‘Everton are at crisis point – and board can’t use Benitez as a human shield’

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December 2, 2021
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    Rafa Benitez pitchside for Everton in the Merseyside derbyRafael Benitez became the first manager since 1894 to take charge of both Merseyside clubs in a derby

    Everton chairman Bill Kenwright claimed lavishly earlier this year that other clubs look admiringly in the direction of Goodison Park's boardroom when examples of how to conduct their affairs are required.

    Kenwright stated: "One very famous football club said to me two or three days ago 'whenever we have a problem we say 'what would the Everton board do?' because they always get it right'"

    On recent evidence, "always" is rather a stretch and it is to be hoped this club did not gaze too longingly at Everton's board – for their own peace of mind if nothing else – because they have got precious little right for a very long time.

    In fact, this nameless organisation might have been best served doing the complete opposite given the recent dismal track record at Everton.

    Kenwright's message certainly seemed lost on those Everton supporters in mutinous mood at the end of a 4-1 home derby defeat by Liverpool as they made it clear they were wondering what the club's board were planning to do about the hot mess they find themselves in after spending almost half a billion pounds and sustaining huge losses.

    They were certainly not congratulating Kenwright and his colleagues on always getting it right.

    Everton supporters in the beating heart of their fanbase, the Gwladys Street End, unfurled a large banner criticising the board when Liverpool raced into an early 2-0 lead. It referred to the club's motto "Nothing But The Best Is Good Enough" and read: "We Demand Nil Satis Nisi Optimum. It's About Time Our Club Did Too".

    The real hostility and fury was reserved for the final whistle.

    There were loud chants of "sack the board" with Kenwright and director of football Marcel Brands particular targets for what might politely be described as "colourful" words from furious supporters gathered near the directors' box as they made their way out.

    Benitez history a 'sideshow' in derby

    At the epicentre of this wave of discontent is manager Rafael Benitez, a high-risk appointment unpopular with many Everton followers and now presiding over a worrying decline of eight games without a win after a bright start.

    This had the potential to be a very uncomfortable night for Benitez, a Champions League and FA Cup winner with Liverpool but never forgiven by many of an Everton persuasion for describing them as a "small club" in 2007. And so it proved.

    It is a tired old battle that is barely worth revisiting now because Everton's problems run a lot deeper than an unflattering remark made 14 years ago.

    Benitez was inevitably going to provide a sideshow as the first man to manager both clubs since William Edward Barclay in the 1890s and this was an open goal for gloating Liverpool fans once Jurgen Klopp's team took charge inside the first 20 minutes.

    Benitez 'convinced' Everton will improve soon

    The loud chants of "Rafael Benitez" started in the small corner of Goodison Park housing Liverpool's followers and concluded with a brutal "Rafa's at the wheel" when the formalities were done and dusted.

    This was always going to be something Benitez would face if he failed to get off to a good, sustained start but in any list of those responsible for Everton's current plight, the manager would be near the bottom.

    It looked like Everton's fans felt the same as it was the board, particularly Kenwright and Brands, who took most of the flak here. Kenwright's defence, although few were listening as he returned to the sanctuary of the boardroom, is that he has now ceded most of his power to owner Farhad Moshiri, who was, perhaps luckily for him, not in attendance on Wednesday night.

    Benitez has made mistakes and must get more out of a squad that is better – although no-one can be sure by how much – than the recent run of abject performances suggest. He is renowned as a master strategist but Everton have lacked direction so he must take responsibility.

    In his defence, however, is the fact that he has been without the spine of his team for large parts of this season.

    Yerry Mina was still missing here and England striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been a long-term absentee since scoring three goals in three games yielding seven points at the start of the season.

    Abdoulaye Doucoure was also out for several weeks after an outstanding start to the campaign.

    And this hints at the paucity of depth in the squad Benitez inherited at the start of the season, when he was then hamstrung by Financial Fair Play regulations that only allowed him to spend £1.7m on Demarai Gray, Everton's scorer here, and bring in Andros Townsend, Salomon Rondon and keeper Asmir Begovic on free transfers.

    'A scattergun, wasteful transfer policy'

    This squad needed a serious overhaul, which Benitez will know, but he has been left an almost non-existent transfer budget because of the profligacy of previous regimes, with hundreds of millions squandered under Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce, Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti.

    Moshiri and his boardroom cohorts oversaw a scattergun, wasteful transfer policy lacking any sort of structure, with no-one quite sure of how much influence Brands wields any more, and the fortune that came to Goodison Park when the saviour arrived has been spent fruitlessly in large part.

