Abdoulaye Doucoure exclusive: Everton midfielder discusses his transformation in fortunes under Sean Dyche after first-team exile by Frank Lampard | Football News
Abdoulaye Doucoure chuckles ruefully as he thinks back to the January transfer window and whether he felt he was on his way out of Everton. “Yeah, maybe. There were a lot of feelings!”
Out of the first-team frame and reportedly training on his own, Doucoure had been exiled under former boss Frank Lampard and, with his contract up in the summer, the midfielder’s time on Merseyside looked to be over.
“I was close to leaving,” he reveals to Sky Sports. “But in the end I stayed and I’m very happy because I never wanted to leave. I’m happy to be here and play and keep this team up.
“A lot of people maybe saw me [leaving Everton] but I always loved this club, I always want to fight for this club, play for this club. Unfortunately, I didn’t have this opportunity for almost six months but I knew there was going to be light at the end of the tunnel.
“I kept working hard and when Sean Dyche was appointed I was very happy and I just thought, ‘I’m going to have another opportunity and [will] show in training [what I can do]… and it has worked well for me so far.”
Sat down at Everton’s Finch Farm training complex, Doucoure is relaxed and enthusiastically talkative. The transformation in his position at the club since Dyche’s arrival at the end of January has been dramatic.
After being left out of every Premier League game since August by Lampard, Doucoure has started each of Dyche’s five Premier League games.
In his first week at the club, Dyche says he immediately saw Doucoure was “ready” to go into his starting XI for the win over Arsenal at Goodison Park and the Mali midfielder has repaid the faith with some lung-busting performances.
In each of the first four fixtures under Dyche, Doucoure ran further than any player – including the opposition.
Only a substitution late on against Arsenal at the Emirates on Wednesday prevented him from taking top spot in that metric again.
His total of 12.10km on his return against Arsenal was the highest figure set by an Everton player this season. He beat it a week later against Liverpool, covering 12.12km in the Merseyside derby.
It’s the kind of attitude which Dyche has demanded from his players. In his first press conference, he spoke about the players needing to work hard and get “sweat on the shirt”. Doucoure has certainly fulfilled that demand.
But those numbers also add to the intrigue around his story. They are not stats he could register if he had spent his final months under Lampard moping around the training ground. This is a player who was working hard and primed to play and support his team-mates in their battle for Premier League survival.
“I heard sometimes people saying, ‘He’s not ready, he’s not fit’ but it wasn’t true,” says Doucoure. “I was always fit, always ready to play.
“Maybe it was a personal thing but it doesn’t matter now.
“I just came back and showed everybody I was ready to run and ready to help the team. I just never give up and I think Sean Dyche appreciated that.
“I feel great, I feel ready. Maybe compared to the others my season starts just five games ago so I’m very fresh, I want to play as much as I can. Everyone knows I’ve got good legs so I will try to help the team with that.”
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Unsurprisingly given the turn around in his own fortunes, Doucoure is a fan of the new manager. But he says the positive feeling about Dyche and the direction of travel under his management is widespread throughout the squad.
“I think the main thing is the results straight away improved,” he says, when asked about Dyche’s impact. “You have two wins in five games. Obviously you want more wins but it was very different from the previous manager because we weren’t winning any games.
“To stay in the league you have to win games. Sean Dyche came, we win more games. We need more games and more wins but you can see the mentality is better, the players believe more.
“Before that everyone was maybe thinking we’re going to go down but now it’s different with Dyche coming in.
“Confidence is better. The play, you can see the stats are better. We feel ready to compete every week and this is a huge difference.”
We are speaking after Everton have suffered back-to-back defeats to Aston Villa and Arsenal but, as Doucoure says, the stats around the team’s general play have taken a step up since Dyche took charge.
Goal scoring remains an issue but the team’s passes and touches into the opposition box have increased. They are crossing the ball more, taking more shots and facing fewer.
But with a trip to fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest coming up on Sunday, it is imperative Everton turn those positive signs into points.
“Away games have been difficult for us for the last two seasons so Forest is going to be tough place to go. But we have to change that mentality and play like we do at Goodison,” says Doucoure.
“We know we need a result and we have to take it.”