At the end of a torrid month both on and off the pitch for Everton, in which the board failed to strengthen a squad marooned in the relegation zone, it is time for transparency and an explanation for the club's plight
Thursday 2 February 2023 16:11, UK
Maybe one day the reasons for a blank transfer window will become clearer, but for Evertonians the dawning of a new month brings with it the same feeling of despair and of questions left unanswered.
"Fans have held onto the belief that if players were brought in this window, we may have had the chance of staying up," former captain Alan Stubbs told Sky Sports.
"But to see them sell someone for £45m and bring no one in it is just another in a catalogue of errors made by this inept board."
If Sean Dyche was not already aware of the scale of the job he has taken on at Everton, then he certainly will be now. The end of the transfer window brought nothing but disappointment against a backdrop of mounting fan fury.
The club banked £45m from the sale of Anthony Gordon to Newcastle but their attempts to reinvest that cash, and improve a squad in dire need of strengthening, proved fruitless.
The list of rejections and near misses seemed to lengthen by the hour on Deadline Day, with reports emerging of unsuccessful moves for Hakim Ziyech, Conor Gallagher, Iliman Ndiaye, Olivier Giroud, Michy Batshuayi, Jean-Philippe Mateta and Udinese striker Beto, among others.
On Wednesday morning came further news of a near-miss as Everton tried to sign Anthony Elanga in the final days of the transfer window.
They were hopeful, even as late as deadline day, of agreeing a loan deal with Manchester United for the 20-year-old but Erik ten Hag could npt be persuaded to allow him to leave. They also made a loan offer for Watford forward Ismaila Sarr in the final hours that was rejected.
Despite their desperate plight, level on points with Southampton at the bottom of the table, they ultimately end the window as the only Premier League side not to bring in a single player, leaving Dyche with an almighty task to keep them in the division.
"If you're not bringing players in, I don't see the point in changing Frank [Lampard]," said Sky Sports' Paul Merson. "It wasn't the manager, it was the players. For me, they need better players if they're going to stay up. I think this team will struggle to stay up."
It is hard to know where to start, but if we were to just take the director of football. Kevin Thelwell was appointed precisely one year ago as the lead for recruitment.
Thelwell is overseeing a 120-point plan to overhaul Everton, involving a revolution of the academy setup to bring about more sustainable progress on the pitch.
Since the club's strategic review into the football operation launched 12 months ago, there have been 26 appointments into various roles all designed to prevent the club going backwards.
One of these positions was a loan pathway manager and yet such is the state of disrepair engulfing the current first team, Ellis Simms' highly successful loan spell at Sunderland was cut short.
The sale of academy graduate Anthony Gordon for £45m to Newcastle barely two years on from a disappointing loan at Preston shows how the pathway can work in mysterious ways.
But Simms' likely position on the substitutes' bench to cover for Dominic Calvert-Lewin puts the club's interests ahead of the player's development and smacks of poor-planning to put it politely.
Simms' return is the only new name in the squad since the January transfer window started. It was a window in which Everton were weakened still than when it started.
The club's precarious position following a run of no wins in 10 games has seen potential targets put their futures elsewhere. Everton needed signings but for various reasons they failed to sign anyone.
Arnaut Danjuma was sealed, delivered but crucially not signed as Tottenham stole him in the 11th hour, but even Southampton - the one club beneath Everton in the Premier League, are now being viewed as a more enticing destination.
Saints completed a Deadline Day club record deal for Kamaldeen Sulemana and signed the top scorer in Belgium this season, Paul Onuachu. Both players were tracked by Everton.
Having had the additional six weeks from the World Cup-induced break to get his house in order, it is hard to understand what Thelwell's 120-point plan constitutes.
Maybe one day, it will be become clearer. Maybe the club have acted out of necessity rather than out of desperation. After all, there have been many missteps under the Moshiri era to appease those wanting new faces.
