It’s been an extremely Everton week for Everton, and it’s hard to imagine a better way to encapsulate the over-arching Everton-ness of it all than the identity of the two managers they’ve seemingly narrowed their search down to for Frank Lampard’s replacement.
It’s possible – probable even – that someone quite high up at Everton has this week uttered the words “And if we can’t get Marcelo Bielsa then we’ll get Sean Dyche” and not been sacked on the spot.
It’s not that either are bad managers, of course, it’s just that they represent such wildly divergent philosophies and strategies that their names sitting atop a shortlist betrays the current state of confusion and uncertainty at a club that is either up for sale or isn’t and is for the second year running facing a race against time to try and install a new manager just in time to give him some disastrously rushed January signings to deploy.
Faced with the prospect of not knowing whether he was signing on the dotted line to face either a spot of January murderball with Bielsa or being growled at for six months by the disc-bearded, sore-throated Dyche, it’s hardly surprising that Arnaut Danjuma opted for the calm tranquillity and security of instead buggering off down south to play under the never volatile Antonio Conte on a six-month Spurs contract. Now there’s a decent case that Danjuma should be looking at his own decision-making to determine what led him to a point where joining Spurs was the most sensible course of action available, but it should also be a wake-up call for Everton.
Not the fans – they already know – but to those actually involved in the decision making. You are fucking this up, and there is once again the very real prospect of Everton being relegated.
For our own selfish reasons we would dearly love to see Bielsa get the job. As a neutral, there is no possible scenario that plays out from that appointment that doesn’t offer glorious entertainment. But the probably-soon-available West Ham job is clearly the better fit, and even then only in the summer. Bielsa is a great of the game, but appointing an idiosyncratic maverick mid-season would be quite a gamble for a relegation-threatened club – especially one that can’t really afford relegation right now, if ever there is a time to.
Everton might have to just swallow their pride a touch and go for Dyche. They’ve done it before, with Sam Allardyce, and there’s every chance they’ll do it again.
It’s not hard to see why Dyche wouldn’t be first choice for a club and supporters who understandably think they should be better than this. But the fact is they aren’t better than this and they absolutely aren’t too good for Dyche, whose work at Burnley was obviously never quite as unrefined and basic as his reputation would suggest but who nevertheless has the knack of wringing the very most amount possible from what he has in front of him.
He won’t even particularly need any January signings – which is just as well – because Michael Keane, James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil are already in place at Goodison. Everton are more Burnley than they’d care to admit.
And it’s also true that during a largely confused and directionless year of strife under the ineffectual Lampard the only time Everton really looked like a proper team with a proper plan it was capable of properly following was when they embraced Dycheism to scrap their way clear of relegation last season. There was even a hint of it in during the early days of this season when Lampard’s side might not have been rollocking bringers of joy but were at least hard to beat.
After defeats in their opening two games of this season, Everton embarked on a six-game unbeaten run. The first four of those were draws, but there were battling qualities on display there and the defensive resilience established in those games brought a couple of wins trailing in their wake. Yet Everton have won only once since, and no longer boast even the basic organisational effort that marked them out at that time.
Everton conceded four goals in that six-game run. In a current seven-game sequence in which the only point came improbably in a 1-1 draw at Manchester City, Everton have leaked 16 goals. The City game showed there is still something there if a manager can come in and at least sort out the very worst of the mess.
That means Dyche, not Bielsa. This is a team that already looked, let’s not say best but ‘least bad’ when embracing Dyche’s style. There is enough talent in the squad, and enough dreck elsewhere in the Premier League’s bottom eight, to think Dyche’s ability to find order in the chaos would be enough to keep Everton up without it all becoming too horrendously fraught.
And right now that’s all that matters. Give him a six-month contract with a hefty staying-up bonus if you must. Go again with something a bit more Everton in the summer. But relegation is currently an ominously looming threat for a club that shows few signs of calmly shrugging it off and sauntering back to the top flight. There is no time for risk-taking here.