Time to recognise truth as Dyche proves right fit for Everton in the end

Sean Dyche has guided the Toffees to safety through the most difficult and challenging campaign endured by any Premier League club.
Arsenal FC v Everton FC - Premier League
Arsenal FC v Everton FC - Premier League / Visionhaus/GettyImages

It is always difficult to admit you may be mistaken and I have been a critic of his, but it is right to recognise that the Everton manager did a truly fantastic, you might even say near-miraculous job, keeping the club up this season.

The Blues and their manager faced a tsunami of adverse circumstances in the 2023-24 campaign unprecedented in Premier League history.

First of all Dyche entered the season with a paper-thin and very average squad of mismatched players he had largely inherited from his numerous predecessors.

That squad had only just avoided relegation in the previous campaign with victory over Bournemouth on the final day (for the third time) after Dyche had stabalised a fast-sinking ship when he took over in January.

Over that following summer Dyche had been seriously constrained in his recruitment by the club's still precarious finances and hadn't been able to spend much, certainly in comparison with those who had gone before him.

Then the season began with Everton failing to win any of their first four home matches and losing heavily at Aston Villa.

One of the criticisms I had of Dyche is that he is very loyal to certain experienced players he knows even when they aren't necessarily performing.

The manager had started the season with his former Burnley central defensive pair of James Tarkowski and Michael Keane.

It was clear after that horror show at Villa Park that change was needed if the Blues were to recover and right a campaign that already felt as though it was listing badly.

Dyche then brought Jarrad Branthwaite - a player I had always been a big supporter of - into the team at Keane's expense, and arguably that was the single most important decision he made all season long.

As Everton began to improve and stabilize mainly by securing decent results away from home, a bombshell arrived with the announcement in November that the PSR investigation that had been hanging over the club, would result in a ten point deduction for financial breaches.

Suddenly, the Toffees were in serious trouble again finding themselves demoted down the Premier League table.

Everton did recover and went on a critical four-match winning run that essentially wiped out that deficit.

At first then it looked as though the players had shaken off any shock about the deduction and were responding effectively to it.

However, then as 2024 rolled around came a run of thirteen games without a win which put the Toffees right back in the relegation fight.

Key players too such as Abdoulaye Doucoure were badly out of form and while the Blues were always tough to beat, they did not look like winning another game.

In February the result of Everton's appeal over the ten point deduction was announced and although that appeal decision did not overturn the full amount, it did at least reduce it by four.

But yet more bad news was coming with the announcement that the Blues were again guilty of breaching PSR and would have another two points taken off them this season!

While all this madness was happening the club were waiting and waiting for the relevant authorities to conclude their investigation into 777 Partners proposed takeover as the process dragged on and on. We still don't know the outcome of that takeover now.

At the same time Dyche and his players had to somehow ignore all this chaos and noise and concentrate on trying to win football matches.

But the team were struggling to find ways to do that, and despite continuing to be arguably the best side defensively in the Premier League (given the almost constant pressure they were under) they couldn't score enough goals.

At this time I along with others, was critical of Dyche's continuing adherence to his conservative tactics and the 4-4-1-1 formation he had adopted since he had arrived at Goodison Park.

As the season seemed to be in freefall, the Toffees traveled to Chelsea and were hammered six nil in the worst performance for many a month.

That game left Everton in what looked like terminal trouble. They faced a week which could define the outcome of the campaign with three consecutive matches at Goodison Park where their overall form had been so erratic.

First up was Nottingham Forest, also relegation threatened and one place below the Toffees and who had also been deducted four points for PSR breaches.

Forest were defeated two nil. Next the delayed derby against Liverpool, a fixture at the Grand Old Lady which the Toffees hadn't won since 2010.

Liverpool were soundly beaten, again by two goals without reply in the best single night of the season. That was followed up by a win over Brentford that ensured the Blues could not be relegated.

So, at the end of it all Dyche had managed to defy gravity and a uniquely testing time both on and off the pitch and perhaps he had proved his critics wrong too.

I still have a long-term hope that we see a bit more tactical flexibility and attacking football in the future.

But with such uncertain financial circumstances persisting it looks like it will be a tough campaign again next time with a premium on being hard to beat needed once more.

In truth, although Dyche's football isn't easy on the eye it is right to acknowledge that in the end the manager's methods have done the job better than anyone else would surely have.