Ronald Koeman was relieved of his duties at Goodison Park two weeks ago and, while David Unsworth has taken charge of the four games since the Dutchman’s departure, there is a feeling that the Toffees are edging closer to appointing their next head coach.
While a couple of obvious coaches were immediately linked with the job following Koeman’s departure, the story has taken a couple of interesting turns in the past few days, with The Daily Telegraph reporting that Sam Allardyce was the frontrunner before Sky Sports revealed a four-man shortlist headed by Atlético Madrid boss Diego Simeone.
Here, Football Whispers analyses the potential candidates to be the new Everton manager.
A somewhat fanciful target, the Atlético Madrid coach is Everton owner Farhad Moshiri’s top target to succeed Koeman. However, Simeone is thought to be happy in the Spanish capital and would be tough to lure away from the club, particularly in mid-season. The Argentine is contracted to Atlético until 2020, so even if he were to come next summer, he would represent an expensive option.
However, if Everton are as ambitious as they seem and pursue the 47-year-old, he would certainly add a sense of prestige and continental glamour to the Goodison touchline, with his all-black slim-fit suits and wild gesticulation rivalling the theatrics of even Antonio Conte.
He would also bring title-winning credentials, having guided Atleti to the La Liga title in 2014, upsetting the Real Madrid–Barcelona duopoly in the process. He has also won a Europa League and Copa del Rey during his six years at the club and led them to two Champions League finals, losing to rivals Real in both.
Simeone is a tactically astute manager renowned for his man-management skills and ability to organise his defence. While Real and Barça light up La Liga with their scintillating attacking football, Simeone’s Atlético have always been regarded as a brutally effective team, scrappy but with an insatiable appetite for winning.
Defensive structure and organisation are certainly key and his side have only conceded six goals in 11 league games this season. They also boasted the most parsimonious defence last season, too, conceding just 27 league goals.
Landing Simeone may be a stretch for Everton but, considering he has masterminded Atlético’s golden era, he is a tactician certainly worth pursuing.
From Simeone to Big Sam, El Cholo to Allardyci. While Allardyce’s name being mentioned may not stir the same sense of excitement as Simeone’s, his proven track record of coming into clubs in a similar situation and getting them out of trouble is undeniable.
Last season, Allardyce was appointed as Crystal Palace manager with the club languishing in 17th-place after a run of just one win in 11 games.
Like Everton, Palace had embarked on a brave new world of possibilities with their own touchline visionary in Alan Pardew. It ended disastrously, with American investors Josh Harris and David Blitzer admitting his attempts to introduce an expansive brand of football simply hadn’t worked.
In came relegation firefighter Allardyce, one of English football’s most enduring characters. Indeed, under him, Palace endured, as he rejuvenated Christian Benteke and got the best out of Yohan Cabaye, Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha to guide the Eagles to 14th, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
He pulled off a similar trick at Sunderland, too. In October 2015, the Black Cats were second from bottom and winless after eight games. They had been a directionless, withering collection of individuals before Allardyce took over, but he led them to safety at the expense of the club’s bitter rivals Newcastle United.
Those recent accomplishments are the things that stand out most on Allardyce’s extensive CV. His ability to come into a failing side and transform their fortunes is what is attracting Everton to him. Regardless of how controversial or divisive he may be, Allardyce has always been an attractive option for club owners.
Another important point of note is that he’s currently out of work, unlike some of the other candidates on this list. Asking him to come in and ‘do a job’ until the end of the season is looking increasingly appealing by the day.
The man who memorably prompted Soccer Saturday prophets Paul Merson and Phil Thompson’s ‘what does he know about the Premier League!?’ rant, Silva has quickly established himself as one of brightest managerial minds working in England. For a man who suffered relegation just four months into his adventure on these shores, that’s mightily impressive.
Silva was dealt a bad hand at Hull City and his impressive work with Watford in the early part of the season suggests that he is on a trajectory that transcends the relatively modest resources available to him at Vicarage Road.
Silva has earned plaudits for his aggressive and adventurous brand of football with the Hornets, with a vogue high-pressing style that has served as a radical and refreshing departure from the not-so-popular Walter Mazzarri.
Interestingly, though, the 40-year-old former Olympiakos boss espouses a wildly different style of football to Allardyce or Simeone. While the aforementioned duo are likely to whip the Toffees defence into shape, Silva is likely to preach a riskier – albeit more entertaining – managerial mantra.
Sensationally beaten 3-2 by Everton, Watford boss Marco Silva refused to answer questions about the job at Goodison. (Echo) pic.twitter.com/sGQiJAM5Ri
— Football Whispers (@FB_WHISPERS) November 6, 2017
It makes this shortlist as bewildering and inconsistent as a transfer policy that led them to sign both Gylfi Sigurðsson and Davy Klaassen in the same summer while neglecting the search for Romelu Lukaku‘s replacement.
There’s a cavalier emphasis on attacking teams, for sure, but Watford’s inability to close out games will perhaps be a point of discussion among the Everton hierarchy. If Sunday’s game was his audition for the Everton hot-seat, it ended disastrously with Watford suffering a second-half collapse as they blew a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2. The Hornets also lost to Chelsea having initially fought back from a goal down to lead 2-1, eventually losing 4-2.
Although Silva looks to be destined for great things in the future, there is a suggestion that it may be too soon to make the leap to Everton.
Unsworth is a tough one. Prior to stepping in after Koeman’s dismissal, he had zero top-flight managerial experience. His initiation was less than smooth, too, losing to Chelsea in the Carabao Cup before being defeated by Leicester City and Lyon.
However, he demonstrated an admirable capacity for generating spirit and fight within his players with that epic comeback victory over Watford on Sunday. He has also been a loyal servant of the club, with many pundits clamouring for chairman Bill Kenwright and Moshiri to ‘give him a chance.’
That has reflected in the ringing endorsements he has received from the players, with stalwart left-back Leighton Baines leading the glowing appraisals.
“He has been top drawer. I’ve loved the training sessions he’s put on and the way he has conducted himself. His talk before the game was special,” the 32-year-old said after the Watford win.
“We would like to have given him more, and achieved better results – but we have got him a win, which he deserved, at the least.”
It’s important to remember, at this stage, that Everton’s main priority is avoiding relegation. It may be a drastic modification to the top-six ambitions they harboured after a heavy spend in the summer, but that’s the reality. With that, a seasoned specialist in escapology like Allardyce will always have the edge on someone like Unsworth in this situation.
There is still plenty of time to save Everton’s season from the wreckage and, if the experience of Allardyce or Simeone is available, Unsworth barely stands a chance – regardless of how the players may feel.
You may be wondering at this stage where Dyche figures into all of this. The answer, curiously, is that he doesn’t. Not according to Sky Sports anyway. In the article detailing Everton’s four-man shortlist, Dyche’s name isn’t even mentioned, less than a week after they reported the Toffees were interested in the Burnley boss.
That is a bit curious, especially considering that Dyche would arguably be the strongest candidate of the bunch. Not only is he experienced and a mean organiser of a team, his achievement in establishing the Clarets as one of the Premier League’s darling over-achievers would have surely been attractive to Everton. Perhaps not, but Dyche’s omission is either a strange oversight on Sky’s part or a product of Everton’s muddled approach.
Either is possible, to be honest.