Nobody, besides the people who hired him, wanted Rafael Benitez at Everton. He was, after all, a former Liverpool manager. One that had achieved great success during his time at Anfield and labelled the Toffees a “small club.” Football fans have long memories and those at Goodison Park haven’t forgotten the misery Benitez once inflicted on them.
However, football is a fickle business and Benitez has already started winning over some hearts and minds. Everton have enjoyed a stronger start to the season than anyone had anticipated with the Toffees just two points off the top of the Premier League table having lost just one of their first seven fixtures.
This is despite an underwhelming summer transfer window that saw Everton spend just £1.8m on new signings. While others around them splurged hundreds of millions on world class superstars, the Toffees tightened the pursestrings and had to make do with journeymen like Andros Townsend, Demarai Gray and Solomon Rondon.
“I am really happy with the players we brought in because they are the players we needed and they know what we are looking for,” Benitez recently explained when asked about Everton’s summer business. “The commitment of these players is very clear for everyone to see. We didn’t spend a lot of money but we made some good signings.”
“Could it be better? Yes, because if you have more money you can do it but the financial fair play rules were killing us in this window. Hopefully in the next window it will be different but I’m really pleased because the players we brought are players we needed. Maybe we needed more players in certain positions but I think we did quite well.”
These signings have been enough for Benitez to point the Goodison Park club in the right direction, though. Indeed, Everton have gone back to basics under their new manager. Benitez’s team might not be the most tactically innovative but the Spaniard has put in place a structure that gets the best out of his players.
Benitez is proving himself as the Premier League’s best austerity manager. The job he is now doing at Everton is similar to the one he performed at Newcastle United where similar financial constraints were placed on him as manager. There’s a reason the Magpies supporters still talk about Benitez with reverence.
There is nobody better in the English game at getting results in difficult circumstances than Benitez. The Spaniard has a remarkable knack for stopping outside factors from affecting play on the pitch making him the perfect man for the Everton job right now such is the difficult position the club is in right now.
It is ironic that Everton are on course for their best season just as it seems expectations were lowered at the club. Losses suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic have restricted the Toffees from making the moves they have in recent years, but European qualification might still be in their sights after such a good start to the 2021/22 campaign.
Everton’s approach this season has been based on solid defensive organisation and productive wing play. Benitez has done more to impose a definable style of play on the Toffees in just a few months than Carlo Ancelotti did over the course of his entire tenure. Everyone at Goodison Park now knows their role in the squad.
With Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United all so strong this season, a top four finish will likely be beyond Everton, but Benitez is a maximiser of talent. With the Spaniard in charge, the Toffees stand a chance of upsetting the established order. After years of spending millions to find the right players, Everton could achieve real progress now that they have the right manager.
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