The Toffees can get their best start to the season since 1978 beating Moyes’ West Ham after giving up glamor dates for a former rival who harnessed the club’s spirit
“I think he knows better than any other manager what Everton supporters want from their team.” [club owner Farhad] Moshiri has already contributed. ”
Jamie Carragher may have switched to the red a long time ago, but the Sky Sports expert’s assessment of Rafa Benitez’s initial impact at Goodison Park – delivered after Monday night’s win over Burnley a month ago – likely applies to many Evertonians.
After all, the Premier League campaign continues this weekend, with Benitez writing one of the season’s most intriguing subplots with Everton in fifth place, having lost just one of the first seven games – and a streak of three home games in her next four.
With his £ 1.7million summer spending cap and without his top two strikers Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison for the last three games before the international break, the former Liverpool coach has so far exceeded expectations that he has beaten West Ham United on Sunday, Everton will have their best start after eight league games since 1978.
It is fitting to see David Moyes in Goodison’s dugout, and not just because the Spaniard’s start echoes Everton’s 2004/05 season, which began with similarly low expectations following the departure of Wayne Rooney and ended with the Champions League Qualification ended.
Moyes, the architect of this campaign, was on the verge of a Goodison return at least once during the management mourning of the moshiri years, and those close to him might point to the irony that the search for supposedly greater glamor led to it that Everton turned to Benítez, an ex-Liverpool boss similarly known for his organization and attention to detail, in hopes of restoring the sense of identity that has largely been missing since the Scottish departure.
The signs are encouraging: the intensity has increased on the training pitch, and especially on the pitch, as Everton’s players covered a total distance of 116.8km at Manchester United 12 days ago – the highest of any team in a top game this season.
There is also resilience, as shown by the seven points that they have already won from games in which they conceded the first goal; Incidentally, the same sum comes from 17 games in which they conceded their first goal last season, only one of which was won.
According to Joe Royle, Everton’s final trophy winner, the key to Everton’s improvement lies in the speed and dynamism that Benitez introduced. Unlike his predecessor Ancelotti, the Spaniard appreciates an athlete and the additions of Andros Townsend, who has already scored five goals, and Demarai Gray have borne rich fruit. So did Benitez’s decision to grant Abdoulaye Doucouré the license to advance – a decision that has already resulted in a number of goals and assists.
“If you want to play counter-football, you have to be fit and they look a fit and a strong side,” says Royle I. “Doucouré has speed. Townsend and Gray are on the pace. The goal at United [when all three combined in a swift counter], Everton hadn’t scored this goal in ages because we didn’t have the pace on the team. He realized that the team had too little pace and he recruited the pace. It’s great management. “
On the recruitment issue, Benitez joined Everton after the owners turned the tap on to comply with the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability rules. However, this arguably allowed him to start his work with fewer expectations and to earn some benevolence from an initially skeptical Goodison gallery through these budget signings from Townsend and Gray, players who have to prove it – another echo of the Moyes era and, as one source points out, something not seen enough of in the past five years (witnessed by the late James Rodríguez).
If there is a cloud, the fact that this summer’s recruiting was powered by Benitez could raise questions about the future of Marcel Brands, the football director. Benitez has always had a very clear idea of how his football clubs should be run in his opinion and is happy to take responsibility (such as having installed his own PR man in Liverpool during his time, who works independently of the media department last Months in Anfield). Crucial, however, is his obsessive approach to getting the most out of the players, some of whom have felt they were not being trained adequately by Ancelotti.
Anyone who watched Benitez on the Old Trafford sideline two weeks ago and shouted instructions during the 1-1 draw will have seen the 61-year-old’s irrepressible drive to improve footballers.
In his autobiography, Steven Gerrard tells a story of how he went to Benitez’s table at the 2006 FA Cup final banquet and waited in vain for a pat on the back for his late miracle goal; Fifteen years later, Townsend Everton’s website offered a similar story after scoring his Premier League goal of the month against Burnley.
“Rafa came on the pitch at the final whistle and after a brief ‘well done’ told me what I could have done better,” he said.
Benitez may have traded red for blue, but a leopard doesn’t change its spots.