Tottenham.
At the other end, Everton secured their first win in nine league matches but they stay in the relegation zone after Saturday’s results. Their fans had protested against the board before the game but left Goodison celebrating a vital three points.
Everton: Pickford (7), Coleman (7), Tarkowski (8), Coady (8), Mykolenko (7), Onana (8), Gueye (7), Doucoure (7), Iwobi (7), Calvert-Lewin (7), McNeil (7)
Subs: Maupay (6)
Arsenal: Ramsdale (5), White (5), Saliba (5), Gabriel (5), Zinchenko (5), Partey (5), Xhaka (6), Odegaard (5), Saka (6), Martinelli (5), Nketiah (5)
Subs: Jorginho (6), Trossard (6), Vieira (6), Tomiyasu (N/A)
Man of the match: James Tarkowski
How Dyche got off to a winning start
As well as the pre-match demonstrations around Goodison Park, soon after kick-off a plane with a banner reading “League’s worst run club #timetogoBill” – referring to chairman Bill Kenwright – flew over the ground. But the energy of Everton’s supporters was firmly focused on the football when the action got underway, roaring their side forwards.
- Abdoulaye Doucoure came in from the cold as one of two changes for Sean Dyche’s first Everton XI. Former Burnley winger Dwight McNeil also started, with Yerry Mina and Demarai Gray dropping to the bench.
- After making changes for their FA Cup defeat to Manchester City, Arsenal reverted to the Premier League side which beat Manchester United, with Thomas Partey fit to start and new signing Jorginho on the bench.
The players fed off the ferocious atmosphere and, after Amadou Onana and Bukayo Saka took blows during a physical opening, a series of corners saw the home side ramp up the pressure, with William Saliba having to block from Tarkowski before Calvert-Lewin nodded wide.
There were warnings from Arsenal at the other end, with Eddie Nketiah lashing over and Saka denied by Coady but Everton looked solid in their new 4-5-1 set-up and in between those chances for the Gunners, Calvert-Lewin was so close to converting Onana’s excellent low cross and the reinstated Abdoulaye Doucoure miscued a free header.
Everton a bogey team for Arsenal and Arteta?
- Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has lost all three of his away matches against Everton in his managerial career. Indeed, Arteta became the first Arsenal manager to lose three consecutive away Premier League games against the Toffees.
Calvert-Lewin had another good headed chance on the stroke of half-time and it felt like Everton may just have missed their moment, especially when Arsenal came out for the second half renewed and Nketiah’s cut-back was fired over by Odegaard.
But moments later the first goal of the Dyche era hit the net. Tarkowski was too strong for Odegaard at the back post and expertly directed Dwight McNeil’s corner beyond Aaron Ramsdale.
A nail-biting final 30 minutes was on the cards but while there was a penalty shout from Gabriel when Neal Maupay collided with him in the box, and Jordan Pickford had to save well from Leandro Trossard before watching the Belgian and Saka send efforts off target, Everton were never truly troubled by their visitors.
Arsenal’s second defeat of the season could prove to be a pivotal moment in the title race, depending on how they respond. But Everton suddenly have momentum and will be eagerly anticipating another hot atmosphere at Anfield for the Merseyside derby with Liverpool on Monday February 13.
The Dyche effect…
‘It’s all about the players’ | ‘Win gives us a platform to move forward’
Everton boss Sean Dyche:
“It’s all about the players and they are the focal point for me. They have taken a lot on this week. The minimum requirement is maximum effort and we saw that today.
“They have been in a position where it has not been nice for anyone. I still believe we can improve with our play.
“It gives us a platform to move forward. We have crammed a lot in this week. To get a win against top of the league…we managed to calm the game down. I want to them to understand the basics of the game.”
‘Hopefully it’s the turning point’
Match-winner James Tarkowski to BT Sport:
“What an atmosphere.
“Fair play to the fans, it’s been tough times. It’s been a change of management that we’ve had to buy into straight away.
