“Our job is to change the story,” said Sean Dyche, referring to the mission he and his Everton players are confronting. It does not reflect well on their work so far that the same old story is on repeat two games into a new season.
There are negatives enveloping Everton that are beyond the football department’s control: the collapse of a proposed investment deal from MSP Sports Capital; abuse of their players on social media; a transfer budget that does not scratch the surface of the rebuilding job required after two successive seasons of relegation torment; Farhad Moshiri and Bill Kenwright.
But it is within their control to convert one of several gilt-edged chances at home to Fulham on the opening day of the season. It is within their control to not fold mentally after conceding one goal at Aston Villa, or to prevent Unai Emery’s team scoring twice from throw-ins during another abysmal away day in the Premier League. Throw in another injury to the luckless Dominic Calvert‑Lewin, jeered off by some of his own supporters after suffering a suspected fractured cheekbone in the 4-0 drubbing at Villa Park, plus a failure to sign an established replacement in yet another transfer window and it is no surprise talk of a hat-trick of relegation battles has already commenced.
Pointless and goalless Everton host pointless Wolves at Goodison Park on Saturday in what may be considered the earliest relegation six-pointer in recent memory. Dyche desperately needs the cycle of negativity to break.
“The story has been similar for two seasons,” the Everton manager says. “Wins change the story, so do performances and feel around it. You can lose a game at Villa. They have spent a fortune and look like a good outfit, but if you are going to lose a game then you lose showing fight and showing you are in it. You show some quality.
“Against Fulham we did that. Result aside that was a team you want to see. My point is that it is about winning, of course, but if you are performing as well people will clearly see the difference. Winning adds to the difference and people will start to believe more.
“Last season we beat Arsenal, lost to Liverpool, beat Leeds and the story was just starting to go upwards. Then a few draws and losses meant we never quite got it going the right way until the end. When you win and perform the mood changes. The fans’ words change, the media’s words change and it snowballs in the right direction.
“But we have to win games. It is not just a win, but the idea that we can create a new feeling instead of this ‘same old, same old’. That is what it felt like last weekend, which is why I didn’t enjoy it. There was too much of ‘that was like it has been for years and years’. I can take the defeat on the first game of the season. I don’t want to lose but I want to see a team that can perform.”
Dyche described the performance at Villa as unacceptable yet dismisses the idea that Everton can be in crisis after two games. One could be brewing, however, should the transfer window close without reinforcements in attack or the club’s financial position deteriorate further.
He insists: “It is less concerning than if it was game 37, that’s for sure, because you can nip it in the bud early and say: ‘Right, there is a reminder.’ They were not at it as individuals and as a team. It happens. You would definitely prefer that at the beginning of the season than the end.
“We have quickly seen what is not expected. It is a reminder of what happens if you are not right. Occasionally you can luck out, not play well and get a draw or sneak a win, but when it is not right it is better it happens early.
“The bigger picture is we have lost players who have been very important since I have been here. Dwight [McNeil] was incredibly important. Then we’ve lost Alex [Iwobi] and Dom is very unfortunate having got back fit. That has to be factored in, certainly by me, even if others don’t give a monkey’s. Slowly but surely we can get these people back in and look a stronger outfit.”
Dyche’s continued faith in Michael Keane backfired at Villa, as it did last season, when it took the belated introduction of Yerry Mina for the former Burnley centre-half to help secure Everton’s defending and their Premier League status on the final day. “All individuals have an angle from the fans, good, bad or indifferent,” was the manager’s dismissive take on the renewed criticism of Keane.
He was more expansive on criticism of Everton in general. “Everyone in football was aware of the noise, or the baggage, around the situation,” he added. “You don’t have to be an Everton fan to know there was noise around the club about the misalignment, as the media put it, or what is going on, who is putting the money and all this sort of stuff.
“That was open to everyone. But when you talk about baggage I would never put the players in that category because they were all signed for a reason. We are just trying to reinvent them and give them a new beginning.”