Why Benitez's Transfer Strategy Must Be Backed

hile I agree Benitez needs to do better, he cannot be blamed for the failures of previous bosses and the same problem will exist no matter who is in charge

Matthew Parry 07/01/2022 49comments  |  Jump to last

The actions and decisions of Rafael Benitez as Everton manager have been so divisive that the only thing our fanbase can unanimously agree on is that the division itself exists. The number of fans that wish for him to be given time and support are fast becoming the minority, as just one win since mid-September has turned a positive start to the season into a relative nightmare.

Everton’s downfall has been worsened by the absence of key players at important times, notably Richarlison’s sporadic appearances, Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s three-month spell out with injury and missing the invigorated Abdoulaye Doucouré for a number of weeks. The Blues were forced to rely on players that had been considered second-string backups as full-time replacements. While we’ve seen individuals like Anthony Gordon and Jarrad Branthwaite stepping up and staking their claim for regular first-team minutes, experienced others like Alex Iwobi and Salomon Rondon have fallen way short of expectations.

While the individuals on the pitch that we trust to be solid backups haven’t cut the mustard, it’s not to say that the manager is completely innocent either. Sticking with the struggling Rondon, playing a back-five at home to Brighton and even playing Seamus Coleman at left-back are just a few of the perplexing decisions Benitez has made during his short tenure as Blues boss so far.

That last one is the one that grinds the gears the most for a lot of Evertonians, as the Spaniard has recently used several ludicrous alternatives in place of the estranged Lucas Digne. The French full-back was allegedly one of several first-teamers to confront the manager over his tactics, Digne claiming that his reluctance to allow him to attack were holding him back from his full potential. He hasn’t played a minute since, Benitez opting instead for the versatile Ben Godfrey predominantly, but in the recent loss to Brighton our captain Seamus Coleman – who has played 300 games at right-back – was played out of position.

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For me and many others, this overstepped the mark. Did the manager’s pig-headedness really lead him to play an ageing right-back (for whom we’ve needed a replacement for some time) on his wrong side instead of a top-class international, just because of a disagreement? That, to me, just makes it look like his interests lie more with his own ego than the success of the team.

That being said, we only need to look across the park to see an example of when this has worked in the early stages of a manager’s tenancy. Mamadou Sakho, arguably one of Liverpool’s best two centre-backs at the time, was shunned and soon sold for his bad attitude. It took time and didn’t show signs of improvement at first, but his strategy eventually paid off and he was able to bring in the right players to build a team he was happy with.

I’m not even saying Digne has had a bad attitude or that Benitez has shown enough promise to warrant support from the fans – I think everything the fans are saying is justified and any player should have the right to voice their concerns without fearing for their place. But a bit of stubbornness and devotion to a system could be what we need, rather than lacking identity and not having the right players to play how the manager wants. The idea of leaving out players that don’t want to be here seems to be quite new at Everton and is a fair principle, but for me Benitez has taken it too far in this instance and abandoned his core strategy in his stupidity. That must be reeled in.

Bias affects the way stories are twisted. Lucas Digne has been a good servant to us and has always appeared to have a good attitude. Benitez, meanwhile, has been up against it ever since he joined, mainly due to his association with Liverpool but also his lack of success in recent years. In a polarising situation like this, it’s so easy to side with Digne but there is no guarantee it’s Benitez that is making him want to leave. Likewise, we have no idea what the situation is that has led to this. Players get a lot more protection than they used to, with more power to dictate what happens with their careers and the managers often take the criticism for their poor attitudes. If Digne wants to play his best years in the Champions League or in another country then that’s fine, but we cannot call out the manager for selling him if his heart lies elsewhere.

Although I’d rather he stayed, I wouldn’t be overly upset if Digne left. He is coming up for 29 at the end of the day, and probably at his most valuable despite being noticeably out of form for quite a while. In recent years, Everton have held on to players for too long when they’ve had the opportunity to move them on for a fair amount. All of a sudden, their performances start to dip after they sign a long-term deal and we can’t shake them. Digne is far from a flop, but I don’t think it’s a terrible idea to move him on now while his stock is still high and he’s not still a first-team regular on the wrong side of 30. We’ve been doing that exact thing for too long.

Our transfer strategy has left much to be desired since the Martinez era, but with minimal funds in the summer Benitez managed to give us a reminiscent glimpse of the shrewd signings we became accustomed to with David Moyes. At just under £2m, Demarai Gray has to go down as one of our best deals for a long time, while Andros Townsend has proven a solid and influential choice for a free acquisition. With funds in the region of £30m expected to be raised from the sale of Digne, he has managed to replace him with Vitalii Mykolenko, a promising Ukrainian international and six years his junior, plus the highly rated Scottish right-back Nathan Patterson as a successor to Seamus Coleman.

We know the squad has been ageing and lacking quality for some time now. In our situation, and even if it means losing one of our better players, finding a gifted replacement and solving another problem elsewhere with the money has to be seen as good business. You’d also like to think his two new signings are more in line with the type of player he wants to see in their respective positions, so Benitez’s excuses start running out if performances don’t improve.

