The bizarre Marcelo Bielsa request that saw Everton turn to Sean Dyche
Marcelo Bielsa withdrew as the No 1 candidate to take over as Everton manager after it emerged that he was only prepared to move to Goodison Park to coach the under-21 side. Under his proposal, Bielsa would have managed the youth side while an interim coach took charge of the first team, allowing him to ready younger players for the start of next season.
The former Leeds manager would then have taken over permanently in the summer.
A further sticking point was Bielsa’s insistence that his methods would not work on the first-team squad mid-season.
Naturally, Everton could not agree to such a proposal.
Majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri had spent Thursday night trying to convince Bielsa to take the post, but will now hold further talks with second choice Sean Dyche, who is expected to be announced as Frank Lampard’s replacement by Sunday. The former Burnley coach had already made a strong impression in earlier conversations with the Everton hierarchy, and confirmation of his appointment is anticipated over the next 24 hours.
Although he is evidently Moshiri’s second choice, Dyche – out of work since leaving Burnley towards the end of last season – will get the opportunity to save Everton from relegation.
Dyche’s enthusiasm for the role, in stark contrast to Bielsa expressing reservations from the outset, should be enough to persuade Moshiri he is the right fit for the club’s emergency situation. Initially, Dyche’s appointment is likely to be regarded as a short-term measure in the hope he can lead the side out of the drop zone.
However, if he impresses, that could open the way for a long-term relationship. Comparisons will be made with Everton appointing Sam Allardyce midway through the 2017-18 season.
Allardyce was not the first choice as Moshiri wanted Marco Silva, at that time still at Watford.
The former England manager was not popular among the Everton fans, but he led the side to the comfort of eighth position. Moshiri was still forced to replace him that summer, by which time Silva was available. Dyche will be aware of the history, but his personality is not as divisive as that of Allardyce, who was unpalatable to the Gwladys Street from day one over what they perceived to be his unattractive brand of football .
If Dyche, 51, oversees a similar level of improvement to that under Allardyce five years ago, it is highly unlikely his services would be so readily dispensed with.
Moshiri must also consider the possibility that his next appointment will have to lead the club out of the Championship if they cannot escape the bottom three. Dyche won promotion to the Premier League, although the obvious, immediate priority is to preserve Everton’s Premier League status.
On the face of it Dyche, who may have been criticised for his style of football at Turf Moor but worked wonders on a limited budget, fits the bill – even if he is a self-confessed Liverpool fan.
One of the advantages he has is that there are three of his former Burnley players – James Tarkowski, Michael Keane and Dwight McNeil – in the Everton squad.
Asked in November what a good job looked like, he added: “You just feel like a club has a solid base to it, a solid core. I call it a heartbeat to the club. Some clubs, you have to instil it.
“It becomes part of your job as manager, to give that feel to a team because maybe it has got lost or it has got stretched.
“You’d arguably need some kind of finance – no one has magic dust, I certainly haven’t – to allow you the chance to operate, but the biggest thing is look at what you have got first, and mould that into a team that can compete.
“That was what I felt was my strength or my way of doing things.
“Look at what the reality is, look at what these players are, what can they actually do?” Dyche is understood to have sanctioned the departure of winger Anthony Gordon, who was absent from training for three days before returning on Friday, as a £40 million deal, with £5 million of add-ons, was thrashed out with Newcastle.
The new manager could not have had a tougher start as Everton face Premier League leaders Arsenal next Saturday, then travel to Anfield for the Merseyside derby.
But with a new stadium on the horizon, Dyche could yet lead the blue side of Merseyside to a brighter era.
'Dyche's appointment will be one of the most consequential in the club’s history'
By Chris Bascombe
On the day he was unveiled as Leeds United manager, Marcelo Bielsa revealed he watched all 51 of the team’s previous matches.
If Bielsa has been undertaking a similar survey of Everton’s performances over the past 18 months, is it any wonder he refused a Goodison contract?
Imposing a high energy, possession-based game on such a limited squad within such a short space of time to preserve Premier League status seemed well nigh impossible. The only effective man-to-man marking at Goodison Park this season has been by the stewards ordered to shadow attending directors.
From the moment Moshiri made his approach, Bielsa to Everton in mid-season sounded like a crazy football experiment, a break from the pattern where a side in dire straits has Sam Allardyce on speed dial.
It felt even more illogical given Moshiri went down the pragmatism route the last time Everton were in the drop zone before he sacked Ronald Koeman in 2017 and it worked, Allardyce comfortably escaping relegation to finish eighth. One might imagine a coach with a similar approach was the more obvious emergency measure.
But this is Moshiri-world in which every managerial process is informed by the previous year’s trials and tribulations. Allardyce was an unpalatable solution for aspirational supporters, and it seems the majority shareholder had similar doubts about the long-term suitability of Sean Dyche.
Thus, Dyche – providing there are no last minute hitches – will be unveiled as the second choice, and there is no hiding the vast difference between how Everton will play under him compared to Bielsa.
As was the case with most of Moshiri’s appointments – and would have been equally true of Bielsa – Dyche’s managerial career to date will be stripped to one dimension by the more vocal critics, making one wonder if the ideal Everton manager truly exists.
Every time a candidate comes to the fore, their perceived limitations are magnified above any qualities, with pundits and fans agreeing the preferred target will be a disaster. Unfortunately, they are then appointed and it turns out those fears were correct, which suggests either every Everton coach since 2016 has been utterly hopeless or, perhaps, there is a cultural and structural malaise within the organisation.
The consequence is a sense of defeatism before the next man has taken his first training session.
So where Bielsa was too much of a football idealist, Dyche is regarded as no more than a temporary fire-fighter who the fans (and probably Moshiri) will want replaced at the end of the season, especially if the Argentine is more willing to take over in the summer.
For Everton and Moshiri’s sake, one must hope Dyche proves such disrespect for his extraordinary work at Burnley wrong. He continuously retained Premier League status against the odds and finished as high as seventh in 2018, proving as adept as any coach in England at making a team punch above its weight.
Like Allardyce, he will arrive with the sole remit of keeping Everton up. But his task will be tougher than it was when Koeman was sacked.
The unpalatable truth is that while the first priority is keeping Everton in the Premier League, the task might rapidly evolve to get the club out of the Championship at the first attempt.
There is a school of thought uttered in whispers around Goodison that Everton might actually benefit from a year in the lower division.
The catastrophic financial implications undermine the theory – and it is doubtful Dyche would be retained if the nightmare unfolds – but if the worst happened it would hasten a clear-out of those high earners who would consider it beneath them to be outside of the Premier League, and with smart recruitment allow the club to start afresh.
With a blank canvas and a clear vision, able to scout and mould fresh talent, a manager could get the time his predecessors were denied. Dyche has a track record navigating through those choppy Championship waters so might make sense in the long-term as much as here and now.
To end Everton’s vicious cycle, the new manager must ready himself for the Premier League salvage operation, but earn the trust for reconstruction as challenging as that which is currently erecting that £500 million stadium.
That means, when confirmed, Dyche is not only the most important appointment of the Moshiri era. With the club in 19th and in more jeopardy now than any previous relegation battles, he will be one of the most consequential in the club’s history.