Sean Dyche swoops in to save Everton's disastrous season

Veteran manager worked wonders at Burnley but will be guiding players with far higher price tags than anywhere in his career

Everton have announced the appointment of Sean Dyche as their new manager on a two-and-a-half-year deal. PA
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Sean Dyche drove into Everton’s Finch Farm training ground on Monday with a thumbs up for the cameras and a clear view of what he likes to call “the positive realities”.

The reality is that Dyche, announced as the sixth Everton manager within five years, has 18 games to steer them from unwanted history, a first relegation for the club from England’s top division since 1951.

They sit joint bottom of the Premier League, have no wins and eight defeats from their last ten games, a run that led to last week’s sacking of Frank Lampard. The positives? That the remaining fixtures after Dyche’s first match on the touchline may all feel gentler after his debut.

The 51-year-old, a manager familiar from his time at Burnley with late-season battles at the lower end of the Premier League, starts with a meeting with Arsenal on Saturday, the leaders against the lead-weights of the division.

What is certain is that Dyche, who left Burnley last April after almost 10 years in charge, will be giving instructions to footballers who have carried far higher price tags than anywhere in his career to date. That’s a principal distinction between Burnley, where Dyche made his excellent reputation as a resourceful, motivating and rigorous manager and the underachieving institution he has joined.

Everton rank in the top five of Premier League spenders on transfer fees over the past decade; Dyche’s Burnley survived – and often better than merely surviving – for most of the decade on one of the tightest budgets in the top level of English football.

Lampard sacked after less than year in charge

When Dyche was told his enduring run at Turf Moor was over, Burnley’s fight against gravity was being lost. But his legacy was considerable. Under him, Burnley had won two promotions from the Championship, and he ensured that the second of them was not followed immediately by relegation.

The club stuck by their manager, his methods, his eye for a bargain in the market, and watched the formula guide Burnley into European competition within two seasons of the second promotion. Most important, the firefights against the drop were usually won, Burnley finishing 17th, 15th and 16th in three of Dyche’s last six full Premier League seasons at the club.

Everton would gladly take 17th, one place above the relegation zone, come May. The club’s senior executives have assessed the long-term damage of dropping down to the second tier and it is alarming.

There is a huge financial commitment to building a new stadium, and for all that Everton have spent heavily on players, the resale value of many those who would seek to leave is low given their ages and recent levels of performance.

Dyche, who has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal at Goodison Park, observed “there is quality here, no two ways about it.” He has some old allies on board. James Tarkowski, the central defender, joined Everton last summer after forming a close, respectful bond with Dyche at Burnley; Dwight McNeil, the winger, also left Turf Moor for Goodison Park.

The expectation will be that the creativity McNeil supplied in his three full seasons under Dyche at Burnley can be tapped again. He has so far been a discreet presence at his new club.

He is not alone for that. Goals have dried up. Only Wolverhampton Wanderers have scored fewer in the Premier League this season. If Everton were in similar peril last January, when Lampard was appointed, he at least had Richarlison to contribute vitally to keeping the club up.

The Brazilian was then sold to Tottenham Hotspur, largely to balance the books; his 10 league goals, including vital strikes at the tail-end of the campaign, made him by far the club’s top scorer in 2021-22.

A fit Dominic Calvert-Lewin would logically make up some of that slack, and the England international will not find off-putting the common caricature of Dyche’s style as direct. With the right supply from wide positions, Calvert-Lewin is an accomplished, skilful target man.

Nor is Dyche one-dimensional as a coach. His Burnley may have developed a fame for pragmatism, for their organisation off the ball but their manager was for most of his time there fitting his tactics to the resources available.

He signalled his and his coaching staff’s intention at Everton to “change the shape of this club going forward, remodel it in our style in a way we can win, make sure we’re building tactically and technically, giving players organisation, allow them the freedom to enjoy their football. It’s brilliant when the team’s playing with a smile, but we’ve got to win.”

Updated: January 30, 2023, 4:40 PM