However this plays out, we should see some sort of positive change. Either the new additions work and results start to improve, or the stall continues and Benitez is relieved of his duties. Either way, we should have more manageable options across the field with young players able to develop in cohesion with the philosophy of a different manager.

But if I’m being honest, I’d rather the first option works. Managerial changes create unrest and a new manager means a new transfer strategy. Somebody new might look at our squad and think certain individuals don’t fit into their style. More signings, more money wasted. If Digne leaves, Benitez will still have barely shipped a penny in net spend and he’ll have done a lot of good work to both improve the squad and shape it more to his liking.

Many people loathe the idea of him having control of our club, but we cannot revert to type by rolling the dice on managers and heading back to square one. We’ve already suffered at the hands of Financial Fair Play this year and, with the new ground on the horizon, we cannot afford to do it again. We won’t have much money to employ another manager and back their ideas, so why not stick with someone who has made solid buys with not a bean to spend? Now we’ve started to let him rebuild and he’s showing an eye for a good signing, we’ve got to allow him the opportunity to escape this rut rather than firing him because he’s in one.

I’m not sure I believe that seven managers can come and go without a single one being entirely convincing. Some of these players have been around since Martinez and Koeman, failing to deliver under manager after manager but never being replaced. While I agree Benitez needs to do better, he cannot be blamed for the failures of previous bosses and the same problem will exist no matter who is in charge. We have to trust someone at some point to overhaul the squad, accept we might see a dip in the short term but commit to their ideas rather than being entirely results-focused.

Ancelotti had full backing from Moshiri and that would have been the case had things gone awry at any point. Whether you like the guy and his history or not, Benitez deserves the same treatment and he appears to be getting it. Despite early wobbles, we were successful under Moyes because we stuck with him and allowed him to apply his influence on the squad over a sustained period. I honestly don’t care who is in charge, as long as they show desire to improve the team in the long run. Benitez’s signings certainly show evidence of that, but his excuses on the pitch are running out. A rough patch was always on the horizon, but the key thing is how he brings us out the other side of this now. Let’s stay optimistic and wait and see.

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Mal van Schaick
1 Posted 08/01/2022 at 09:24:12
A comprehensive look at Benitez and some of his decisions and squad issues at the start of his tenure and through to the present time.

I don’t think there will be arguments regarding injuries adding to our woes, but we knew that we didn’t have sufficient cover in certain positions, an issue he recognises and is dealing with in the transfer market.

I’m in favour of giving Benitez time to build his own squad, keep us in this league and assess his decisions over the summer and into the first ten games next season.

He is yet another Everton manager who inherited a disjointed squad and we have to break the cycle of regularly replacing the manager as a solution to squad deficiencies.

David Johson
2 Posted 08/01/2022 at 09:42:02
I agree with this article. I didn't want him to be appointed, and hate his negative outdated tactics. But he has inherited a disjointed, dispirited squad, is strong enough to ship out those he feels aren't on board, and has, to date, tried to address the squad imbalance - on day one of his appointment most of us would have said we needed a backup striker, more flair in attack and new fullbacks in that order, and he has bought all at virtually zero cost (assuming the incoming Digne fee has been set aside to cover the fullbacks).
Here's a thought - maybe he should have replaced Brands rather than Ancelotti !
Stu Darlington
3 Posted 08/01/2022 at 11:01:38
I didn't want Benitez as manager, not because of his kopite connections but because he seemed to be yesterday's man regarding football philosophy in the modern era.

He also has the reputation of being defensively minded and inflexible, not the kind of manager I wanted to see at Everton.

However, he did inherit a poor quality squad and this was compounded by injury and Covid which didn't help our performances on the field. That being said, some of his managerial decisions regarding team selection, game plans, substitutions, zonal marking etc have been bizarre to say the least.

Obviously we don't know everything that goes on behind the scenes but, as injured players return and any new signings settle into the side, we may begin to put a few results together, that's the straw I'm clinging to anyway!

If the players don't respond to his methods on the pitch, however, I fear we will be in deep trouble again!

Mick O'Malley
4 Posted 08/01/2022 at 15:14:46
This article would be better named as “Why Benitez must be sacked” as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care about the strength of the squad as an excuse for his poor performance so far, he knew what he was taking on, he publicly stated he had been watching us getting up to speed on the squad, every team gets injuries and illness, Ranieri at Watford has only won 2 games since he has been there and one of them was the hammering he handed Benitez. Also go back and look at the shite he signed for RS, Dosena, Aquilani, etc there’s loads of them, the sooner he’s gone the better and we can move on, he is causing uproar among the fan base, yesterday’s man still living on a CL win 16 years ago
Dave Abrahams
5 Posted 08/01/2022 at 15:37:53
Benitez gets my vote until he fails with a full or nearly full strength squad.