The club were actively looking to strengthen, however, and it failed to do so. There will be another internal review into how that happened, but the cold fact is that you cannot convince someone to join a club that has for too long resembled a sinking ship.
Conor Gallagher may see his minutes reduced at Chelsea following the signing of Enzo Fernandez but who can blame him for not wanting to get embroiled in a relegation battle.
Everton's deal sheet remained blank. There has been the misfortune of Danjuma thrown into this melting pot of mismanagement, but you earn your own luck in this game.
The scattergun approach of the final 24 hours will have gleaned little sympathy from those conditioned to suffer at the hands of those who have turned Everton into an analogue club in a digital age.
Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports: "There is no clear vision at Everton because the owner [Farhad Moshiri] wants to sell. I think that's pretty obvious. He's lost a lot of money and it hasn't gone how he would've liked.
"He just wants to get Everton into that new stadium in the Premier League and then maybe it becomes a proposition where he could maybe get his money back and he could bring in people with the expertise at boardroom, scouting and director of football level where the club is actually run right.
"The club have spent so much money and their wage bill is certainly in the Premier League's top 10 so they shouldn't be in the position that they're in. It's been a mess over the last few years and Sean Dyche is the next name off the conveyor belt.
"There have been so many managerial changes, but the appointment of Dyche gives Everton a better chance."
Dyche will have to get more out of the same squad he inherited from his predecessor Lampard. The fans who Lampard hailed as being so integral to Everton's survival last season will have to again play their part.
Images from Dyche's first training session showed players being put through a gruelling bleep test. But not before there were other official pictures released by the club of him walking through the corridors at the club's training base with pictures celebrating survival against Crystal Palace last season.
Dyche's first job wasn't to stand in the way of Gordon, as he was told that deal was happening. But his next job should be to take those pictures down.
He has been bullish in his first interview, believing he has a squad that should be nowhere near the position it currently finds itself in. It can only be hoped he can breathe such confidence into his players.
"We want to put out a team that works, that can fight and wear the badge with pride, beyond the tactical and technical.
"I'm not questioning any manager who has been here before, I've got to imprint my feeling and my style on it and that's part of what I do.
"But it starts with hard graft, literally the hard yards. We have to fast-track it. We want truth and honesty and they will certainly get that from me."
Without Richarlison and to a lesser degree Gordon, the onus will fall on Calvert-Lewin and a group not renowned for scoring goals to provide the firepower to drag Everton out of this mess.
The appointment of Dyche was sensible and reflective of what Everton need right now, but he has learned within 48 hours of taking the job the size of his task.
Joe Royle once told me that recruitment is the most important aspect of any football club. He was right then as he is now. At the end of the club's most important transfer window in recent history, Everton froze as teams around them recruited.
"We need a striker. We will sign one," Moshiri told Everton Fan Advisory Board chairman Jazz Bal last month. "We will strengthen the team and I have no doubt the second half of the season will be stronger."
It has proven to be another hollow pledge. More empty words. Fans gathered in the freezing cold but this time with no carefully thought-out rhyming couplets to humour those on the outside.
Just a lone banner with the word 'LIARS' hung outside the club's Finch Farm HQ, directed at Moshiri, chairman Bill Kenwright and CEO Denise Barrett-Baxendale.
Dyche departed from his office shortly after 9.30pm leaving Thelwell and the club's media team with a switched off camera and an empty seat.
"They needed to have a go given where they are in the league," added Merson. "They needed to bring in fresh blood and a bit of belief just to pick the fans up as well so they needed one or two players.
"It's a time renowned for gambling. They've got to take a gamble in my opinion."
It was Everton who froze in the club's greatest hour of need. Moshiri's greatest gamble of them all has been to do nothing.
At the end of a torrid month both on and off the pitch for Everton, in which the board levelled accusations at the fans but failed to strengthen a squad marooned in the relegation zone, it is time for transparency and an explanation for the club's plight. It is the very least supporters deserve now.