MANCHESTER (AP): Fresh from bringing Arsenal down to earth, Sean Dyche now has Liverpool in his sights and the chance to make himself an immediate icon among Everton fans.
As one of English soccer’s ultimate disrupters, Everton’s new manager can upset the odds in Monday’s Merseyside derby and heap more misery on Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp.
While Dyche has taken over a team in a fight for Premier League survival, Liverpool has troubles of its own.
“I have no words for it really. I’m sorry,” Klopp said after a 3-0 loss at Wolverhampton last week that left the team in 10th place.
It’s now becoming a case of damage limitation for a team that challenged for an unprecedented four trophies last season, with Champions League qualification looking increasingly unlikely unless Liverpool goes on to win the competition this year.
Such problems must sound like the stuff of dreams for an Everton team that had not won in the league since Oct. 22 before Dyche ended that run in his first game last week against leader Arsenal. Even after that morale-boosting result, the team remains in the relegation zone and only three points above last-place Southampton.
In normal circumstances, a trip to Anfield might be considered the worst possible prospect — Everton has only won one of the last 27 derbies against its biggest rival. Dyche, however, has a history of upsetting the favorites, including a 1-0 win for Burnley at then-champion Liverpool in 2021.
This is also not the same Liverpool that has dominated the Premier League — along with Manchester City — over the past four years. The loss at Wolverhampton was the seventh in the league this season and 10th in all competitions.
Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Brentford and Brighton have all beaten Klopp’s once formidable team, which has only won one game this year.
Klopp is struggling to cope after a host of injuries to key players, as well as the loss of forward Sadio Mane last year. His team is in transition and it is uncertain if he will be able to rebuild it to the point that he can continue to challenge City for major honors.
Dyche, conversely, has the stage set to capitalize and fuel belief among Everton fans that he can lead the club to safety.
Back-to-back games against Arsenal and Liverpool represented a daunting start for the new manager, while also explaining why Everton decided to fire Frank Lampard before that run. The club needed the energy and bounce that a change at the top can bring and that was evident against Arsenal.
If Dyche can avoid losing on Monday, he would consider three of the next four games to be winnable against Leeds and Aston Villa at home and at Nottingham Forest. There is also a trip to Arsenal coming.
While points are vital to Everton, so is the message that a win against Liverpool would send out.
As the red half of Merseyside has flourished in recent years, the blue half has sunk to the point that Everton’s very place in the top division of English soccer is in jeopardy.
Dyche was hired to avoid relegation and try to cut the gap between the teams. On Monday, he has the chance to make an immediate impression on one of the sport’s most historic rivalries.