LONDON, Feb 2 (Reuters) – New Everton manager Sean Dyche could hardly have chosen a bigger challenge than answering the emergency call from ailing Merseyside as he resumes his managerial career with a team that looks set to is heading towards the second tier of English football.
Dyche, 51, was used to defying the odds at the former Burnley, earning a reputation as a shrewd tactician and motivator who brought out his team’s full potential over six full top-flight seasons.
That’s probably why he was picked by Everton, hopefully as a relegation savior or a manager capable of leading them back if the worst happens and they drop out of the Premier League for the first time.
Dyche, Everton’s fifth manager in five years, begins what some are calling an impossible mission on Saturday and it could hardly be a more challenging start with leaders Arsenal at Goodison Park for the midday kick-off.
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With nine defeats and one win from their last 12 league games under former manager Frank Lampard and growing discontent with the club’s ownership, only the most optimistic fan will believe that Everton can only inflict a second defeat of the season at Arsenal
To add another layer of gloom to the blue half of Merseyside, a transfer window that saw record Premier League spending went entirely to Everton.
While relegation rivals Bournemouth (£50m ($61.65m)), Leeds United (36m) and Southampton (56m) bolstered their squads with new signings, Everton spent zero in all and sell young winger Anthony Gordon to Newcastle United for a report. 40 million pounds.
It means Dyche will have to make do with a team that looks ill-equipped for a battle for survival.
“It’s tough times at the moment but we want to get a good feeling back,” Dyche, whose new side are second bottom with 15 points from 20 games, above Southampton on goal difference and two points from the safety zone.
“Anyone can take the wheel of a ship in calm waters, but we are not in calm waters. What I will say is that we will field a team that will fight and wear the badge with pride,” he added.
The only crumb of comfort for Everton is that they have won three of their last four Premier League games against Arsenal, albeit a very different Gunners side to this season’s model.
Arsenal, with former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta, are favorites to win their first league title since 2003-04 and can open an eight-point gap over Manchester City if they win on Saturday.
The north London club added Chelsea midfielder Jorginho and Brighton & Hove Albion winger Leandro Trossard in the January transfer window, both of whom could be involved on Saturday.
Chelsea fans are still giddy after a month in which the club spent close to £300m on eight new players, most notably the £106m signing of Argentine midfielder Enzo Fernandez from Benfica on deadline day .
Fernandez, 22, could make his debut for 10th-placed Chelsea at home to seventh-placed Fulham on Friday when all eyes will be on manager Graham Potter’s squad selection.
Champions Manchester City, who were quiet in the window and surprisingly loaned right-back Joao Cancelo to Bayern Munich, travel to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, when the hosts are likely to debut new right-back Pedro Porro.
Third-placed Newcastle United, boosted after reaching the League Cup final, host struggling West Ham United in Saturday’s afternoon kick-off after fourth-placed Manchester United, who also arrived at Wembley piece, welcome to Crystal Palace.
Liverpool, who finished ninth, will aim to end a three-game league winless streak with a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
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Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris
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