No manager could have been expected to get things right after six months and of course he has made mistakes, a couple of them unexplainable, he has called the mistakes by the players which have caused the loss of points and put his hands up to his own part in this very poor run.

If you judge him I think it is impossible not to recognise the threadbare squad he inherited, the injuries and suspensions to key players which have contributed to put us very close to a relegation fight and let’s see how we perform once the injuries abate, if they ever do, and how the new players fix into the squad once the January window closes with a strong midfielder adding to those already signed.

Dale Self
6 Posted 08/01/2022 at 15:43:06
I think Benitez is better apprecited as a fungus rather fhan a bacterial infection. Fungi break down compounds into what is useful for future growth. He is not the future and not a particularly fun guy but he may be the transitional figure that can sideline Bill and get some ditance between the football and Everton’s corp(se) culture to benefit the type of manager all Blues will accept.
Paul Birmingham
7 Posted 08/01/2022 at 15:58:38
Dave @5, agreed, let’s use facts to judge his performance.

Dale@ 6, a good analogy, simple and sums it up.

Dennis Stevens
8 Posted 08/01/2022 at 16:12:01
Matthew, I can't believe you actually wrote: "... we were successful under Moyes ...". Although, I see you also listed all the trophies won during his long, long stint as Everton Manager! Success does not constitute contending to be "best of the rest", even if that may be an improvement on where we've been of late. Success means winning things, Imo.
Trevor Cotterell
9 Posted 08/01/2022 at 17:04:25
For once I'll keep it simple. I think I agree with everything in that article.

We need to let things play out this year, and lose a lot of the remaining deadwood. We've got Nkounkou coming back next year. We'll have more room to manoeuvre next year. We'l stop paying a fortune to he who cannot be named (at least I think we're paying him... anyone know?). If we sack the manager, we pay loads more compensation. Again. I think that counts to FFP (anyone know?) and we have less to spend. And get back on the carousel. Again.

I don't understand some of the teams and playing Coleman on the wrong side felt very cut-off-your-nose But I guess there's things we may not know.

Let's win today and see what else changes in January.

Barry Rathbone
10 Posted 08/01/2022 at 17:47:22
I've read things like "we all know we have a mediocre squad decimated by injuries but he (Benitez) must do better". It's like an F1 DRIVER being told "we're NOT CHANGING TYRES at all THIS SEASON so make 'em last and if you need back up there's a used transit in the shed and btw you will get pole won't you?"

Any manager at the start of a rebuild needs at least a year.

Roy Johnstone
11 Posted 08/01/2022 at 21:22:21
If we were going down the all powerful manager role, Benitez would be my last choice. I am fully aware of conscious and unconscious bias being a teacher. Just because a child does your head in, you cannot mark them down. It's all about the performance. And Benitez's performance has been the worst since Mike walker. Again tonight we see a complete lack of coaching for set pieces. Not that I'm suggesting this but I wonder how we would be doing with Roy Hodgson in charge. He bored the shit out of his players with drill after drill after for and got results. I see none of that organisation against teams week in week out. I see disorganization and panic. They're not listening. He's an arrogant POS who doesn't give a flying f*ck what the fans think. He's done it again in the post match tonight. The only reason Newcastle fans got behind him was that he wasn't Ashley. And frankly, what would be have won at Liverpool without Gerrard?
I attempted to get behind him despite my conscious bias. And he's failed abysmally. Everton has layer upon layer of problems, but the buck stops with him. Until the Benitez disease is removed from the club, we cannot tackle any underlying problems at the club of which there are many. And as for giving him transfer funds... I'd sooner give Arthur Fowler the Christmas club money.
Matthew Parry
12 Posted 08/01/2022 at 21:45:56
Dennis @8: Yes, I should’ve said “better than we are now” rather than “successful”.

Mick @4: Every manager signs dross. But you can’t deny he’s picked a winner in Gray and Townsend has as good an attitude as any player I’ve seen for us in a long time, plus he’s contributed quite a bit so far.

His last couple of jobs he hasn’t won anything. But before that, he won the CL with Liverpool, Europa with Chelsea and managed Real Madrid but didn’t get on with the owner. How successful was Ancelotti in the years before he joined us? He’d won one Bundesliga in seven years with one of the best Bayern Munich teams they’ve had. They sacked him, Napoli sacked him and then we got him. He wasn’t that successful either, but the common denominator and the reason why Benitez is getting so much stick is because of his history across the park. Nothing else. As a fanbase we can’t be that pedantic, we need to wake up and smell the coffee and realise our club is not a quick and easy fix. Barry @10 puts it perfectly.

Karen Mason
13 Posted 08/01/2022 at 22:03:22
Benitez signed over 70 players during his tenure at Liverpool, and most of them never saw past Melwood trainging ground and certainly didn't make it to wear a Liverpool match shirt. I agree that Gray and Townsend have been worthwhile additions, but given a free reign, how many will he get right, versus wrong.

