For a club that is one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888 and has competed in the top division for a record 119 seasons, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Everton Football Club is in dire straits.
Everton is currently 18th in the Premier League table, having racked up just 18 points from 22 games. It has won just four matches while losing 12 times in the ongoing season, and faces the threat of relegation for the second successive season.
Despite having a rich legacy and winning nine league titles, Everton has not been synonymous with winning trophies over the past couple of decades. Its last major title win came in 1995 when it won the FA Cup after clinching a 1-0 win against Manchester United.
However, the club had nestled itself comfortably in the top-half of the table and overall had a positive transformation under the tutelage of manager David Moyes from 2002-2013. In Moyes’ last seven seasons, the club finished consistently between fifth and eighth. Not only did Moyes save the Toffees from relegation, but he also broke the monotony of the Premier League top four, as he guided the club to a fourth-place finish in the 2004-05 season, beating rival Liverpool.
So, how did Everton go on from a top-half team to a relegation-threatened side for two consecutive seasons?
Farhad Moshiri’s whims and fancies
When British-Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri took control of the club at the end of the 2015-16 season as the new majority shareholder, his tenure began with the sacking of then-manager Roberto Martinez, who failed to build on his impressive debut campaign after taking the reins from David Moyes.
Moshiri’s finances and heavy ambitions should have proved fruitful for Everton, but as history has pointed out numerous times in the football business, money alone is never a solution to transform a club from mediocrity to excellence. What is required is a systematic approach and a long-term vision - qualities that did not bode well for an impatient Moshiri.
What followed post-Moshiri’s arrival was inflated transfer fees for players, bloating the wage bill by paying big salaries, and constantly shaking the foundation by hiring and firing managers like Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce, and Marco Silva, none of whom satisfied Moshiri’s criteria of ‘immediate impact’.
The Carlo Ancelotti era - a new dawn for Goodison?
Everton grabbed eyeballs after Carlo Ancelotti signed a four-and-a-half-year contract on December 21, 2019, replacing Marco Silva, who was sacked 16 days earlier. The appointment of Ancelotti had Moshiri written all over it- an ambitious appointment of one of the most successful coaches in football history.
“There is a clear vision from the owner and the board to deliver success and trophies,” Ancelotti said after his appointment.
Ancelotti started his tenure with two consecutive wins. However, when Ancelotti’s full-strength Everton side lost 1-0 to a Liverpool consisting of three teenagers and multiple fringe players in the FA Cup, it was a rude awakening for the fans at Goodison Park. Everton finished 12th in the league in Ancelotti’s first season.
In Ancelotti’s second season, he showed ambition in the transfer market backed by Moshiri. He signed his former players James Rodríguez and Allan, along with Ben Godfrey, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Niels Nkounkou. Everton ended 2020 in fourth place but could not maintain the string of good results and finished the season in 10th place.
Ancelotti was brought in to change Everton’s fortunes, but the Italian was planning to jump ship. The rumour of him making a return to Real Madrid spread like wildfire, and soon, the rumour turned into confirmation as Ancelotti used an escape clause in his contract to join Madrid in the summer of 2021.
Dark days with Benitez and Lampard
Rafael Benitez succeeded Carlo Ancelotti amidst threats due to his former ties with Liverpool. Despite starting his tenure with a four-game winning streak, Benitez could not hold on to the momentum and Moshiri continued with his trend of sacking managers, relieving the Spaniard from duties after just six-and-a-half months in charge. Benitez became the fifth Everton manager to lose his job in the previous six years.
Frank Lampard was brought in to save the sinking ship after Benitez’s sacking. There were doubts regarding his capability because of his unsuccessful managerial stint with Chelsea, where despite heavy backing in the summer window, he managed two wins in eight Premier League matches, leading to his dismissal. However, Lampard saved Everton from relegation after a 3-2 comeback win against Crystal Palace, maintaining Everton’s 68-year top-flight status.
Lampard began with a renewed sense of hope after saving Everton from relegation, and there was a belief around Goodison Park as well, but it wasn’t long before the belief turned into sit-in protests against Moshiri and the board, as Everton found itself in a relegation battle yet again. Under Lampard, Everton managed just one win in 11 games in the ongoing season, leaving the club 19th in January. Despite Moshiri backing him publicly saying his job was safe despite the poor results, Lampard was sacked after a few days on January 23, 2023.
Can Dyche save Everton?
Everton has a new manager again with Sean Dyche being the latest appointment. Fans would be forgiven for not getting their hopes up and criticising the board for its ‘hire and fire’ policy. But, Dyche might just be what Everton needs at the moment.
Dyche, during his days with Burnley, became well-known for his ability to grind out results against stronger oppositions and under difficult circumstances. To save Everton from relegation, Dyche will need to pull out multiple rabbits from the hat. Dyche’s style of football is known to be excessively bland at times, but effective. Also, Dyche operated with Burnley on a shoestring budget. Without any signings in the January window, his resourcefulness will be valuable in his early days with the Toffees.
Dyche started his Everton stint with a 1-0 win against Arsenal, only the second defeat for league leading Gunners this season. In his second match, his team suffered a 0-2 loss against rival Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby.
Dyche hasn’t had the easiest of fixtures as he starts a new journey, but there is still a fair bit of travelling to do. Opta Stats ranks Everton’s relegation chances at 60.82 percent. Only Bournemouth and Southampton’s chances are higher, with 77.72 and 86.28 percent.
For now, the agenda is clear - save Everton from relegation.
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