On 30th January, Everton announced Sean Dyche as their new manager. The former Burnley boss takes the reigns a week after the club dismissed Frank Lampard. Dyche faces the difficult task of trying to avoid the club’s first relegation in 72 years. Is he the right man for the job?
Dyche’s Track Record
Many fans who only pay attention to the top flight of football in England will mainly be familiar with Dyche as Burnley manager up until last season.
Dyche actually began his coaching career at Watford as a Under-18 coach and later assistant manager to Malky Mackay. When Mackay left to join Cardiff City in June 2011, Dyche was promoted to manager. Watford finished 11th in the Championship in 2011/12, a best finish for four years, but the ambitious new owners decided to move on at the end of the season.
Burnley then appointed Dyche as manager in October 2012. He was manager at Turf Moor for nine years, twice guiding the club to promotion to the Premier League. Whilst on the first occasion Burnley stayed only one season in the top flight, their second promotion in 2016 began a spell of six years in the top division. In 2017/2018, Burnley remarkably finished 7th in the Premier League and qualified for the UEFA Europa League.
In 266 Premier League games with Burnley, Dyche oversaw 75 wins and 70 draws – 295 points, 1.1 per game. A club accumulating 1.1 points per game will have 42 at the end of a season. 42 points is enough to have stayed up in every Premier League season.
A Good fit for the Situation
Given that track record, Dyche is a good fit for the current situation at Everton. He has experience of managing a club facing the pressure of staying in the Premier League. He has a track record of accumulating enough points.
Dyche managed Burnley in a well-organised fashion, creating a side that was difficult to play against. Introducing this to Everton as soon as possible will be crucial to escaping relegation this year. Few have described the current Everton side as difficult to play against so introducing that feature of Dyche’s Burnley team would be a welcome change.
Everton are in a difficult financial situation which is hampering their ability to make player transfers. The club has large drains on its accounts from the construction of a new stadium as well as lavish spending on players under previous manager Carlo Ancelotti. Dyche has experience working with a limited budget and maximising the capability of players already at the club and this could be crucial right from the beginning of his reign at Everton.
The Right Man for Now, or the Right Man Full Stop?
There has been consternation in some quarters about Everton’s move for Dyche. Some fans are concerned that the appointment is one of limited ambition. They worry that the focus is too much on relegation this season, and not enough on the long term.
However, there is much to recommend Dyche as the right long-term solution as well as the man for right now. His achievements at Burnley must be put in the context of what is nowadays a smaller provincial club. They do not have a large fanbase, large stadium, or the means to compete with a modern-day, big-spending Premier League. Whilst Burnley do look well-placed to return to the Premier League for next season, like most clubs in English football there is a ceiling on what they can achieve. Everton is a club with a higher ceiling, especially once their new stadium is ready in 2024/25.
When discussing who would be the next manager, some media were quick to lump Dyche in with some familiar names of relegation troubleshooters. The comparison does Dyche a disservice. He is a modern, progressive coach who is in touch with emerging trends in the game. He has done his homework on and off the training field. The success of his sides comes from an understanding of the modern game and a healthy mix of science and pragmatism. In the first of his two appearances on YouTube channel The Coaches’ Voice, notable is how often Dyche speaks of trying to give the highlighted game, a 1-0 win at Anfield, “a different feel” to others that Liverpool had played that season.
A Familiar Blueprint
Last year’s 3-2 win for Burnley at home to Everton will be familiar to Toffees fans and should be encouraging. Trailing 2-1, Burnley upped the tempo and played an aggressive, attacking style. Whilst still in a familiar 4-4-2 shape, they moved the ball much more quickly into the final third and created more chances. Burnley won 9 corners and took full advantage of them with dominance at set pieces a feature of their play.
Much of Dyche’s management at Burnley could be described as “needs must”. He lacked the players to regularly play in a style of trying to dominate games. Clubs like Blackpool have attacked the Premier League with an open style but this rarely succeeds over 38 games. In contrast, Dyche has been very successful given the context but also shown signs that he would like to adapt to a different situation. If successful this year, I think he will gradually try to adapt his Everton side and to play in a more controlling manner. As the club’s financial situation improves, hopefully he will be able to make signings to achieve that. Given his character, I suspect Dyche’s teams will always be about first being difficult to beat. But that is no bad thing, and I think is a character trait that Everton fans will grow to appreciate.
Managerial appointments are difficult to predict. To a large extent, things are often about being in the right place at the right time. Dyche is the right man at a difficult time. If he has a bit of luck early on, that can help to build a platform beyond this season. If he has time, he undoubtedly has what it takes to be a top manager at a club that has been crying out for one in recent seasons.