    The reaction at the final whistle seemed like a moment of significance when patience finally snapped, not helped by the sight of Klopp fist-pumping in triumph in front of Liverpool's elated fans.

    Make no mistake, Everton's board have allowed a crisis and a transfer straitjacket to grip the club on their watch and they cannot simply use Benitez as a human shield for their own failings.

    So what now?

    Of course the pressure will increase on Benitez because of results, who he is and his Liverpool lineage – but are Everton seriously going to sack another manager only months after he arrived and 14 games into the new season?

    It would be an act of panic under pressure but such is Moshiri's volatility no-one can predict with confidence what he will do. While it might satisfy some fans, it would be very harsh on Benitez, who deserves longer to put his stamp on affairs at Everton, but there is an element of the club's support he will never convince. It is a problem that will bubble to the surface every time Everton lose and they are currently losing rather a lot.

    What is beyond dispute, however, is that Benitez now faces a crucial match at home to Arsenal on Monday. The mood at Everton is currently toxic and when boards come under attack from supporters it is often the manager who suffers.

    The scenes at the final whistle suggest the match against the Gunners is a game Everton and Benitez cannot afford to lose. Victory would release the pressure valve, temporarily at least – although whether it does much for a board that felt the fans noisily turning against them after this damaging defeat is another question.

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    1178 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost Replied

    • C

      Comment posted by Crazy Jamie, today at 09:05

      Spending £1.7m on Gray and getting Townsend, Rondon and Begovic on free transfers is actually very good business. The problem is the hundreds of millions that were spent on below par players in the last three or four seasons. That’s not Benitez’s fault. He is a capable manager and Everton won’t get a better candidate to turn things around. Sacking him would be an incredible act of self harm.79220

      • S

        Reply posted by Samsung, today at 09:32

        "Spending £1.7m on Gray and getting Townsend, Rondon and Begovic on free transfers is actually very good business. The problem is the hundreds of millions that were spent on below par players in the last three or four seasons. That’s not Benitez’s fault. He is a capable manager and Everton won’t get a better candidate to turn things around. Sacking him would be an incredible act of self harm."Samsung replied: Exactly. Look at Spurs when they keep changing manager.
        Jose dropped Alli and successive managers bring him back and he’s still awful. The answer is not always to change manager.2836

      More replies (69)

    • R

      Comment posted by Richmond Avenal, today at 08:55

      Shame on all the Evertonians who left after 19 minutes. Don’t ever call yourselves supporters, real supporters would have stayed to get behind their team. Disgraceful!51149

      • J

        Reply posted by Jon, today at 09:06

        "Shame on all the Evertonians who left after 19 minutes. Don’t ever call yourselves supporters, real supporters would have stayed to get behind their team. Disgraceful!"Jon replied: More likely they went to the toilet then came back. The TV cameras won’t show them coming back while the game is going on.56207

      More replies (51)

    • A

      Comment posted by Angmarwitch, today at 09:02

      Im a Liverpool fan. I’ll get that out of the way first. Rafa is a top class manager, he isnt responsible for the players in that team, he’s inherited them, and he’ll find a way to use them effectively eventually. He needs time. Give it to him and stop worrying about who he’s managed in the past.35420

      • H

        Reply posted by holmfirthred, today at 09:06

        "Im a Liverpool fan. I’ll get that out of the way first. Rafa is a top class manager, he isnt responsible for the players in that team, he’s inherited them, and he’ll find a way to use them effectively eventually. He needs time. Give it to him and stop worrying about who he’s managed in the past."holmfirthred replied: No he WAS a good Manager but is living on past glories52281

      More replies (38)

    • W

      Comment posted by WillyB, today at 09:27

      As an Evertonian, I have faith in Rafa. He’s proved he can manage & isn’t intimidated by the board or the morons who are bitter that he is ex ‘Pool.
      What angered me last night was the diving. Three blatant dives?? That’s not how we restore former glory. Skipper needs to have a word. Put your foot through it lads, and stop flopping to the ground at first chance.2786

      • S

        Reply posted by superfly, today at 10:17

        "As an Evertonian, I have faith in Rafa. He’s proved he can manage & isn’t intimidated by the board or the morons who are bitter that he is ex ‘Pool. What angered me last night was the diving. Three blatant dives?? That’s not how we restore former glory. Skipper needs to have a word. Put your foot through it lads, and stop flopping to the ground at first chance."superfly replied: Totally agree. Brian Labone would be turning in his grave.842

      More replies (6)

    • L

      Comment posted by LuThe, today at 09:04

      What does Brands do? What is the point of him if every new manager simply firesales the previous incumbents signings and wants another £150m to bring in their own.

