Why Everton Will Be Much Tougher Than Burnley For Sean Dyche
Everton seem set to hire Sean Dyche as head coach in a bid to stay in the Premier League.
Dyche, who kept Burnley in the Premier League for years on a shoestring budget, is seen as a firefighter, as someone who can give Everton a bit of fight, and whose pragmatic route-one soccer will give the Toffees the best chance of staying up.
The truth is a little more complicated.
Everton have hired a firefighter head coach before, back in 2017 when Sam Allardyce replaced Ronald Koeman. They finished eighth that season, although when Allardyce took over they were still in mid-table, rather than second-from-bottom and without a win since October like they are now.
Sean Dyche is no firefighter, no “survival specialist” parachuted in to sort out the mess made by his predecessors. He doesn’t have experience of taking over a struggling side midseason and guiding them to safety. At Watford, he was hired at the start of the season, and at Burnley, the team were midtable when he replaced Eddie Howe, and finished in midtable before winning promotion the following year. Dyche’s success at Burnley was partly because he had time to get the players to buy into his ideas, time he doesn’t have at Everton.
“The minimum requirement is maximum effort.” Those are Sean Dyche’s words in a podcast on Training Ground Guru last summer, and that’s what Everton fans are hoping he can bring to a lackluster team.
But part of that is having the right players at the club, by hiring players who are going to give everything. There’s an expectation that Dyche can instantly create a culture of “legs, hearts and minds” at Everton, just like he did at Burnley.
But at Burnley, Dyche says, there is a “one club mentality where everyone, fans, Board, manager, players, get the core value of what it is.”
Is that the case at Everton? Given that their two top replacements for Frank Lampard were Dyche and Marcelo Bielsa, two head coaches with distinctly different approaches to soccer in the past, one known for defense-first and the other known for attack-first, one pragmatic and one idealistic, suggests that those at the top at Goodison Park don’t know what their club’s core value is or what they want it to be. That mentality saw Everton spend more than their local rivals Liverpool for a while, without anything to show for it.
When it comes to the soccer on the pitch, Dyche is going to do what any good, pragmatic head coach should do. He is going to play a system that gets the most out of Everton’s players.
Burnley’s tiny budget and limited scouting capacity meant that in the Premier League, that system was not as attractive on the eye as some other teams.
But Burnley’s “Brexitball” of only buying British players was due to their lack of a strong overseas scouting network more than anything else.
This season, they are playing some attractive soccer under Vincent Kompany, but that’s partly because Burnley’s budget goes a lot further in the second tier. The last time they were in the Championship, Burnley under Dyche won promotion in 2015/16 by scoring the joint-most goals in the division.
But when your players aren’t as good as your opponents, you have to be pragmatic. Dyche lives in Nottingham and has been spotted watching Steve Cooper’s Nottingham Forest several times this season. Forest started life in the Premier League using the same system that won them promotion last season and it resulted in Forest being bottom of the league and losing every week. A switch to three in midfield stopped the team leaking goals and now they are doing much better.
Dyche has said he will choose whichever style of play he thinks will give Everton the best chance of staying up this season, depending on the players available. At Burnley, that meant playing 4-4-2, forcing the ball toward the wings and getting the ball forward quickly on turnovers before the opponent could organize their defense.
One of the biggest things that Dyche can bring to Everton is his ability to get results on a budget. Financial fair play rules mean Everton can’t simply spend their way to safety and will have to sell more of their better players. Dyche might not have been thrown into a club at risk of relegation before, but he does have experience of making the best of a tough financial situation and building a club culture that is bigger than the sum of its parts.
The only question that really matters, given how much a place in the Premier League is worth, is can he keep Everton up? Arsenal at home then Liverpool away is possibly the toughest start Dyche could face, but Everton are only two points off safety, and when fixtures are factored in, they are roughly level with four other sides, so if Dyche can sort out their problems, then Everton have as good a chance as anyone else at staying in the Premier League.
In the long-term though, Burnley overachieved because everybody at the club bought into a plan. Everton have underachieved because they don’t appear to have a long-term plan.