“It’s been tough for us and for the fans and for the staff. Hopefully it’s the turning point. We’ve got to get our heads down and crack on.
“We’ve not lacked technical ability (this season), we’ve just lacked a bit of grit at times. That’s what fans want to see.”
Dyche’s dream start ignites Everton’s season
Sky Sports’ Peter Smith:
After all the build-up and talk about bleep tests, when Everton’s new era finally got underway it was clear to see Dyche-ball is an ideal fit at Goodison Park.
The home support had already shown their passion for their club in their pre-match protests against the board but when the game got underway that energy was channelled into the creation of a ferocious atmosphere inside the four old stands. The Everton players – just as they did at the end of last season – responded.
Physical in the challenge, Everton looked secure in their 4-5-1 and despite some scares on the counter, showed courage in possession to take the game to the Premier League leaders.
Intensity, desire, organisation and an excellent match-winning set-piece routine – it was a win which had all the the ingredients Dyche wants from his side.
We’ve seen similar uplifts before at Everton. The key will be sustaining it. But Dyche couldn’t have wished for a better start, especially against the Premier League leaders. It’s a fantastic platform to build on. Next up? Liverpool. That one could be feisty too…
Arteta on Arsenal’s title chances: ‘We will have to dig in and play better’
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta:
“We had loads of the ball but we lacked that purpose and quality in the final third, we generated many chances. But then we conceded and they slowed the game down and we struggled.
“They do this to every team that is their strength with the height, the physicality is their strength, if you want to control the game against them you have to control this. We did not do that today.
“We needed more composure and to control emotionally the game better. We gave away so many unnecessary free-kicks and that’s what they want.
“Today I love them much better than the week before or a month ago. It is easy to be next to someone when they are winning well. I am still so proud of all of these players, they deserve it.
“This is not going to be a rose pathway. This is going to be tricky and we will have to dig in and play much better than we did today.”
No time for panic for Arteta and Arsenal
Sky Sports’ Oliver Yew:
It was the perfect storm for Everton. A new manager, a new intensity and a renewed spirit from the Goodison Park crowd.
It was another huge examination of Arsenal’s title credentials but having come through the Spurs and Manchester United tests last month, this was a hurdle they couldn’t clear. Everton were in their faces from the very first minute right until the last and in the end, it was an intensity Arsenal could not match.
So, does the narrative now change surrounding Arsenal? Immediately, Sky Bet returned Manchester City to being favourites for the Premier League title and there will be plenty talking about Arsenal’s inability to match Everton physically.
Questions will now be asked of Mikel Arteta’s side and rightly so. However, this is no time to panic.
Their performances so far this season have allowed them the comfort of a gap at the top of the Premier League table, and that still remains at five points ahead of Man City’s clash with Spurs on Super Sunday. The gap could obviously close to two points, but Arsenal will have a game in hand – against Everton.
Arsenal have proved their credentials so far this season, and they will have to do so again. How they respond to this setback will be crucial. That chance will come at home to Brentford next week before Man City head to north London.
All potential champions have blips in what we know is a long season. It’s how a side responds to defeat that defines them and two home wins in their next two games will make this Everton nightmare a distant one.
Opta stats: Arteta’s miserable run at Everton continues
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has lost all three of his away matches against Everton in his managerial career. Indeed, Arteta became the first Arsenal manager to lose three consecutive away Premier League games against the Toffees.
Arsenal suffered just their second defeat in their last 21 Premier League matches (W17 D2), losing for the first time in 14 games.
Everton have won three consecutive league games against Arsenal at Goodison Park for the first time since March 1977 to August 1978.
Everton boss Sean Dyche became just the second manager to beat a side starting the day top in his first Premier League game in charge of a club, after Alan Curbishley’s West Ham beat Man Utd in December 2006.
The Merseyside Derby will be shown live on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football when Everton visit Liverpool on Monday February 13. Coverage starts at 7pm with kick-off at 8pm.
Arsenal continue their title bid when they host Brentford on Saturday February 11 at 3pm.