Rafa Benitez has been sacked as manager of Everton, but who didn't see it coming? The former Liverpool manager had the odds stacked against him the moment he was given the job. How could it be that the new Everton manager had managed the rivals across the park? But it's the 21st century and open minds are needed, it is why only a minority of Everton fans gave Benitez grief when his name was confirmed at Goodison Park. It is also why he was given a warm welcome at the club, he's Spanish but knows the city of Liverpool well, he's a respected figure and a footballing man that has won a plethora of trophies, so he was given a chance.
In truth his tenure started off well and the club remained unbeaten in their first four games. At the beginning of October the club who usually lose at Old Trafford dominated play and got a 1-1 draw against Manchester United but actually went off the field unhappy not to have won, something had shifted within the team and all seemed well. However just one week before that game Everton were dumped out of the Carabao Cup by QPR. Yes it had gone to penalties and yes in dramatic fashion QPR won it 8-7, but it should never have got to that stage.
After the United draw the rot set in, losing 5-2 at home to Watford was a disaster (the Toffees were 2-1 up with a quarter of an hour to play). There were defeats against Brentford and West Ham and the derby finished 4-1 at Goodison Park, it was Everton's biggest loss against Liverpool at home in over 40 years. Marcel Brands the director of football was swiftly shown the door. A rare win was had against Arsenal and brilliant as it was the game was heading for a draw until a last minute injury time winner. But since September when Everton beat Norwich the club have won just once in 4 months, it was the reverse Norwich game which broke the camel's back for Benitez as they lost 2-1 against the then bottom club. Enough was enough.
Irony is a word that should be very close to football because just before Benitez was sacked he had a falling out with Lucas Digne, the defender. To such an extent that the club ended up selling him to Aston Villa just last week for £25m, now both men have gone and you get the feeling that Everton have just lost a quality defender. His replacement at the back is an untested Ukrainian Vitaliy Mykoenko and a 20 year old Scottish man Nathan Patterson, we will see how that works out. Perhaps the one man who has not received direct criticism is the club owner Farhad Moshiri, how distant do you need to be in the clubs history and philosophy to hire Benitez in the first place. Let's be clear, Benitez is a good man, he is a successful manager, but that was a decade ago and perhaps once he left Europe to chase the yen in China he lost some of that winning desire. Let's note that Benitez's Newcastle achieved the same points as Steve Bruce at the same club and Bruce is often derided for his quality as a manager, which is not always justified. According to the market Everton may look backwards in their history to get their man.
Next Everton manager: Roberto Martinez 1.66, Wayne Rooney 5.00, Duncan Ferguson 5.00, Frank Lampard 9.00, Nuno Espirito Santo 15.00
Arsenal were completely out of order to ask the Premier League for their north London derby against Tottenham to be postponed. But it is the Premier League who need to be questioned. Arsenal requested, but the Premier League gave them permission, and for what? Only Martin Odegaard had covid some other players were injured and others were on international duty, but other teams have been affected by the same state of affairs so this made very little sense. Going into the weekend Manchester United had 10 players who were either confirmed out or touch and go. Mikel Arteta could perhaps learn a thing or two from Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds who did not request a postponement despite having 9 players out and they went on to beat West Ham away from home. There is no question that requesting a postponement because of covid affected players is a legitimate reason, but hiding against the pandemic for your own clubs needs is quite pathetic.
Finally Manchester City look like they will win back to back titles after beating one of their main rivals in Chelsea 1-0. City looked superb for long spells and they are a team with a winning mentality even when their players are not playing to their best that cannot presently be equalled in the Premier League. Chelsea who are now 13 points behind are surely out of the chase now and even if Liverpool win their game in hand they would still be 8 points adrift of City.