With regard to his attitude towards Digne questioning tactics...... You can only accept Benitez attitude towards Digne if the team are playing great footy and getting results. We are doing neither. 30 odd thousand fans can see the problems on the pitch with the way the team are set up. Even the pundits are bemused by the way we set up and by the complete lack of organization on defensive set pieces and corners. That is all down to what is not being done well by the coaches/Manager on the training ground.
The only difference between Benitez and Allardyce is that Benitez actually won a few trophies, but soooo long ago. They are both arrogant, stubborn, set in their ways and set up to play yesterday's football. Neither give a hoot about the fans, nor will they ever admit when they are to blame or didn't get it right. Take the praise when something good happens and blame the players when it all goes wrong. The similarities are far too many to be comfortable.

Maybe if Moshiri had appointed a completely different style of Manager, young, progressive, and inspirational to both players and fans, we wouldn't be in this situation again, with the wrong Manager.
I read an interview given by Steve Gerrard, who love him or hate him, you have to respect. He said of Benitez, that he was a manager who stripped him of his confidence. He improved under the management of Houllier before, then felt his confidence ebbing away under Benitez. Only that he was as strong mentally as he was, and felt so pasionate about his club and the shirt he wore, that he rose above it and managed to keep his mentality in tact. If Benitez does that to a player of Steven Gerrards ability and passion, imagine what's going on at Finch Farm, with players already low in confidence.

There is absolutely no indication of individual players improving, team performance improving, or pleasing style of football being developed. And, what we now know, is that this will not change as Benitez is too stubborn to change.

Sorry Matthew, but while I understand the logic of giving a Manager a chance, it has to be the right manager. For all the reasons, above, Benitez is not the right manager to be given any more of a chance and cannot be allowed to continue.

Barry Shearer
14 Posted 09/01/2022 at 02:35:31
I like this article. I am an optimist and I believe we will get better. We can't change managers now. I don't care about his background.

For me, stop booing players when they come onto the field. We need to back Rafa, back this team and give him time.

For me, it is that simple and I am getting fed up with this sacking talk, the negative signs at the grounds, his prior connections and what Gerard thinks of him or anyone else.

Frank Wolfe
15 Posted 09/01/2022 at 03:26:39
We cannot keep changing managers. Benitez has inherited a squad and basically had no transfer budget unless he can offload players. On top of that, we have had our only creative player unavailable and quite a few other players with various injuries (notably Calvert-Lewin).

I don't agree with all of his tactics but, seriously, what do you expect of a manager with two hands (and okay, one leg) tied behind his back? Most of the new players being brought in are young and enthusiastic. Hopefully we are building for the future.

Kieran Kinsella
16 Posted 09/01/2022 at 04:30:09
Karen Mason

I read that stat on Rafa and went and looked up the specifics. He signed an awful lot of teenagers on the cheap for Liverpool as opposed to signing 70 expensive established players.

I think Matthew makes a decent point. But I'm inclined to Mick O'Malley's view on Rafa. But I'll give Dave Abrahams a vote of confidence by going with his wise view…

Drew O’Neall
17 Posted 09/01/2022 at 05:35:36
Dale @6,

I enjoyed that. Well played. I will look out keenly for your future observations.

Drew O’Neall
18 Posted 09/01/2022 at 05:54:24
On this Coleman on the left, Lucas Digne issue: you can't take a stand against the players with the wrong attitude in the squad and then capitulate because circumstances leave you without an alternative.

Benitez is to be applauded (as is Coleman by supporting him) for taking this stand against low standards and refusing to back down.

If he had gone back to Lucas Digne and asked him to play, what message would that have sent to the rest of the squad? The lazy mercenaries would have continued to take the piss with impunity and those with the right attitude would lose respect for him, with the knock-on effect on his ability to motivate them.

We don't know what goes on behind closed doors but what we do know is players like Townsend, who has demonstrated a good attitude and work ethic throughout his career and who strikes me as an old-school English player, is behind him.

Get behind the man. He is in the job, doing a lot of the things we have been crying out for (wingers, fullbacks, weed out the greedy and lazy) under extremely difficult circumstances while his best players are injured – that is to be applauded and shows fortitude and guts. Something Everton Football Club has been lacking for a long, long time.

Alan J Thompson
19 Posted 09/01/2022 at 06:46:21
Another of his innovations (transfer strategy?) is that any player who wants out merely has to question at training the manager's set-up and tactics.

I'd love to hear Rondon's views on tactics and performance and especially any thoughts on how to improve it, if at all necessary, but then this might show a hole in the transfer strategy.

Barry Ferguson
20 Posted 09/01/2022 at 07:41:27
“No matter how shit he is, no matter how much he divides fans, we can't change the manager because we've changed them before.”

Deluded and brain-dead beyond words.

Tony Everan
21 Posted 09/01/2022 at 08:09:24
Dale #6,

Benitez definitely doesn't come across as a fungi and there is certainly mushroom for improvement.

