Dyche On Key Step For Everton & Cup Selection

Everton manager Sean Dyche has praised his side’s improved ability to frequently get on the right side of tight fixtures this season - and revealed a number of the squad’s standout prospects are in his "thinking" to feature in Saturday's FA Cup fourth round clash against Luton Town. 

After a welcome 10-day break from competitive action, the Toffees return to Goodison Park (3pm GMT kick-off) looking to book their place in the last 16 of the competition at the expense of Rob Edwards’ side. 

The Blues battled hard to progress past Crystal Palace in the last round, initially grinding out a 0-0 draw with 10 men at Selhurst Park before defeating Roy Hodgson's side 1-0 back on Merseyside in the replay. 

Reflecting on that success during Thursday’s press conference held at Finch Farm, Dyche explained: “I think the attitude generally this season has been good overall - the cup games included. I think we’ve gone after all the games in the cups to try to win. We’ll do that again, for sure.

“[We were] good in the last round against a good Palace side who can be very awkward, particularly away - working hard on the counter. They’ve got some good players on the counter. We delivered a performance without being at our best, but a performance that can win. 

“That’s what the players have been learning to do this season. Beyond just performing, it’s that ability and mentality to win in tight games, and we’ve come out on top in that one. We want to do that - if needs be, of course - again on Saturday."

Like Everton, Luton come into the clash unbeaten from their first three matches of 2024, needing a replay to see off League One Bolton Wanderers in the last round of this competition while also drawing 1-1 with Dyche’s former side, Burnley, in a Premier League clash at Turf Moor. 

“They’re doing well and they’re working hard,” said Dyche on the visitors. “They’ve used the underdog spirit, and I’ve been down that road myself many years ago when Burnley first got into the Premier League. You build a mentality. It’s still a very long season ahead, of course, but they’re going very well. They’re up for everything and they keep demanding from themselves. 

“We’ve created a mentality here that’s strong in the sense that we take no one for granted; we take no one lightly. All of the information will be given to the players. All of the workload that we can get into them will be the same, whoever we’re playing, to try to win a game."

For both FA Cup fixtures so far, Dyche has started Jordan Pickford's understudy Joao Virginia in goal. The Portuguese shot-stopper was impressive in both matches, not only keeping two clean sheets but also making five crucial saves in the replay at Goodison which helped earn him the fan’s Player of the Match award. 

On the possibility of him starting ahead of Pickford again on Saturday afternoon, Dyche said: “We will talk about the team this afternoon in more depth with the staff, but he [Virginia] has done well. We wanted to give him an opportunity, I think he has deserved that, and we also wanted to give Jordan a break - he plays lots of football, especially on the international scene. He got a few down days last weekend which is good for him. 

“We know he is a top goalkeeper but Joao is going along very well. We have been impressed with him in training, and I am pleased for him and us that he put in those kinds of performances into the games.”

On Wednesday evening, both Lewis Dobbin and Youssef Chermiti played and impressed for Everton Under-21s in their 2-1 Premier League International Cup win over Benfica Under-21s, with the latter netting the game’s winning goal. 

“(Dobbin) needed some minutes,” admitted Dyche discussing the pair. “That’s why he played last night and he did well. Chermiti played as well, these guys can fall in between the gaps a little bit. So we have to make sure they are getting their minutes as well, and make sure they continue to develop literally, as in playing games, whilst we know they are developing with the training programme and the way they are working with the group. 

“Certainly, those kinds of players will be in the thinking anyway and certainly around the group.”

There’s less than a week until the winter transfer window closes, and so far it’s been a relatively subdued month across the Premier League with few clubs striking fresh deals. 

Dyche acknowledged this and confessed it is set to also remain a low-key period for Everton, although, he added the Club may still look to benefit from a potential loan deal if the right player and situation arises. 

“We want to keep all our best players here and make sure we are trying to at least manage the group we have got, then build on it if the right situation occurs where there can be some form of getting a deal done. 

“But obviously, we have seen it is quite a difficult window, not just for us, but we have seen that with the amount of money having been spent compared to other windows - it is very low at the moment.”

“It is very likely (that any deal would be on loan).”