Friday, January 21, 2022

Goodison Park turns toxic as Benitez’s Everton slips in EPL

Amidst loud mockery of high-ranking club officials and outright abuse by angry Everton fans, a spectator managed to reach the ground at Goodison Park and could be seen protesting with the team’s players.

Everton had just lost 4-1 to Liverpool in the Merseyside derby – the heaviest home defeat to their fierce rival in 39 years – and the atmosphere was turning toxic.

“Bock the board” was the main chant that revolved around the storied stadium. Maybe the final whistling sound is the loudest of all season.

Discontent had come to a head over a controversially hired manager and a club leadership for its haphazard recruitment methods.

“I can see a team that is giving everything,” said Rafa Benitez, the manager for whom Everton turned in the off-season despite his previous ties to Merseyside’s red half. “The players have a commitment.”

The problem is they just aren’t good enough.

Everton reined in their spending this summer following Benitez’s appointment, following a lavish and somewhat haphazard outlay of nearly $750 million on players since Farhad Moshiri became the club’s majority shareholder in 2016. Four players came in at a total cost of barely $2 million.

The effects of that belt-tightening are there for all to see. Affected by injuries to some key players such as star striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton have not been able to win their last eight Premier League matches, earning two points out of a possible 24 in the team’s worst result in 22 years.

After a strong start under Benítez – the team won four of its first six games – Everton have dropped to 14th place in the 20-team league and are five points above the relegation zone.

Compared to Everton, the contrast between Liverpool’s disastrous attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane, led by a 32-year-old at Salomon Rondon on Wednesday who joined a free transfer from the Chinese league, is stark. Was.

And it wasn’t lost on Benitez.

“We lost because we made mistakes against the top team. “You have seen how much money Liverpool are spending and they have been successful over the years and this can happen if you make mistakes.

“Probably not against other teams, but against a top side you suffer.”

Benitez said he still “believes we can do well” but acknowledged that the fate of the team depends on getting players like Calvert-Levin and Colombia defender Yeri Mina fit again. It doesn’t look like he’s expected to have money to spend in the January transfer window.

“I’ve been to Newcastle and the owner was not spending money,” said 61-year-old Benitez, referring to another English team where he was manager. “In January, hopefully the team will not be dependent on two or three players coming back like we are doing at the moment.”

While Benitez is an easy target of abuse by fans of Everton, his neighbor’s manager at Stanley Park from 2004–10, he is starting to turn his anger towards the club’s top.

Footage on social media showed a supporter confronting director of football Marcel Brands as the Dutchman left the director’s box at Goodison after a Liverpool game. “Did you recruit them?” Fans shouted at Brands, who paused to respond but quickly left. “It’s garbage,” said the fan.

It is considered the start of an exciting era for the club, which plans to move to a new stadium off the waters of Liverpool for the start of the 2024-25 season – which is expected to cost $700 million.

That development and the effects of the pandemic are behind limited spending this year that could leave Everton without a team strong enough to play in their new home.

Heck, at the current rate, Everton – whose last major trophy was the FA Cup in 1995 – might not even be in the Premier League.

The stream of fans freaking out after Liverpool’s fourth goal showed what they thought of their team right now. The fans who stayed there expressed their feelings in another way.

“I have to take the positivity and positivity of this team, everyone was very happy at the start of the season, the commitment and the way we were playing and winning,” Benitez said.

“We have to go back to this first phase.”


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