Considering the situation Everton are in, sitting second bottom of the Premier League, Sean Dyche was the smartest appointment the board could have made. He has been in similar positions and knows how to successfully manage a relegation battle.
Everton have two points from their past eight matches and one victory in 12. Dyche has the tough task of facing the league leaders, Arsenal, at Goodison Park on Saturday in his first match, followed by the derby at Anfield. No pressure, Sean.
The important thing for Dyche will be to get Everton back to basics. We know from his time at Burnley that his preferred formation is 4-4-2 and I anticipate that is what he will implement. It is not as rigid as people might think because it easily adapts to being 4-3-3 when a second striker drops deep. Everton have limited striking options, so it could allow Demarai Gray or Alex Iwobi to become a hybrid No 10 alongside a main striker, who will be Dominic Calvert-Lewin if he can remain fit.
Dyche has had time on the training ground this week and will be drilling into the players how they need to do the hard yards. In the first two games Everton will have to do a lot of work without the ball. Burnley rarely dominated possession under Dyche but were incredibly disciplined when the opposition had it. Dyche will ensure Everton press in the right areas, making it as hard as possible for opponents to pass through them. They will be compact, putting pressure on teams in tight spaces to try to contain them.
Dyche is very good at simplifying what he wants from players and that will help them understand their roles. Everyone in the XI will have a very specific purpose and they will need to execute that perfectly to ensure the team perform as designed. Dyche is excellent at getting the best out of individuals and will be looking for improvements on the previous three months of struggle under Frank Lampard. That will be a key test in the first two matches, even if they fail to pick up points.
Down the years Dyche will have earmarked the games his team needed to earn points from to stay up and they would rarely be against the top six. If they got a win or draw against Arsenal or Liverpool in the past, it would be a bonus. Dyche knows the real work starts when they face rivals in the bottom half of the table.
He will make sure the defensive unit is focused and well-drilled. Burnley rarely had a prolific striker, so they had to keep things tight with an organised defence. When the score is 0-0, a team are always in with a chance of nicking a goal, and Everton have quality attackers capable of scoring. Burnley were impressive at set pieces and Dyche will utilise this at Everton. There are players who can provide good delivery from corners and free-kicks, and there is plenty of height in the team.
A compact style with emphasis on defence means it will be important that Everton break at speed. Gray and Iwobi can be good in transitions in moving the ball forward quickly to the areas where they can have the best impact. Players may not want such a direct style but it is an effective one and they are in a situation they need to get out of. They will all want to be Premier League players next season so they need to buy into Dyche’s methods.
The new manager arrives after nine months out of the game. I like it when a manager takes their time between jobs – it can be a great help to them. It allows the person to review what has just happened and reflect on anything that could be done differently. It has also enabled Dyche to re-energise physically and mentally, and he can impart some of that into an Everton squad that may feel a touch fatigued after a poor first half of the season. Eddie Howe waited for his next job after leaving Bournemouth and Newcastle’s position is proof of how well it worked for him.
Everton wanted to add to their squad in January but ended without a signing and losing Anthony Gordon to Newcastle. Dyche and the team cannot focus on what could have been; they need to look at what they can affect and that is Everton’s form for the final 18 matches. Dyche knows which players he will be working with and that at least provides clarity.
Dyche’s committed style of play is likely to get the fans behind the team. Last season the Everton supporters played a huge part in keeping the team in the league with the incredible atmospheres for the final few home games. Dyche will hope they can replicate that. At Everton, survival is all that matters and Dyche is the right man for the job. Now he has to prove that to the Goodison Park faithful.