Following the departure of Carlo Ancelotti to Real Madrid in the summer, Everton were forced into searching for a new manager. Several high-profile names were linked with the job, including former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo and Frank Lampard.
After weeks of rumours and deliberation, Rafa Benitez was controversially appointed as the Toffees new boss. The decision was met with backlash from the Evertonian faithful, as Benitez previously managed city rivals, Liverpool.
Benitez has an impressive managerial record at some top clubs in European football. He has coached at Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan. However, given his background as a former red associate, can the Spaniard win over Goodison Park and become a success for the blue side of Merseyside?
Benitez’s Consistency in the Premier League
Benitez has achieved success at the highest level of club football. His previous managerial honours include an English FA Cup win with Liverpool, Champions League and Europa League titles, two Spanish La Liga victories and a Coppa Italia. In addition to his major honours, Benitez has provided consistency and at various English clubs. One of his big achievements was leading Newcastle United from the Championship and back to the Premier League and stabilising the club before departing St James’ Park in 2019. With such a proven, winning record within the most competitive football league in the world, the Football Odds indicate that Benitez has the coaching ability to make a team a success. Although he is unpopular among Everton fans for his Liverpool background, Benitez will bring consistency to Goodison Park. Since David Moyes left the club in 2012/13, after 12 seasons of sustained success on Merseyside, Everton have struggled to settle with a manager.
The Toffees have had seven different managers, including Benitez since 2013, and a fifth-place finish under Roberto Martinez in 2013/14 was their best campaign since Moyes departed. Even under previous boss Carlo Ancelotti, Everton struggled and finished in 12th and 10th place respectively over the past two seasons.
Benitez has a proven ability to produce consistently in the Premier League, which will benefit an inconsistent Everton. During his Liverpool tenure, Benitez didn’t finish lower than seventh, and he finished third with Chelsea during his half-season at Stamford Bridge in 2012/13. Furthermore, after guiding Newcastle back to the Premier League as Championship champions, Benitez oversaw two seasons of stability, leading the Magpies to 10th and 13th place finishes between 2017/18.
The Spaniard has existing knowledge and experience of success in the Premier League with multiple clubs. This will only benefit Everton. The club has high expectations of breaking into the top six, and even the top four, in the Premier League. There has been a big investment in building the squad as the club sets its sights on competing regularly in European competitions. Benitez may succeed where others have failed by consistently finishing in the European places.
A Positive Start to 2021/22
Benitez has had a solid start to the 2021/22 season and is already turning the tide in Evertonian opinion. The Toffees’ opening match against Southampton started disastrously, as they went behind within the first 25 minutes at Goodison Park. But Benitez showed how he can get the most out of his talented attack. Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Abdoulaye Doucouré were all in sensational form and helped Everton come back against the Saints to win 3-1.
This was evident again in the next match away at Leeds. Everton led twice before conceding late on for a 2-2 draw at Elland Road. But, showing a desire to play on the front foot provided excitement as Benitez was getting the best out of his attacking talents again.
The comeback win against Southampton and the attacking approach against Leeds showed glimpses of what was missing under previous boss Ancelotti. In the 2020/21 season, Everton had the worst scoring record in the top half of the table. The Toffees only scored 47 goals in the Premier League, including just 24 in 19 home matches. Taking the game to the opposition was lacking under Ancelotti, and Everton scored eight goals in his last 13 games in charge at Everton.
Under Benitez so far, Everton have scored two or more goals in their three matches, won two and drawn one. If the Toffees can continue this positive start to the campaign, Benitez may convince the Everton faithful that he is the manager to finally get the best out of his squad.
Savvy Transfer Business
Benitez has also made some shrewd signings to bolster his squad too. Following years of big spending on James Rodriguez, Richarlison, Allan, Moise Kean and Alex Iwobi, Everton have kept costs low this season.
However, bringing in players with Premier League experience (Andros Townsend and Demari Gray) has boosted Benitez’s attacking options and provided support for a squad with plenty of quality and potential. The attacking duo have also produced for Benitez already. Townsend assisted Everton’s equaliser against Southampton, and he scored the winner against Huddersfield in the EFL Cup in midweek. Gray has also opened his account for the Toffees, netting the second goal against Leeds.
Although it’s still early days, Benitez has shown an ability to get the best out of his players at Goodison. If he can provide the consistency he has at previous clubs, he could prove his doubters wrong at Goodison Park.