After a series of disappointing losses, especially to sides around them towards the bottom of the Premier League table, Everton decided to part ways with a manager who appeared to have lost his players’ trust. Error-strewn defensive showings and attacking impotence were the hallmarks of January’s fixtures as the Toffees finally sacked their gaffer — six weeks too late, it must be said — with little time left in the transfer window.
Sounds familiar? Because we could be talking about the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons interchangeably here. Just insert Rafa Benitez or Frank Lampard respectively and you have the repeatable story of Everton.
While last season the Blues had more points on the board when Benitez was sacked leaving Lampard a little less to do to ensure safety, this season the Toffees are worse off and don’t have the safety net of two free-falling teams (Norwich City and Watford) to ensure they just need to be better than one more team survive relegation. To take it a step further, Everton are Norwich and Watford this season, and it’s the other clubs in the mire around us that have been using us as a stepping stone - just ask Wolves, Southampton and West Ham.
Last season, Everton had Duncan Ferguson installed as an interim manager as they waffled back and forth between a number of options before fan protestations about Vitor Pereira turned the tide in Lampard’s favour. However, the Toffees had already signed fullbacks Vitaliy Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson, and after Lampard was confirmed on 31st January, only Dele and Donny van de Beek were added, both on deadline day.
This season, things look a lot more dire. Richarlison was never really adequately replaced with both Dwight McNeil and Neal Maupay failing to match the Brazilian’s output. After Arnaut Danjuma’s transfer was (almost comically) hijacked by Tottenham, the Blues are yet to add a wide player in the January window and now it looks like Anthony Gordon is gone too.
It’s Saturday the 28th and only the most optimistic of us Blues would expect the appointment of Sean Dyche to wrapped up in time to make any significant signings even with the unexpected windfall of £40-plus million from Newcastle for Gordon.
In a recent interview Farhad Moshiri seemed to indicate that Director of Football Kevin Thelwell was working directly with Lampard on transfer targets, and we can assume the same will happen with Dyche. Deadline day is on Tuesday, 31st January.
With the glacial speed that the Blues usually conduct their transfer business and that most of the best wide forwards are already off the market, it is indeed a genuine worry that the Blues will not be able to bring any real quality into the side for the gritty relegation battle that lies ahead of them.
Everton have 15 points from 20 games, leaving them 18 fixtures and a possible 54 points to get. Nine of those are at home, where they have lost four in a row to teams in the lower half of the table. In the last ten seasons, the highest points total the 18th placed team (and last to be relegated) was 37 points. Going by that, the Blues will need to cobble together at least 23 points from those 18 games, about six wins and five draws or some other similar combination.
We can only assume Dyche is aware of the task ahead of him in trying to wrangle five-seven wins out of this lineup of players who have managed three league wins all season long. And if he does keep the Toffees up, then to some extent it will be an even greater achievement than what Lampard did last season with securing safety on the penultimate matchday of the season.