Leon Osman trusts Everton are firmly "heading in the right direction" under Sean Dyche, believing the Blues boss has helped create a positive environment where there's a collective understanding of roles and responsibilities throughout the squad.
Dyche arrived at the Club in late January when the Toffees sat joint-bottom of the Premier League table after 20 matches.
After inflicting just a second league defeat on then-leaders Arsenal in his first match in charge, Dyche and his coaching staff helped Everton secure top-flight safety. And while the Blues may not have got the points their play has often deserved this season, Osman has praised the manager for developing his team into a much more cohesive outfit with a strong mentality.
"It’s been great (the job he has done), he’s a realist and he knew when he came in that it was an immediate job that was required - it wasn’t too much about the how, but just getting it over the line," explained Osman.
"He did that by doing a fantastic job. There is a clear message and a collective understanding of that message. You can see a plan from the moment Everton take to the pitch and every player understands their role within the team - that’s important. I definitely feel like it’s going in the right direction."
Everton's first five Premier League matches of this campaign delivered just one point, although, that wasn't a fair return for the level of the Blues' performances.
Dyche's messages throughout that period remained consistent and he maintained the belief results would come. Just two defeats from Everton's past eight matches would justify his conviction.
"To be completely honest, I thought some of the early-season performances - particularly the first two home games - were very good as well, without getting the results," told Osman. "We could and probably should won both of those games 3-0 each if we had finished our chances better.
"Goals are so important in games, of course, especially when you’re on top. If you don’t get them, then suddenly you end up getting a bit nervy in front of goal, missing chances that would otherwise have been finished comfortably.
"I think James Garner’s early goal against Bournemouth potentially changed everything. We were going into that game knowing we needed a win and he converted that early chance. Suddenly, the whole team and the whole stadium just relaxed and then everything just became easier.
"The team definitely looks fitter [this season], especially off the ball. The dynamic running the team can do is obvious and impressive. We’re over-powering opponents at times and that suits us because you have to look at what players are available and what their strengths are and maximise those strengths. That’s what Sean Dyche has done.
"It's an amazing feeling to score at Goodison Park. Two years ago, I could not have imagined achieving this."— Everton (@Everton) November 6, 2023
More to come from Myko. 💪🇺🇦
"We’ve got a really powerful running team, to a man, really, with splashes of real quality and productive wide players. The players are being used in a way that gets the best out of them, we’re fitter and there is a clear way of playing."
That defined way of playing is having a huge positive impact on Everton's output at both ends of the pitch.
This season, Everton have conceded 15 league goals. Only eight sides can better that and more crucially, the Blues also rank inside the division's top eight for having the lowest Expected Goals Against (xGA) with 16.02.
This indicates Dyche has helped Everton become a more robust defensive unit that should be better equipped to maintain their solid performances at the back as the season progresses.
Dyche has combined that boost in defensive solidity with a standout improvement in attack.
Everton had scored eight goals at this stage of last season and accumulated an xG of 10.89. Both at the time ranked amongst the worst in the league.
Dyche's Everton have not only added a further three goals to that total this season by scoring 11 times, but their xG has rocketed to 19.01.
If we compare their return so far this season to the same corresponding fixtures in the last campaign, Everton have accumulated three more points, added two more goals, conceded four fewer and had an xG positive goal difference swing of +7.1.
Osman believed that prior to Dyche's arrival, Everton's away form had been their Achilles heel, saying: "Over the past few years, maybe even more, we became far too flimsy away from home."
His comments carry merit. In the 2021/22 campaign, for example, the Blues won just two of their 19 Premier League away games. Before Dyche joined in January, only five sides had accumulated fewer away points than the Toffees' seven from 10 away matches - with the last coming prior to the break for the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar.
It's an issue Dyche wanted to address and said in a press conference shortly after his arrival: "You want players to go away from home with a strong jaw and a strong mentality to how it's going to test you. That's something we've got to build here."
Jarrad's interception 💪— Everton (@Everton) October 29, 2023
Dom's turn and finish 😮💨
That last angle... 🤌 pic.twitter.com/fyC1uiBFsn
It would be fair to say that courage on the road steadily grew under his tenure and the Toffees finished the campaign having lost just one of their final seven away matches.
That form continued into this season. Everton bounced back from the defeat to Aston Villa in the first away game of the campaign by picking up results in all but one of their six following road trips across all competitions (W4, D1, L1).
Osman added: "Now, it's a different story - we’re in every game, like the wins at Brentford, Aston Villa and West Ham and even the recent Merseyside derby, where we probably should have come away with something. We’ve been extremely competitive and that’s a big hallmark of what I would call an Everton team… I think Sean Dyche is bringing that back."