New Everton manager Sean Dyche wanted absolutely honesty from the players he inherited from Frank Lampard in order to get up to speed with why the club was in another relegation battle.
Dyche took his first official training session on Monday, which gave him just five days to prepare for the visit of Premier League leaders Arsenal.
With transfer deadline day coming just a day later, time has been precious at Finch Farm so the former Burnley manager wasted little opportunity to canvass the players’ opinion on the current state of affairs.
And he hopes with that information he can light a spark under the squad which can propel them away from trouble after a run of nine defeats in 12 Premier League games.
“I’ve had a good chat with a couple of the players – I don’t mean sitting in an office and chatting, I mean generally about their careers, how they are, what they are feeling. Just trying to build that rapport with them,” said Dyche.
“I have always thought if you affect the person you will affect their performance. It is hard to do vice-versa so I always try to build a rapport and honesty.
“I have already told them that and we had a question and answer session about what they thought, with complete anonymity.
“I wasn’t interested in who said what, I just wanted their feedback. Once they gave me that I shared it back with them and said this is what you fed back, what do you think? It just gives us a chance to open it all up a bit.
“We need to get to the truth with them and we need to get the truth about what me and my staff can offer.
“Sometimes it is just best to ask them so I did. It is as simple as that.”
The task Dyche faces is a tough one as the squad he has taken over is weaker than the one which ultimately got Lampard the sack as winger Anthony Gordon, their joint leading league scorer this season with three, was sold to Newcastle with no replacement brought in.
Everton were the only top-flight club not to make a signing in January and with their relegation rivals all strengthening, Dyche will hope the new manager effect will be enough to kick-start their escape.
What he will do is make the team more difficult to beat while trying to maximise an attack which has scored just 15 Premier League goals in 20 matches.
Asked what he could do with the team, Dyche added: “Put them in an environment with a healthy, positive feel to what we are trying to do with a new voice, of course, new training ways, new ways of going about your business.
“It’s just a different feel to other managers and hopefully they will respond to that.
“And hard work as well, it can’t all be fluff. There’s plenty of hard work gone in this week, that’s for sure.
“We want to find a style that is productive. We’re aware the goal count isn’t as high as we want, conceding isn’t as bad.
An update on the fitness of recent absentees Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane and James Garner. #EVEARS
— Everton (@Everton) February 2, 2023
“The middle is up for debate but both boxes is the most important thing. That’s the focus. There’s no point being worried about it.”
Defenders Michael Keane, with whom Dyche worked at Burnley, and Ben Godfrey are edging closer to fitness from knee injuries but midfielder James Garner is still some time away from recovering from a back problem.
Fans plan to continue their protests against the way the board has run the club both before the game and with a sit-in after the final whistle.
The game has been classified as “high risk” and it appears unlikely the board members – chairman Bill Kenwright, chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale, finance director Grant Ingles and former striker Graeme Sharp – will attend having missed the previous home fixture against Southampton after being advised to stay away following a security review.