EVertonians of utterly empty persuasion envisioned an apocalyptic scenario when Farhad Moshiri appointed Rafael Benítez five months ago. It went like this: The fragile support of the new manager is eroding with the squad’s form ahead of the Merseyside derby, Liverpool inflicts new punishment, the atmosphere becomes poisonous and Benítez’s name is sung for the first time since arriving, but only by 2,902 fans away from home. on the Bullens Road stand because they also evoke Istanbul. Everton’s board hides its own appalling performance behind an unpopular manager, and so on …
It’s a derby, anything can happen (although eight of the last nine league games at Goodison have ended in draws), but some or all of the above on Wednesday wouldn’t be a big surprise. “It’s a huge game for us,” said a more positive Benítez. “It’s an opportunity for us to change things and improve everything for the rest of the season. “
‘Agent Rafa’ and ‘BenítezOut’ were all the rage after Everton’s defeat at Brentford on Sunday, reflecting polarized views on the former Liverpool manager’s job at Stanley Park. A performance lacking in energy, quality or a noticeable game plan made it seven matches and two calendar months without a win for Benítez’s side.
The absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Yerry Mina provided no excuse and, as the mass of V-signs of furious roving support to Everton players signaled it after the final whistle , patience was shattered before the arrival of an endemic Liverpool side with collective and individual urging to avenge last season’s damaging encounter at Goodison.
Patience had been strained before Benítez’s controversial appointment, with dismal recruiting and mismanagement under Moshiri originally. The manager spent £ 1.7million in his first transfer window as Everton navigated the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules.
He was beset by long-term injury issues and said there was no transformation budget available in January. But with performances such as Sunday – when he persevered with Salomón Rondón again – a long streak without a win, restless Goodison and a disheartening fixture list ahead, Benítez has to hope that Everton’s majority shareholder keeps his blood – cold and resists any clamor for new managerial upheavals. It’s the last thing Everton need.
“I am in constant communication with the board of directors and Mr. Moshiri, so I have the feeling that they realize that they have changed managers in the past – even changing the profile of managers in the past. – and that it was not working, ”said Benítez. “They know we need stability and they know it’s really important to change things in the future.
“You can’t fault the owner for spending a lot of money. It’s just that we need to be sure we’re doing things right in the future and the reason we can’t spend now is that the Premier League rules don’t allow us to. So I hope we can manage better, we can sell some players for a profit and we can use that money to improve the team and make sure that we are stronger.
Benítez’s admission that the players might have to be sold for a profit is another indication that Everton, having spent more than £ 500million on little return since Moshiri’s arrival, must continue to live within his means for that work continue on a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. “Some clubs sold players at the right time and with the money they received they improved the team,” said the manager.
“This is something we have to learn. The owner is willing to spend the money but we cannot go by all the time without bringing in the money. We need to be smart going forward, but for now we need to make sure that we can get the best out of our players.
The pressure on the Everton manager is of course not the only subplot of the 239th Merseyside Derby. Virgil van Dijk will make his first appearance at Goodison since injuring his knee in last October’s 2-2 draw, a game that also left Thiago Alcântara on the sidelines after a foul by Richarlison and saw Jordan Henderson was denied a winner in the 92nd minute. by VAR.
Jürgen Klopp admitted after Southampton’s 4-0 defeat on Saturday that he didn’t like the physical intensity of the Merseyside derby, but was not in the mood to fan the flames in an unusually brief press conference Tuesday. “I can’t help you with the stories you want to write today,” he said.
Klopp conceded that for Van Dijk the derby “could be different because it’s the same place, but other than that it’s just a football match”. Otherwise, the Liverpool manager’s message to his prolific squad was to ward off the emotion and focus on what has so far earned them 39 goals in 13 league appearances, the club’s highest total at this stage. ‘a high-level campaign.
“I think we were the fairest team in England and most of the time the fairest team in Europe over the past five years,” said Klopp. “It’s obviously not a prize that someone wants to win, but it still is. If you are playing pressing, high pressing, counter-pressing, the plan is to win the ball and to win the ball you have to touch the ball. That’s why it’s normal that we don’t really make mistakes, or a lot of mistakes, because that ruins our game. You want to win the ball the right way and you want to play it from there.
Benítez has been asked how he would feel if Liverpool fans chanted his name to Goodison. “The fans know me, they appreciate what I did there and now they also appreciate that I’m a Blue,” he replied. “I want to win and I will try to win. “