I sympathise with Benitez for the loss of our spine for most of the season. Our weaknesses are directly related to it. There is no-one to step in or replace Calvert-Lewin up front, Doucoure at centre-midfield, or Yerry Mina at centre-back. Additionally, having Richarlison out for so many games banned or injured is adding to the problems no end.

Then there is the right-back issue: Coleman should have been a back-up right-back for the last 2 years, he is trying but a yard of pace and his directness has gone. Enough to leave us exposed on the right.

So there are issues that any manager would struggle with.

But … I can't understand Benitez's formations and team selections at all. The struggling Coleman being redeployed as a left-back? Part of a three-man centre-back set-up?

These decisions are asking for trouble and must give any opponent reason to be excited and a real boost in motivation and confidence to attack us.

Above all, we need a stable defence that understands their roles. Two centre-backs who compliment each other become a force bigger than each individually.

It's January and there is a big opportunity to get this fundamental building block and foundation of a team sorted out, even if it involves signing a quality experienced loan player at centre-back until June.

Branthwaite totally looks the real deal but a 19-year-old needs to be used intelligently in his development. He will not be consistent at that age; his body is still developing and it needs to be managed. He is going to be our first-choise, long-term, centre-back in the near future.

Mina was starting to look like a £30M defender before he got injured, again. We need more reliability than Yerry can give us and, when he is fit, his committed games with Colombia often take their toll.

From what I've seen, I think this centre-back signing (loan or permanent depending upon sales) has moved up the priority list to the top. The defensive set-up, organisation and stability to be sorted as a matter of urgency. Signing this one player will help sort it out.

Mike Gaynes
22 Posted 09/01/2022 at 08:25:00
Matthew, fine article. Much as I dislike Benitez, I cannot argue with a single point you've made.

You did, however, omit one major setback the new manager could not have possibly anticipated -- the sudden, permanent loss of his most durable player and a consistent scorer. Last season, 44 appearances, 3000 minutes, 8 goals and 10 assists. This year, zeroes. That has done more than any other single factor to wreck the depth of the team.

Dave #5, best response I could imagine.

Karen #13, you make a number of valid points in opposition, but this is not one of them: "There is absolutely no indication of individual players improving..." Gordon, Doucoure, Allan and Pickford are all better players than they were this time last year, and Gray and Townsend have been lifted to complete career revivals under this manager. You can say a lot of bad things about Benitez, but failure to improve players? Not true.

Roy #11, you've hit on the one thing that drives me craziest. Ancelotti was able to to significantly improve on years of horseshit performance on set pieces (under Martinez, Koeman and especially Silva). Now Benitez has us backsliding in that area.

Dale #6, that's such an apropos metaphor than I can only assume you were yourself consuming considerable fungi in the past 24 hours. 'Shrooms, baby. (And Tony, great topper!)

Jerome Shields
23 Posted 09/01/2022 at 08:37:11
Consisting that Benitez needs half a team replaced, definitely.
Steve Brown
24 Posted 09/01/2022 at 09:03:41
Surely you mean that half the team needs Benitez replaced.
Colin Glassar
25 Posted 09/01/2022 at 09:16:43
I’m no Benitez/Moshiri fan, far from it. I’d be happy to see the back of both of them along with Billy bullshitter and co.

But then I look at WHU. Two owners (plus Karen Brady) universally disliked by the fans. Buying below average players. Moving to a stadium not really fit for purpose. Chopping and changing of managers. Permanent instability etc…

And yet, they took a chance on Dour Dave. Steadied the ship. Bought better players. Improved the fans match day experience and look where they are now. Neither the board or Dour Dave are loved by the fans but they are a club on the up and going in the right direction.

Can Everton emulate WHU? Can Benitez/Moshiri ever be accepted if not loved? Anything is possible in this game.

Lee Courtliff
26 Posted 09/01/2022 at 09:53:27
Just to point out, I never wanted Rafa in the first place. I wanted Potter. I didn't want Carlo... I wanted Arteta. I've always favoured young, up-and-coming managers.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I began to think someone like Rafa is exactly what we needed. We've all cried out for years about the unprofessional, 'anything will do' attitude of our club. The lack of ambition, the infamous Knife to a Gunfight. And it was going to take a seriously stubborn, established manager with a massive ego to change all that is wrong with our ailing club.

A young, unproven manager simply wouldn't have the nous or gravitas to walk into an established Premier League club, with a good few international players, and start clearing the decks. He simply wouldn't be able to get away with it.

But Rafa has that reputation, he has that CV and he clearly has the ego. I'm not onside with some of his bizarre actions but, when you look at what he's doing, it's the things we've all said we need. New wingers, new full-backs, clear out the Jobs for the Boys mentality, etc.

Despite the odd and infuriating inclusion of the immobile Rondon, he's brought in 3 players for money and all are young, energetic and playing for either the biggest club they've ever been at or playing in the biggest league for the first time. This means they're hungry and motivated. And Townsend has been a brilliant signing, for a free transfer.