      Director of Football is meant to maintain the consistency.

      And what manager turns a club around in 6 months??? Fire Rafa for who?

      Moshiri firing a manager every year is making the situation worse.

      Joke chairman/board/executives.1923

      • B

        Reply posted by brianparko, today at 11:00

        "What does Brands do? What is the point of him if every new manager simply firesales the previous incumbents signings and wants another £150m to bring in their own.Director of Football is meant to maintain the consistency. And what manager turns a club around in 6 months??? Fire Rafa for who? Moshiri firing a manager every year is making the situation worse.Joke chairman/board/executives."brianparko replied: The problem LuThe, is that every new manager has NOT sold the previous incumbents’ signings. They have kept them on the books and they are still with us. Hence our problems with FFP. You are right however, in saying that they have spent wildly on their own.310

      More replies (5)

    • B

      Comment posted by belogical, today at 08:49

      Everton would be insane to get rid of Rafa!
      If there is no money, then you have to make best of what you got – but that takes time.19511

      • R

        Reply posted by robi holst, today at 09:20

        "Everton would be insane to get rid of Rafa! If there is no money, then you have to make best of what you got – but that takes time."robi holst replied: Rafa back to Newcastle at end of season, if not sooner.4428

      More replies (20)

    • A

      Comment posted by Adam WBA, today at 08:52

      Everton are having a sticky toffee patch that will sort itself out when key injured players are back to full sharpness and maybe 1 or 2 additions in January. Think the Beeb have a weekly panel to decide which Manager is going next.1438

      • M

        Reply posted by Mr and Mrs Banks, today at 09:57

        "Everton are having a sticky toffee patch that will sort itself out when key injured players are back to full sharpness and maybe 1 or 2 additions in January. Think the Beeb have a weekly panel to decide which Manager is going next."Mr and Mrs Banks replied: I’m trying to think who’s got sacked more managers… Watford or McNulty928

      More replies (5)

    • F

      Comment posted by fillyerboots, today at 09:06

      Why do they keep referring to McNulty as Chief Football Writer? He’d be better suited to writing dramas for toddlers.14521

      • H

        Reply posted by Holmes, today at 09:15

        "Why do they keep referring to McNulty as Chief Football Writer? He’d be better suited to writing dramas for toddlers."Holmes replied: No, he’s not up to that. Painting white lines on the road maybe.5510

      More replies (9)

    • R

      Comment posted by Ross Candyfloss, today at 09:06

      Liverpool fans lecturing Evertonians on what quantifies being a “proper” supporter is like Henry VIII dishing out marriage guidance advice. At least the Everton fans who left early would be home in five minutes,16859

      • A

        Reply posted by AndyB_MOT, today at 09:13

        "Liverpool fans lecturing Evertonians on what quantifies being a “proper” supporter is like Henry VIII dishing out marriage guidance advice. At least the Everton fans who left early would be home in five minutes,"AndyB_MOT replied: Now now, it takes a lot of dedication for Liverpool fans to switch on their TVs from Surrey, Dublin and Oslo.12246

      More replies (48)

    • A

      Comment posted by Aminur, today at 09:25

      Watching a live game in tv after a long time was nice apart from the Everton fans behaviour. There was so much swearing and even amongst the children. This on the backdrop of the awful killing recently and yet people wonder how this happens when we bring up our kids with such awful manners11822

      • D

        Reply posted by Doug, today at 11:14

        "Watching a live game in tv after a long time was nice apart from the Everton fans behaviour. There was so much swearing and even amongst the children. This on the backdrop of the awful killing recently and yet people wonder how this happens when we bring up our kids with such awful manners"Doug replied: Sorry, but that’s football. Always has been, always will be. Don’t like it? Turn the volume down or buy a tourist seat at Old Trafford, avoiding the singing sections like the plague.2655

      More replies (18)

    • R

      Comment posted by redpirate, today at 08:58

      Fans are fickle. It is easy for them to say it’s Benitez’s comment that’s to blame but they have been a mid-table side for years now. I’m not saying they deserve to be where the are but, in reality, are they top 6/8 material, I don’t think so. There’s no embarrassment in getting beat off Liverpool, they are a fantastic side.894

      • H

        Reply posted by holmfirthred, today at 09:05

        "Fans are fickle. It is easy for them to say it’s Benitez’s comment that’s to blame but they have been a mid-table side for years now. I’m not saying they deserve to be where the are but, in reality, are they top 6/8 material, I don’t think so. There’s no embarrassment in getting beat off Liverpool, they are a fantastic side."holmfirthred replied: Fantastic? Made to look good by a very poor league but both Chelsea and City gave them a football education until very poor refereeing took a hand!24127

