Another new manager begins their Everton tenure this weekend as Sean Dyche welcomes league leaders Arsenal to Goodison Park.
It has been yet another turbulent few weeks in Evertonia, with Frank Lampard and Anthony Gordon moving on, Dyche arriving and precisely no-one coming through the Finch Farm gates on deadline day.
No wonder the fans are now feeling bewildered and befuddled - as well as angry, frustrated, despondent and worried. Very, very worried.
The failure to add to a team sat second-bottom in the table having scored just 15 goals in 19 games while others around them have strengthened is a dereliction of duty by the club’s hierarchy.
The chaotic state of the club that makes it a less-than-attractive proposition is only partial mitigation. It has been obvious since the summer that they needed to replace Richarlison and plans should also have been put in place after those disastrous defeats to Bournemouth in November.
To then let Gordon go so late without a replacement lined up, prompting a last, desperate and ultimately successful dash on deadline day to try and bring someone, anyone, through the doors is symbolic of an atrociously-led institution that looks to be going one way, barring yet another miracle escape.
The one hope I cling to is that this under-performing squad is actually far better than performances over the last year suggests, and that Dyche is the man to rediscover that potential.
Dyche certainly doesn’t seem fazed by the challenge, even if he has been given a hospital pass by the board after that quiet deadline day. His decade at Burnley means he is battled-hardened and ready for another fight against the drop.
The one thing he can count on is the support of the fans. Dyche has been pleading for the supporters to give him, his team and the players a chance, admitting he is aware of the ‘noise around the club’ as he put it.
That backing is guaranteed. The supporters remain opposed to the board and will protest before and after the game, but are ready to provide the kind of fearsome Goodison atmosphere that roared the Toffees to safety last season.
It won’t be pretty but it will be tough, uncompromising and fully committed.
Everton’s Premier League life is at stake. It is time to fight for it.
Dyche’s first opponent could not be much tougher as Mikel Arteta’s high-flying Gunners arrive in L4 holding a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Arteta was appointed the same week as Carlo Ancelotti – a full three Everton managers ago – and has been given time to mould and craft a talented and dynamic young squad. The Gunners board rewarded for sticking by the former Everton midfielder during a few rocky spells.
That squad has been bolstered by the January arrivals of Leandro Trossard, Jorginho and Jakub Kiwior as they look to secure a first league title since Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ side of 2004.
Their tally of 50 points is their highest at the halfway stage of a Premier League campaign and are looking to make it 14 league games unbeaten on Merseyside. They have, however, won just two of their last 10 trips to Goodison Park.
Arsenal 5-1 Everton, May 22 2022
After the scheduled game at the Emirates in September was postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II you have to go back to the final match of last season for the previous meeting between the sides. Loan midfielder Donny van de Beek was on target for the Toffees, but Arsenal plundered five at the other end. Luckily Everton had already secured their Premier League survival earlier that week.
Defenders Ben Godfrey and Michael Keane will miss Saturday’s game with knee injuries.
James Garner is back in training after a back issue but is not ready for a return.
Andros Townsend and Nathan Patterson are also a few weeks away from a comeback.
What they said
Everton manager Sean Dyche: “We want the fans to play their part. It is choppy waters, but we want the fans to reconnect with that. I’ve got to earn my spurs and I’m willing to put the hard yards in to earn their respect.
“Wins are those marvellous things in football that seem to solve things, but you have to earn that. You might get a lucky 1-0 win now and again but you don’t want to build on luck. For me, it’s about the heartbeat of the team and club.
“Reminding them of the players they are. You don’t get to be an Everton player without laying some markers down in your career as individuals and as a team. I think there is technical prowess here.”
“We have to unify. We have to. Even the most disgruntled Evertonians at the moment, if they give us a chance to stick by the team.
“The energy changes very quickly when players feel that intensity and support. Just give us a window to breathe, support and play a part in that.”
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta: “They have tried to accommodate the right character for the circumstance the club is in. What Sean and the coaching staff did at Burnley speaks for itself. With the limited resources they had, they got incredible results very consistently in this very tough league. I like the character a lot, the presence and the clarity he brings to his team. Hopefully after tomorrow, he will be a great fit for Everton.”
I have found it hard to be even remotely positive about Everton recently, it is tough not to be despondent. But if they are going to go down then they cannot do so without a fight. And regardless of the external noise, the fans and the manager will be united in that aim.