The end of the January transfer window is possibly one of the worst times you can take over as the manager of a football club. Chances are that if a team is bringing you in at that point, it’s because they’re in dire straits. To combat a season in freefall you are given mere hours to try and rustle up something in the transfer market. It is an unenviable position, but one that Everton have put their last two permanent managers in.
Sean Dyche was appointed as Everton boss on 30th January 2023. The man he replaced, Frank Lampard, was appointed to the post just one day shy of a year earlier, on 31st January 2022. Ex-Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher was shouted down when he suggested the Toffees were the worst-run club in the country. He might have been wide of the mark, but surely not by much.
Desperate times call for desperate measures of course. But Everton’s controversial owners seem to have a chronic and damaging habit of holding on too long. Like Rafa Benitez before him, Lampard had the look of a doomed man long before the axe fell. While managers are often sacked with reckless abandon, the fact the Merseyside club haven’t won since October should have set alarm bells ringing.
This is not just about being fair to Lampard ultimately, it is about being fair to his replacement. But once again, Everton went into the final day of a transfer window with a great big neon sign above their heads that said: “Desperate”.
Last season there was cause for optimism, at least at first. Legendary midfielder Lampard brought in reinforcements for the position he once played, signing Dele Alli and Donny van de Beek on loan. The Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United stars respectively turned out not to be the right transfers as much as they were “right now” deals. Evertonians would soon realise why Alli and Van de Beek were available so late in the window, with neither making an impact at Goodison Park.
But despite the travails of Lampard’s star duo, new man Dyche will probably still be envious of his predecessor. After all, despite joining a whole day earlier than Lampard had the year before, there were no incomings as the deadline came and went. To find out why that could be fatal to Everton’s survival hopes, you have to dig into the assessment of one of Dyche’s rivals for the job.
Former Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa embarked on talks with the Toffees over potentially taking on the role. The iconic Argentine allegedly surmised that Everton’s squad was not fit enough to carry out his intense style of football and offered to take on the under-21s side until the summer. It is telling that Bielsa saw the need to wait until summer, as that would allow him to bring his own players in. Dyche has denied himself that luxury.
Dyche and Bielsa are very different managers with completely different tactical approaches. The Englishman is the last bastion of the basics. A 4-4-2 loyalist whose sides are defensively organised and hard-working, a set-up that masks individual technical shortcomings. Bielsa plays freewheeling pressing football in which his side are encouraged to both attack and defend on the front foot and without remorse. But one facet the two polar opposite coaches do have in common is that their systems both require a squad at their peak in terms of physical fitness.
This is where Bielsa’s brutal assessment of Everton’s players comes in. The ex-Argentina manager did not see the required fitness levels in that squad. Chances are, if they can’t play Bielsa-ball then they won’t be able to effectively execute Dyche’s robust, organised style either.
By appointing him so late and failing to supply him with players on a frenzied deadline day, Everton have cut Dyche off at the knees before he has even started. The ex-Burnley boss must find a way to start winning with a team who has just three victories from 20 league games this season. He must do so without a fresh injection of players unsullied by their plight. Dyche was already signing up for a tough task but a quiet deadline day may have rendered this as the impossible job.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change