The Sean Dyche era at Everton began with a bang on Saturday afternoon, with the new boss steering his struggling side to a colossal, 1-0 victory over league leaders Arsenal at Goodison Park.
Amid all the ongoing doom and gloom on Merseyside at present – a fact only heightened by the lack of January arrivals – the Toffees put that to one side to produce a stunning, committed display against Mikel Arteta’s men, with Dyche’s former Burnley stalwart James Tarkowski producing the game’s defining moment on the hour mark after expertly heading home.
In a performance that was littered with positives, one standout figure was undoubtedly that of summer signing Amadou Onana, with the towering Belgian having been immense in his advanced midfield berth.
Despite having been mooted for an exit during the recent window, the 21-year-old showed no signs of being distracted against the Gunners, notably winning eight duels in total and laying on two key passes in that all-action display.
The former Lille man notably produced a remarkable surging run in the first half before teeing up Dominic Calvert-Lewin with a clever pullback, with the England international coming agonisingly close to making the required contact.
Such a display has rubberstamped just why the youngster can be a “figurehead” under the new manager moving forward, as per journalist Sam Tabuteau, although he was not alone in having caught the eye on the day, with Dwight McNeil also looking somewhat reborn on the flanks.
The £20m addition – who also previously worked under Dyche at Turf Moor – has endured a difficult start to life at Goodison since his summer arrival, with just two goals and one assist to his name prior to yesterday’s meeting, yet showed signs of the quality asset he can be under the new regime.
The 23-year-old’s most notable action in that “superb” performance – as described by Daily Express reporter Charlie Gordon – was his wicked delivery to tee up Tarkowski for the game’s only goal, illustrating the potent threat that he can pose from dead-ball situations.
While the one-time Manchester United youth product did lose possession on 17 occasions from his 38 touches in that impressive outing, he also contributed three key passes and created two big chances as a marker of his creative prowess, while also providing a whopping 11 crosses from the flanks.
The Rochdale-born dynamo could well have had a second assist to his name after also teeing up Abdoulaye Doucoure with another delightful cross in the opening period, albeit with the Frenchman inexplicably heading wide after being afforded the freedom of the penalty area.
Nevertheless, that impactful display has showcased that McNeil – as well as Onana – could have been revitalised by the change in the dugout, with that set to bode well for the second half of the season.