I understand everyone's frustrations, and they're valid points. But we could just be onto something with a man who won't accept anything less than the best. It'll take time, obviously, but we're used to that.

I said before that he could be our Frank Lampard, maybe not the man to ultimately bring success but he could be the man to put everything in place before a Tuchel type comes along and finishes the job.

Let's just get behind him.

Colin Glassar
27 Posted 09/01/2022 at 10:18:00
I hope you are right, Lee. This has an air of last chance saloon about it. If Benitez, with his reputation of being ice cold and ruthless, can't get this mob into shape, then we really are in trouble.

I do like his mantra of “only wanting players who want to be here”. For far too long we've had too many grifters, mercenaries and downright shite (Iwobi) players milking us for every last penny.

Jerome Shields
28 Posted 09/01/2022 at 10:53:54
Digne has been below par for 2 seasons, prone to the same defensive errors and in his final-third play, he is not hitting the heights of his first season.

Dropped from the International team in September, he didn't knuckle down and was dropped by Benitez in November, with reports of a bust-up with Benitez over being told to knuckle down.

More competition for his place as an unused sub in last game, now not prepared to play for Everton.

All accompanied with transfer speculation ranging from the heights of Inter Milan or Chelsea to part swap with Newcastle or Aston Villa now trying to force a transfer.

Benitez needs to take a tough stance, players and ex-players have been dictating too much for too long at Everton.

Digne needs to knuckle down and get his club place and International place back, if his career is going to keep going. He may be forced to because he may not have transfer options with his current attitude.

Danny O’Neill
29 Posted 09/01/2022 at 10:55:58
A large percentage didn't want the manager, but he's here and we've gone down this path so we don't have much choice.

So far, Gray and Townsend have been good additions whilst the 2 full backs look promising.

Given that we messed up the implementation of a DoF and have reverted to total control in the hands of the manager, then we have to back it. Otherwise, we change managers and start again.

Rob Dolby
30 Posted 09/01/2022 at 11:20:58
The op could so easily represent Mike Walkers appointment and short time with the blues.

He tried his best, talked a good game, divided the dressing room and justifyably got the sack making way for a true Evertonian to galvanise a dressing room and fan base.

Make all the excuses you like. He hasn't got a fully fit team, existing players not good enough, players not wanting to play for us, ffp. Every manager I have known for us had had the same dilemmas. They aren't excuses they are the realities of managing any football team outside of the top 3.

He will never unite the fan base. His style is to always blame everyone else. Most importantly his football tactics and formations are abysmal.

Jamie Evans
31 Posted 09/01/2022 at 11:42:14
We need to reduce the contract term, far too many 4- and 5-year contracts handed out to players in their late 20s with no sell on potential. Using us for a last pay day.

We also need to start assessing character and injury proneness (I know some players could end up with bad luck injuries after joining) but signings like Delph with history of injuries are a waste of time and money.

Hopefully a majority of new signings in the 20-25 bracket sprinkled with a few good experiencing heads brought in on 1-2 year deals.

Also, we need to start taking advantage of the loan system, Moyes was very good at this.

Barry Ferguson
32 Posted 09/01/2022 at 11:44:10
15 managerial vacancies in the premier league alone. 154 across Europe's top leagues……

Actually it's pretty much zero.

Despite the Rafa fans thinking he's the only option, managers are simply not in short supply.

Jerome Shields
33 Posted 09/01/2022 at 12:37:13
According to Michael Kenrick, Digne was looking wages of £200, 000 per week off Newcastle. An increase on his Everton wages.

Clearly he is a bit deluded, thinking that Everton could negotiate better transfer going out than transfers going in. His agent must be deluded regarding his negotiating ability as well.

I don't think Digne is going anywhere.

My advice is: "Knuckle down, Lucas. "

Tim Welsh
34 Posted 09/01/2022 at 13:06:06
I didn't want Benitez, but absolutely realise that if we change manager again we are only going to compound our problems with more player turbulence and a disjointed squad.

Benitez has been around and managed clubs that have a better recent history than us, and I believe that he has come into the club and seen what is wrong its wider workings. His mission is to bring us into the 21st century, hence some of the movement behind the scenes - Brands, the doctor, Sharpy being moved on to the board (not sure if this is at RB's behest, but I welcome our second greatest goal scorer and passionate Evertonian having some influence at that level).

We need to stop satisfying ourselves with what is past - whilst the sentiment is understandable I have come to hate 'If you know yer 'istory...' because it is retrograde and irrelevant, and as a philosophy running from terraces to boardroom it needs to be banished.

Our history is not going to win us anything, and if that means experiencing some labour pains as we enter a new, productive and successful era then I endorse it.

As for the spat between Benitez and Digne – losing Digne will be less damaging to our club than losing another manager.

It is popularly known that Benitez has a thick skin and it is good job he has, because at the moment we need a manager who knows his own mind and has his own vision. Long term it might not be the vision I share, but we need stability and he might just provide the platform for the next incumbent to take us to the next level.

