The Verdict: Final Day Delight

Everton secured their top-flight status for a 70th consecutive campaign in typically dramatic fashion on Sunday afternoon.  

The Blues knew going into the game that any form of victory would get the job done. However, anything less could have opened the door for Leeds United or Leicester City to leapfrog their way out of the relegation zone, with Everton taking their place.   

That happened - briefly - when Leicester City took a 34th-minute lead in their home clash with West Ham United. Yet, Abdoulaye Doucoure's superb effort just before the hour mark proved decisive in securing Everton’s spot among England’s elite once again for next season.   

Here’s a rundown of some of the standout factors behind Everton accomplishing their mission on Sunday afternoon.   

Going for the throat  

Everton’s issues in the final third have been well-publicised, with long-term injuries to key forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin hampering the Blues' threat.   

Sean Dyche, though, has never been keen to use this as an excuse.   

Even as recently as last week, the boss spoke of the importance of using the tools available to find a “way of working” that boosts attacking threat and, subsequently, delivers goals. Sunday was yet another example of his side doing just that.   

While it may have got lost in the noise due to the significance of the result, the Blues approached the Bournemouth challenge head-on and put in another strong attacking display.   

They finished the game having registered 13 shots, six of which were on target – in only one other home game all season have they managed more.    

Meanwhile, Doucoure's winner meant Everton under Dyche finished with a goals per-game average of 1.05, a stark increase from the 0.75 they were averaging before his arrival.   

Shut them out

Despite that boost in attacking threat across recent months, Everton’s current lack of fit and firing frontmen has meant it was always going to be unlikely that the team would register regular multi-goal hauls.   

Therefore, to deliver crucial points, Dyche has had to make the Toffees much harder to beat.   

Grinding out victories has become a staple of the side in recent months, especially at Goodison Park. The Blues limited Bournemouth to just seven shots, the joint fewest they faced in a Premier League game in 2022/23.  

Overall, six of the Blues’ eight Premier League wins came at the Grand Old Lady this season. Four of those came under Dyche and all were by the same dogged and determined 1-0 scoreline.   

Back in the picture

It’s fitting that of all the players to score the decisive strike, it was Doucoure to do so given he is the player who has enjoyed the biggest turnaround since Dyche’s arrival.   

The Mali international had made just two starts across the whole campaign before the boss arrived at the end of January. However, the midfielder started in every game he’s been available since and has had a colossal impact while doing so.   

Having been handed a hybrid midfield role which has involved often playing in more advanced positions than he’s previously been used to, Doucoure has greatly rewarded Dyche’s trust.   

His stunner on Sunday was his seven direct goal contributions under Dyche (G5, A2). That happens to be his most in any one campaign for the Blues – despite this being the season in which he’s made his fewest number of appearances.   

Mr Consistent   

The defensive performances from Yerry Mina have, understandably, been attracting plenty of plaudits in recent weeks with the Colombian thriving since returning to the starting XI at Brighton three weeks ago.   

He again put in a mammoth shift in the season finale. Teammate Conor Coady also excelled in what was his first start for Everton since February.  

These two subplots dominated the bulk of defensive discussion post-match, and, therefore, James Tarkowski’s standout showing may have drifted slightly under the radar.   

On either side of a mistake in which he was dispossessed in the first half, the former Burnley man was impeccable. He won 12 of his 16 duels (more than any other player on the pitch), while only Michael Keane (15 v Leicester at the start of the month) won more duels in a single Premier League game for Everton this season.

Such performances have been the norm from Tarkowski this season, which is a quality only enhanced by how reliable he’s been in terms of fitness and availability.  

Remarkably, Tarkowski finished the campaign as the only Premier League outfield player to play every minute of every game this season, with the last Everton player to achieve such a feat being Leighton Baines in 2012/13.   

The unsung heroes   

While there were many standout displays in Sunday’s win, the final mention must go to Idrissa Gana Gueye and James Garner.   

The former covered every blade of grass and finished the game having won back possession (10) and made more tackles (seven) than any player on the pitch. Additionally, no player made more interceptions than him (three) and he also had two of Everton’s six shots on target.   

Meanwhile, Garner capped off a very strong end to his own personal season with another great showing. 

The 22-year-old started seven of Everton’s final eight Premier League games, and his tenacity and standout technical ability have been on display in each.   

However, it’s been his crucial versatility that has really come to the forefront in the last two matches.   

At Wolves, the 22-year-old was tasked with playing multiple different roles, including right-back after the injury sustained by defender Nathan Patterson during the first half.     

With the Scotland international then ruled out for Sunday, and Seamus Coleman still sidelined, Dyche turned to Garner to take once again take on that right-back role.   

Despite having never played such a position in his career prior to the outing at Wolves, Garner has excelled in both matches and now, with his early-season injury issues behind him, many Everton fans are understandably excited to see more of the youngster next season.