To recap, Everton conducted a strategic review of their football operations last year that produced a 120-point “roadmap for change” and whittled down their latest managerial shortlist to two coaches as diverse as Marcelo Bielsa and Sean Dyche. The club can only pray that the next manager’s roadmap for Premier League survival brings more clarity and success than their own.
Dyche was close to being appointed as the eighth permanent manager of the chaotic Farhad Moshiri era on Friday after talks with Bielsa, the first choice, ended without agreement on Thursday. From high-tempo, attacking, possession-based football under the Argentinian to the more direct, defensively sound and pragmatic approach of the former Burnley manager inside 24 hours. You can see where the protestor with the “no plan, no vision” banner at Goodison Park is coming from.
That is not to disparage the anticipated arrival of Dyche. His appointment would make more sense than Bielsa’s in many respects. Bielsa’s pitch to the Everton board was captivating – given he needs time to transform the playing style and has never taken over a European club mid-season, he would work behind the scenes for the next four months in preparation for a much-needed overhaul in the summer. Meanwhile, an interim manager would be tasked with the loaded job of keeping Everton in the Premier League and out of financial turmoil. The club rightly said no. They do not have the luxury of taking a greater risk than necessary with the 11th manager – caretakers included – to lead the club in just under a decade.
Bielsa’s reservations over the state of the club and the suitability of the squad to his methods are well-founded. A lack of pace in defence would not be as troubling to Dyche, who was responsible for the development of Everton’s centre-halves James Tarkowski and the out-of-favour Michael Keane. In talks with Everton’s director of football, Kevin Thelwell, this week, and in contrast to Bielsa, the 51-year-old made it clear he would relish the chance to relaunch his Premier League career at Goodison and with the players at his disposal. Given the transfer window closes on Tuesday and Everton have not made a signing this month, despite knowing Frank Lampard desperately needed a goalscorer since Richarlison was sold on 1 July, that will have been reassuring to Thelwell.
The days of financial extravagance in the transfer market are over for Everton, under Moshiri at least, although funds will be raised by selling the want-away Anthony Gordon to Newcastle. The boyhood Evertonian missed three days of training this week in an attempt to force through his £40m move to St James’ Park. Abdoulaye Doucouré spent the final days of Lampard’s reign training alone after a dressing-room row, also involving Idrissa Gana Gueye, sparked by the recent home defeat by last-placed Southampton. Restoring team spirit and unity will also be on Dyche’s check-list. He was adept at forging both at Burnley, where he kept the club in the Premier League for six successive seasons on one of the smallest budgets in the division and guided them into Europe for the first time in 51 years.
Everton are in no position to be disdainful of Dyche’s tactics. The club is a divided, toxic mess and the team are in free-fall, failing to win a Premier League game since October and winning only three league games all season. Every team in the top four divisions of English football has won more. As Dyche told his Burnley players at half-time of their 3-2 win over Everton at Turf Moor last season: “I’m not sure these know how to win a game.” They need a strong personality to remind them how, and one who can withstand the pressures of a fraught relegation battle.
Any reservations should be held by the prospective new manager. Dyche had complete authority at Burnley and did not work with a director of football. He is joining a club that has sacked six managers in less than seven years, faces Arsenal and Liverpool in the next two games and, as his own selection process shows, has no clear vision of what it wants or strategy for how to get it.
Everton’s riposte will be the strategic review, the board’s answer to the criticism they attracted last season and which has resulted in 26 appointments behind the scenes by Thelwell. It has provided “a structure that has enhanced our approach in areas including coaching, analysis, player welfare, player development, governance and recruitment,” according to the chief executive, Denise Barrett-Baxendale. It is, she said: “An overarching strategy outlining our vision and goals across football, commercial growth and engagement.” The review was conducted by the very same board who are responsible for Everton’s implosion. Their problems could have been identified quicker with a mirror.