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Sean Dyche’s faith in Michael Keane is his biggest gamble and could define Everton’s season

After stretching their interminable winless streak to seven games, Everton could find themselves four points from Premier League safety by the time they next kick a ball.

So why did Monday night feel like a potential lifeline in their survival fight, despite another must-win contest passing without victory?

“Outstanding,” was Jamie Carragher’s succinct verdict of their performance at Leicester, and it did feel like something was stirring, finally after a risible run during April.

Whether it is fighting instinct kicking in or meeting opponents every bit as anxious as them, Everton carried a threat that had disappeared as Newcastle cut them open at Goodison Park last week.

Making it a turning point in a season spent teetering over the precipice is arguably the biggest challenge of Sean Dyche‘s managerial career given the next two games are at in-form Brighton and at home to champions-elect Manchester City.

Those fixtures are daunting and the objective is clear – simply to stay in the hunt ahead of crucial games against Wolves and a potentially critical home match against the vastly-improved Bournemouth to bring the curtain down on a cursed season.

Whatever happens in the next month or so, though, it’s now crystal clear that Dyche plans to plot a path to survival his own way.

The Everton manager retains the faith of most supporters but there is genuine confusion about his continuing preference for Michael Keane over the talented but brittle Yerry Mina or the benched Conor Coady.

The issue has threatened to curdle into the first sustained criticism of Dyche and if Keane continues to start and deliver performances as error-strewn as Monday’s, when he gave away a first half penalty, it will be justified.

The answer to why he starts is simple. In Keane, Dyche sees an on-field lieutenant he can trust and there’s perhaps not quite enough of them at Goodison Park for the manager’s liking.

i understands Dyche is in favour of wholesale changes at the club in the summer, working within whatever budget is provided to change the culture and identity of a team that has been far too easily beaten over successive seasons.

A deal to convert Coady’s loan into a permanent move worth £4.5m has already been agreed but as it stands it looks unlikely to be activated given that he finds himself relegated to understudy.

Dyche has not handed Mina even a minute of football yet and the Colombia international will join what is set to be an exodus of up to five out-of-contract players at Goodison Park, whatever the outcome of their relegation battle.

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