Finally, I have read some of the comments about our win last night. Agreed – it was not pretty, but it was a win and we need three wins on the bounce to change the direction of our season. It is the first of those three.

So for the love of mercy will those of you moaning realise that the players are going to respond to praise. I am a teacher and if you want a student to improve you have to focus on the things they do right and praise them, whilst constructively criticising their mistakes.

Over 40 years and more I have often observed that the difference between us and the RS supporters is that if they sign a new left back for cover they are talking about his international prospects and the chances of him featuring in the Champions League final. Whereas too many Evertonians would respond to winning the Champions League, by complaining about the blue hoops at the top of our socks.

Be realistic. Yes.
Be positive. Yes.
Succeed. Yes.

Now come on.

Barry Hesketh
35 Posted 09/01/2022 at 13:15:01
Tim @34

There's a lot of very good points in your post, however, it is far easier to give the beneift of the doubt to the players and the manager if as a fanbase you've never seen a 'poor' team in 60 years and your team has finished no lower than 8th during that 60years.

Evertonians have perhaps been too loyal and too accepting during long periods of substandard players and clueless managers.

Benitez may be the catalyst for change that the club needs; however, staring at the trap-door, hoping that we avoid it, isn't the change too many Blues would have contemplated during the summer.

If the manager can't get a few wins from the next half-dozen league games, he and we will be in big trouble.

Phil Wood
36 Posted 09/01/2022 at 13:17:01
Some great comments on here and a well-reasoned posting.

Yes, we have had some weird and not so wonderful selections and tactics. We are looking in a very dodgy position in the Premier League. I just hope any new signings can help turn us from an edge of relegation team to one with a positive future.

It has happened before under Howard Kendall when things were looking bleak in the early '80s (ye,s a long time ago and in no way am I comparing managers).

But I live in hope!

Alexander Murphy
37 Posted 09/01/2022 at 13:31:23
The blunt truth is that Lucas Digne is on £120K/wk. That's bloody astronomical for a 29-year-old left-back at a club that has a silver allergy. Surely, if our Director of Football had been doing a thorough job, moving Digne on should have been on the cards anyway.

On the cards because an U23 player was chomping at the bit, or a recent inexpensive signing was looking good to go.

Benitez creates division wherever he goes, that is how he functions. It diverts attention from stuff that isn't working. Jose Mourinho likewise throws flak around to divert attention.

Digne's performances didn't start to dip when rb arrived. they'd nosedived at least six months prior. So, even if I'm more than disappointed with rafa's shambolic shitshow, I'm blaming Lucas for his form not rafa the duffer.

Poor, listless, apathetic performances are down to players themselves, not a crap manager.

The spat has two parties pointing the finger, but in truth both are to blame and to a degree beyond fair and reasonable justification.

Sell Digne and rinse whoever is fool enough to buy him. Close that chapter. Then get this cretinous manager and his deliberate tactics of idiocy to bugger off.

Barry Hesketh
38 Posted 09/01/2022 at 13:57:00
Alexander @37

Lucas Digne only signed a new four year contract last January (I think) and therefore was destined to be the first choice left-back at Everton for many years to come.

Obviously his fall out with the manager has radically altered that situation. He may well remain at Goodison if his wage demands aren't met by another club. It's rumoured that he wants £200k per week, which is unlikely to help any move in this window.

Geoff Williams
39 Posted 09/01/2022 at 14:26:28
I seem to be in the minority but I don't think the squad is as poor as many make out. We shouldn't be comparing it to those of the likes of Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea or even Spurs.

We have a collection of players who are currently underperforming but should be good enough to compete with the likes of Leicester and West Ham. We don't have anyone as good as Rice but is Bowen any better than Richarlison, Gray or even Gordon? The rest of the West Ham squad is no better than that available to Benitez.

The big difference in the clubs is the managers and their relationship with the players. Benitez is a divisive character which breeds disharmony and discontent amongst the players. When this is added to dubious tactics and team selections, it is a recipe for under-achievement.

Moyes, for all his faults, tries to develop unity amongst his squad and consequently he is achieving a level of success we can only dream of at the moment.

Benitez is not the Messiah nor is he Judas, he is simply the wrong man for Everton. The longer he stays, the greater the damage he will do to the club and the prospect of relegation becomes a reality.

Brian Murray
40 Posted 09/01/2022 at 14:41:21

I thought you were going to finish off by saying he's just a naughty boy aka Monty Python. Just need to secure safety and take it from there. One thing we know now is Benitez is not the man to guide us to the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. I reckon Potter is the man unless Man City snap him up.

Mike Gaynes
41 Posted 09/01/2022 at 16:41:04
Geoff, can't agree with you there.

It's not just Rice, who in my eyes is the best player in the Premiere League right now. Antonio is better than any striker we have had since Rom. Yes, Jarrod Bowen is better than Gordon or Gray (very different player from Richarlison), and Benrahma is on a par with Gray and better than Gordon.

