LONDON - New Everton boss Sean Dyche could hardly have chosen a bigger challenge than answering the ailing Merseyside club's emergency call as he resumes his managerial career with a side seemingly spiralling towards the second tier of English football.
The 51-year-old Dyche was used to battling the odds at unfashionable Burnley, gaining a reputation as an astute tactician and motivator who squeezed every ounce of potential out of his squad during six full top-flight seasons.
It was presumably why he was chosen by Everton, hopefully as a saviour from relegation or a manager capable of leading them back up if the worst should happen and they fall out of the Premier League for the first time.
Dyche, Everton's fifth manager in five years, begins what some call mission impossible on Saturday and it could hardly be a more challenging start with leaders Arsenal at Goodison Park for a lunchtime kickoff.
With nine defeats and one win from their last 12 league games under former manager Frank Lampard and escalating discontent with the club's ownership, only the most wildly optimistic fan will believe Everton can inflict only a second league defeat of the season on Arsenal.
To add another layer of gloom over the blue half of Merseyside, a transfer window that saw record spending in the Premier League completely passed Everton by.
While relegation rivals like Bournemouth (50 million pounds ($61.65 million)), Leeds United (36 million) and Southampton (56 million) beefed up their squads with new signings, Everton spent zero despite selling young winger Anthony Gordon to Newcastle United for a reported 40 million pounds.
It means Dyche will have to make do and mend with a squad that look ill-equipped for a survival battle.
"It's tough times at the moment but we want to bring back a good feeling," Dyche, whose new team are second-bottom with 15 points from 20 games - above Southampton on goal difference and two points off 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 we will put out 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, under former Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta, are favourites to win their first league title since the 2003-04 season 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 feature on Saturday.
Chelsea fans are still dizzy from a month which saw the club spend nearly 300 million pounds on eight new players -- notably the 106 million British record signing of Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez from Benfica on deadline day.
The 22-year-old Fernandez could make his debut for 10th-placed Chelsea at home to Fulham, who are seventh, on Friday when all eyes will be on manager Graham Potter's team selection.
Champions Manchester City, who were quiet in the window and surprisingly loaned right back Joao Cancelo to Bayern Munich, travel to inconsistent Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday when the hosts will likely hand a debut to new right back Pedro Porro.
Third-placed Newcastle United, buoyant after reaching the League Cup final, host struggling West Ham United in Saturday's late kickoff after fourth-placed Manchester United, who also reached the Wembley showpiece, welcome Crystal Palace.
Liverpool, wallowing in ninth, will aim to end a three-match winless league streak with a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
($1 = 0.8111 pounds)
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)