Is Everton too good to go down? Rafael Benitez’s successor must quickly repair the broken club

It’s hard to argue that Everton were right to carry on from Rafael Benitez. Tactically, socially and culturally, the former Liverpool manager, who saw opponents across Stanley Park as a “small club” always fighting an uphill battle. However, the problems at Goodison Park remain unresolved.

Saturday’s defeat to Norwich City left Everton in 16th place, six points from the relegation zone and although they have a squad that could show they are too good to go down, it’s far from certain to be. you can avoid thorough testing. Are you sure they won’t go to West Ham this 2003? Can the three from Burnley, Newcastle, Norwich and Watford be better than them (if they aren’t already)?

Anything even close to relegation would be a dire situation for this great old club, a club with the second-longest streak in the premier league and projected seasons. more than the dreaded 1990s at the bottom of the table. In February 2016, when Farhad Moshiri began a new regime that would see his side spend $3/4 billion on new signings, worries about avoiding relegation were said to be inevitable. past. The list of misses from that gluttonous spending is huge with very few precious hits to counterbalance it. Everton have a record of signings and it’s not one of those clubs that many other astute clubs go after: players in their late 20s or early 30s, many of whom have suffered suffered trauma in recent years but has an illustrious pedigree that comes with a hefty salary claim. James Rodriguez, Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney are among those who can attest.

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Indeed, if Lucas Digne were to play for any other team, one could assume Everton would lead the way for a 28-year-old, whose output started to slow before his reputation emerged. Likewise, it says everything about the Toffees selling him to Aston Villa while bringing in 22-year-old left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko doesn’t seem like the logical move of a club ahead of the market, but instead was an interest in Benitez, who had fallen out with Digne, a few days before firing him.

The list of errors caused by the current mode is so long that it seems safer to assume the error, even if it is possible to make a case for decisions already made. Everton fans are not blind to this. The chants of “fire the board” in the Norwich defeat make that clear. This is a club that has experienced superstar coaches (Carlo Ancelotti), pragmatic (Sam Allardyce), promising (Marco Silva) and experienced (Benitez). None of them have actually worked.

Its basis is not a unified vision. Director of football Marcel Brands leaves because his vision conflicts with ownership and coach Steve Walsh for the same reason; he then went on to claim that he tried to sign Andrew Robertson, Harry Maguire and Erling Haaland only to those above him to block moves.

Any club with a sense of what they are trying to achieve will not sign four 10s like they did in the summer of 2017; only one of them is still playing semi-regularly in the Premier League and Nikola Vlasic is doing it for West Ham after impressing on his day away from Goodison Park. Everton have brought in more players since then, but looking at their squad now shows a staggering shortage of players who can create chances for their teammates.

That’s where the trap door questions ended up in the back of their heads. Does a club whose main creator is Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray, a promising but unconvincing player at Leicester or Bayer Leverkusen, really believe it’s too good to avoid relegation? Those two goals are indisputable successes totaling $2.7 million, with Townsend creating the 15th most chances in the Premier League this season and Gray coming in at 29.

The problem is that after them, no other current Everton player has made it into the top 100 created chances (Digne is 35th). The next best player, Richarlison, played just 924 minutes in an injury-hit season. Those three are also the only players with more than one assist (xA) expected in the Premier League this season. A Benitez team will never be the most aesthetically pleasing, their midfielders will always be more focused on winning and keeping the ball than creating chances but they have to give you something up front. or especially if there is no shadow.

They were not like that. According to fbref, Allan has been dribbled more often than any other player in the Premier League this season. His tackle success rate has dropped from a 30-year-old high at Napoli to 27.2% this season; A player who once won possession in Serie A is currently having the lowest average interceptions per 90 minutes in the past five campaigns.

Even if the 31-year-old is on the decline, Everton’s problem is that he could be their best option. Andre Gomes impressed his teammates from the bench but rarely excelled when assigned to start while Tom Davies didn’t look like he was ready to start before hamstring surgery. The same is true in other areas of the pitch. There is the quantity of the whole team but is there quality? As senior defenders, Michael Keane and Yerry Mina, the most consistent trait is that you never know what you’re going to get from them.

There are enough central strikers – Salomon Rondon, Cenk Tosun – who are paid to fill the hole left by Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s injury but do you really want to play any of them? You have little choice when the generous pay plans that lured them to Goodison Park in the first place have made the latter largely irrevocable.

For all the doom and gloom, there is reason to hope that this may at least be the nadir. Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin are both ready to return. When those two play, Everton do well. In Premier League matches where the attacking duo start together, the Toffees have a record of 33-15-25 (16-7-8 since the start of 2020-21) and a positive goal difference. It’s a partnership with quality to rotate the tight matches their way. Bring those two back together and the results can vary rapidly in terms of what looks like a favorable fixed list.

In particular, Calvert-Lewin could be the one to make the difference. Surely his presence will make it easier for Benitez’s football brand to succeed. Everton are sixth in the league in crosses made per game and third in successful serves. Their chance map is the kind that can enjoy aerial bombardments. Get one of the best ‘headers’ in the game at the end of these, hopefully new signings Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson provide a worthwhile opportunity for Digne from full-back, and you can catch up. Top added to the list of 11 goals in the last 12 league games.

The opportunity created by Everton in the Premier League this season


Similarly, it seems wise that Everton fans don’t even let themselves think what could happen if one or both of their strikers fell apart with further injuries. Take those two things out of the equation and the next top scorer in Everton’s squad over the past four seasons is Michael Keane (seven).

There is no guarantee of goals, the uncomfortable atmosphere in the stands may not be quenched, the precious little money to improve the squad and no one in the front line to take care of everything. For most other clubs, this is like a recipe for relegation. In the end, all that can keep Everton safe is having three or more teams in worse form than them. Is Everton too good to go down? Rafael Benitez’s successor must quickly repair the broken club

James Brien

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