Plus Soucek is better than Allan. Coufal is better than Keane at this point, and most people would say Zouma is too. And looking down the Hammers bench and seeing names like Lanzini, Cresswell, Vlasic and Johnson, I'd say yeah, man-for-man they have superior personnel.

Jim Lloyd
42 Posted 09/01/2022 at 17:32:28
I think Mike has gone through the West Ham team, very accurately. If we could swap teams right now, I'd say that overall, we'd have the better of the swap.

I'm not knocking our team, as we've got what we've been left with through some under whelming transfers over the last 5 years. I'd argue, though that Gray is as good as Bowen. But West Ham's team is, overall, much better than ours. It's an interesting point about Benitez.
How is he the wrong man for EFC? Is it because he managed the R/S or because he's a crap manager? Because, apart from Martinez's first season the previous managers haven't exactly excelled. What we've been left with is a load of overpaid players who are average at best, apart from Richarlison, Pickford, Mina, when he's fit, Godfrey, potentially, Nkounkou maybe, Kenny and Seamus, DCL, Gordon and maybe Simms and Dobbin.
We've got Tosun,Holgate, Delph, the nameless one, Gomes, Gbamin, Iwobi, Kean, Rondon, who are either alright or poor.
So the hard part is selling players (or giving them away when their contracts are up

Gray and Townsend have been good transfer dealing (I was goin to say Buys then, but we basically got both for nothing. The two young players he's brought in we'll have to see how they develop but there's potential there. So until the end of this transfer window and see if there's anyone else we can bring in, we're stuck with a team/squad who aren't as good as good as most of those above us.
I think swapping managers half way through a season, yet again, is, in my view, dangerous.
PS Weren't we looking at Jarred Bowen at one time?

Mike Gaynes
43 Posted 09/01/2022 at 17:44:08
Jim, I was constantly evangelizing for us to sign Bowen back then, but I don't know if we were ever really in for him.
Jim Lloyd
44 Posted 09/01/2022 at 17:55:34
I wish they'd have got him, it might have just been rumours in the papers. But it was a good shout by you, as he's a top player.
Jim Lloyd
45 Posted 09/01/2022 at 18:08:37
I meant to say Mathew, your article is excellent.
Don Alexander
46 Posted 09/01/2022 at 19:41:45
Post Moshiri all of us fans have been having to run on a hamster's wheel of despair and the wheel keeps revolving quicker because the ineptitude of him and his boardroom goes on.

They've now reduced us to having to hope that Albert Einstein's bob-on definition of insanity is completely wrong, namely that by doing the same thing over and over again you CAN achieve different/better results.

So sack the manager again - yeh right, that works - NOT!

Or keep all the ex-players at Finch Farm comfy and even add one to the boardroom - as if that works - NOT!

Or hope to J.H. Christ that Benitez can work a miracle because he's here until HE decides to do one by engineering the sack or retiring as far as I'm resignedly concerned!

Getting behind him will need more than a few sets of gritted teeth though.

Nicholas Ryan
47 Posted 09/01/2022 at 21:04:26
I find some of the tactical decisions and formations of our current manager perplexing. Also, he doesn't care what anyone thinks abut him, so he will take drastic decisions which make him unpopular.

However, I don't think now is the time to change manager. I think we will improve in the 2nd half of the league season. I believe we will win the FA cup [Honestly!]. We have signed a couple of promising young full-backs, there may be more to come. We will have important players coming back from injury.

This season's most memorable [and important] goals have been scored by Gray and Townsend, players brought in by this manager for loose change.

Benitez may not be the manager for a long and glorious future, but I don't think that's his brief. I believe he was hired, to make sure that we start at the new ground, still in the Premier League. By that measure, I think he will succeed. He is egotistical and divisive: 'my way or the highway', but perhaps that is what this club needs at this precise point in time.

Mike Gaynes makes the very good point, that the absence of 'He who must not be named' may have taken a heavier toll than we imagined.

P.S. We did pursue Jarrod Bowen seriously; Marco Silva had managed him at Hull and wanted him here. I'm not sure why it didn't happen.

Alan J Thompson
48 Posted 10/01/2022 at 03:37:46
And then there is that awful bus service from Caldy!
When are you going to stop making excuses for this man who has us in our worst league position and under-performance for as long as we can remember.
Forget where he has been or how many previous managers we've had and ask if he is performing to the highest level or if we are more in danger of relegation than winning or qualifying for anything, and please, don't give me the three worst teams argument as that just confirms that this man has us as the fourth or fifth worst team of the twenty clubs in the division.

Who would replace him? Who could do much worse!

Eric Myles
49 Posted 10/01/2022 at 13:03:56
Jim #42 "I think Mike has gone through the West Ham team, very accurately. If we could swap teams right now, I'd say that overall, we'd have the better of the swap."

Or maybe we could just swap for the manager that put that team together?

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