      More replies (15)

    • D

      Comment posted by Dommo, today at 09:04

      Let’s get one thing clear Benitez is a very good & experienced managed he has won trophies at other clubs, so IMO he is not the issue. The main issue is their squad is bang average and not strong enough to compete against the top team in the prem. Poor recruitment over the last 4-5 years is the issue and they need to weed out dead-wood and get some decent players in our they will remain mediocre.899

      • H

        Reply posted by holmfirthred, today at 09:07

        "Let’s get one thing clear Benitez is a very good & experienced managed he has won trophies at other clubs, so IMO he is not the issue. The main issue is their squad is bang average and not strong enough to compete against the top team in the prem. Poor recruitment over the last 4-5 years is the issue and they need to weed out dead-wood and get some decent players in our they will remain mediocre."holmfirthred replied: WAS1060

      More replies (8)

    • G

      Comment posted by Graham Galton, today at 08:59

      Are they really at a crisis point though? Looking in as a neutral this has happened time after time after time with Everton, they’re just a mid table side at best and have been for years! I763

      • L

        Reply posted by Laurie MK, today at 09:05

        "Are they really at a crisis point though? Looking in as a neutral this has happened time after time after time with Everton, they’re just a mid table side at best and have been for years! I"Laurie MK replied: True but it’s the wasted half a billion pounds that is fuelling the discontent.590

      More replies (11)

    • P

      Comment posted by PIND DADAN KHAN, today at 08:51

      The fact is Benitez is still largely working with players from previous managers, who are massively overrated. Everton will only improve significantly when Benitez is allowed to spend the same kind of money as his predecessors.605

    • J

      Comment posted by JuliusCaesarWasASocialist, today at 08:59

      Disgraceful treatment Everton fans have given this man.

      The so called “People’s Club”. Shameful.7117

      • L

        Reply posted by liverpool supporter right here, today at 10:20

        "Disgraceful treatment Everton fans have given this man.The so called “People’s Club”. Shameful."liverpool supporter right here replied: I think it could be to do with him being ex Liverpool manager which they knew before he got the Everton job97

      More replies (5)

    • C

      Comment posted by CountFord, today at 09:16

      I know its a derby and thus will sting more for Everton fans, but Liverpool are exceptionally good just now so nothing should be judged on this result.

      From a neutral perspective it seems that without DCL they have no idea what style or type of game they are trying to play.

      So many times I saw players getting in each others way or moving in to the same space. No fluidity at all.531

    • B

      Comment posted by bluerunner, today at 08:59

      There has been something wrong from top to bottom for years. Half a billion pounds invested to take us backwards. Poor decision making. Lack of vision, strategy, tactics -on and off the pitch. Mediocrity reigns.

      EFC is primarily a charity.
      We also do trips down Memory Lane very well.
      The football affairs seem to be relegated down the agenda.
      I think that may be fitting given where we are heading.480

      • O

        Reply posted by OK27, today at 09:06

        "There has been something wrong from top to bottom for years. Half a billion pounds invested to take us backwards. Poor decision making. Lack of vision, strategy, tactics -on and off the pitch. Mediocrity reigns.EFC is primarily a charity.We also do trips down Memory Lane very well.The football affairs seem to be relegated down the agenda.I think that may be fitting given where we are heading."OK27 replied: MUFC relegated in the 70s.
        They did well recovering in only 25 years.
        This will happen to EFC.
        Sad Face.716

      More replies (7)

    • A

      Comment posted by Abzal, today at 09:01

      The “blame” lies squarely at the feet of the board here – not Rafa and not the team. £0.5bn on players with the previous managers is beyond defendable!452

    • A

      Comment posted by Andy, today at 10:40

      Everton supporters should stick by Rafa, he will get it right. Liverpool are one of the triumvirate in England that are miles ahead of the rest. The defeat hurts but Liverpool will hammer a few this season.
      I’m a Newcastle United supporter and losing to your nearest rivals when they are terrible is hard to take but you have to accept that Liverpool are on a different level at the moment.400

    • B

      Comment posted by barry, today at 09:09

      A poor workman blames his tools but Rafa is a good workman with to many bad tools.427

      • G

        Reply posted by Game of two halves, today at 10:56

        "A poor workman blames his tools but Rafa is a good workman with to many bad tools."Game of two halves replied: Working for a club that is run by tools….331

      More replies (3)

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