After a disastrous January transfer window which saw Everton sell its joint-top goalscorer to Newcastle United while being the only club in the Premier League not to sign a player, the Toffees’ squad has gone from bad to worse with the club still sat in 19th.
Upon Sean Dyche’s appointment as Frank Lampard’s replacement, reports came out that he was “being promised three to four signings”, but that figure quickly shrunk to two, and then one, until the window slammed shut on Tuesday night without a single addition to an Everton team which has not won a match since October and has only picked up three league wins all season. The Everton board have placed all their trust in Dyche’s ability to conjure miracles over the next 18 matches, or else the club will see its first relegation since 1951 and Goodison Park’s final season will be spent in the second division.
So, just how likely are the Toffees to be relegated? According to FiveThirtyEight’s projection model, Everton have a 68% chance to go down; the most of any club in the Premier League. They also have a league-high 30% chance to finish dead last, which narrowly edges out Southampton’s 29%. However, Southampton secured the signings of both Kamaldeen Sulemana and Paul Onuachu from Rennes and Genk respectively to bolster their attack. Meanwhile, Everton’s attack worsened, as Anthony Gordon was sold for a hefty sum, none of which was re-invested in the hopes of keeping Everton in the top flight.
FiveThirtyEight’s model also predicts that Everton will finish on 30 points, which would be the worst season in the club’s history by a solid margin, beating out the 03/04 team and last year’s 2021/22 team which both narrowly escaped relegation with 39 points. It’s safe to say that the odds are stacked firmly against the Toffees as they head into one of the most important stretches of games in the club’s near 145-year history.
However, Sean Dyche has been known to summon the improbable. In 2017/18, he led Burnley to a 7th place finish, their highest ever in the Premier League, and qualification for the European football for the first time in over 50 years. Heading into that season, Dyche’s Burnley side had the third highest odds for relegation, and their over/under for points was 35.5, according to Action. They finished on 54 points and their overperformance of 18.5 points was the joint-most in the league, matched only by Manchester City who totalled an all-time record 100 points.
Although it’s clear that the bookies’ odds are not statistical gospel, these facts go to show that Dyche has shown a track record of overperformance, especially considering the players he had at his disposal during his time at Burnley.
Now, Dyche takes over what is likely the most talented team he has ever been in-charge of (despite the awful first half of the season), but he has very little time to impart his ideas, nor leeway for them to stick. Everton FC are in utter shambles at the moment, with the situation threatening to boil over at any given second, and so Dyche is a brave man for walking into Finch Farm in its current state. Luckily, there will be a few familiar faces there to greet him: Michael Keane, James Tarkowski, and Dwight McNeil all played under Sean Dyche during his time at Turf Moor.
I believe that getting the best out of the latter will be a crucial item on Dyche’s “Survival To-Do List”, especially given the departure of Gordon. McNeil’s involvement will likely become a necessity due to the sheer lack of numbers available in that area, although the return of Andros Townsend in the coming weeks may help alleviate that issue.
With all that said, the hopes of Everton FC are in the hands of Sean Dyche to do what he so often did at Burnley: work miracles. His tenure starts in the most difficult of fashions with league-leaders Arsenal coming to Goodison Park, but he can be sure that the faithful Evertonians will pack out the terraces of the Grand Old Lady and back the team for this game and the rest. I personally believe the task is too tall after that catastrophic winter window, but hopefully I will be proven wrong.
One thing’s for sure: if Sean Dyche can pull this off, his name is one which won’t be soon forgotten in Evertonia.