Victory over Arsenal felt like a release for Everton. After weeks without a win, a humiliation against rivals Liverpool just days before and pressure mounting from frustrated fans, this was supposed to be some kind of turning point for their season.
But Rafa Benitez’s side were back to their very worst within six days. By the time the final whistle blew on the Toffees’ 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace, it was becoming clear which of these two sides was really on the rise.
Everton are now 14th in the league table and are nowhere near the European places. One win in their last 10 league games has seen a lot of match going fans lose patience with the management of the team — including from the ownership and the board.
Marcel Brands, director of football at the club since 2018, paid the price with his job. He joined the club from PSV, effectively replacing Steve Walsh at the club.
It’s commonplace within football for managers to be replaced on a consistent basis. In fact, Benitez is Everton’s fifth manager in as many years.
However, going through directors of football this quickly isn’t particularly usual.
Walsh revealed earlier this year that during his time at the club, his ideas to sign Andy Robertson, Harry Maguire and Erling Haaland had all been rejected.
Before joining Everton, Walsh was known as the man who helped Leicester City sign N’golo Kante, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
Why was a guy with a track record as good as this not being listened to?
Looking at the signings Everton made during Brands’ time at the club, it is easy to wonder was he being ignored as well?
Because the profile of players coming into the club doesn’t look cohesive at all. There doesn’t appear to be any kind of overall plan or structure for bringing in players, or even for the hiring process of managers.
This is supposed to be something Brands or Walsh should be in charge of. Yet, it seems the owners are taking control over which managers come in, and then those managers are having a greater influence on new signings than at other clubs with a similar set up.
The perfect example of this is Carlo Ancelotti’s signing of James Rodriguez. The Colombian arrived in 2020 to a lot of fanfare. The former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich star performed well initially before struggling with injuries in the latter half of the last campaign.
But, when Ancelotti left the club for Madrid last Summer it was clear that Benitez had no place for Rodriguez, as happened in Madrid all those years ago.
So, why then was Benitez hired? Because if Benitez was always planned as a successor to Ancelotti then it surely makes no sense to sign a player on massive wages and no resale value that the incumbent manager has a history of not wanting to use in his team.
This muddled thinking and planning is just throwing away money that Everton can’t afford to do, they may as well be setting it on fire instead.
Ultimately, setting that money alight might have actually been more useful because Everton have pumped so much of it into the transfer market that they have actually reached the ceiling of the Premier League’s extremely lax financial fair play rules.
This is why the club was forced to go bargain hunting for Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray last summer. The club was unable to spend any further for fear of falling foul of these financial restrictions.
Considering, too, just how often Everton are cycling through managers, it seems all the more ridiculous that they would be able to have any kind of sway on who the club is signing.
This total lack of joined up thinking is what is setting the club back so massively. The team looks like a side that was assembled with sellotape by six different managers.
Everton are now nothing more than a mediocre mid table side. They will struggle to finish in the top half of the table this season, and if results don’t pick up soon then they will be closer to a relegation battle than anything else.
They have been unlucky with injuries this season, but they left themselves open to that situation with how messily this squad has been put together.
Hiring managers like Ancelotti and Benitez, who are clearly not at the forefront of the game anymore — or flavours of the month like Ronald Koeman and Marco Silva — is not what Everton should be looking at.
The likes of West Ham United, Aston Villa and Leicester City have been able to overtake Everton in the pecking order of English football by making these structures work. Their squads target younger players who have massive potential and will retain impressive resale value.
Even if these clubs don’t have the most impressive or exciting managers, their roles are much less important to the overall vision of the club. If they don’t succeed, the squad will still be set up for someone else to be able to work with, without having to make radical changes.
With the way things are going, potentially Brighton & Hove Albion, Leeds United, even Brentford could all move forward from Everton soon, again by having much more coherent structures and an overall long-term vision for their clubs.
Crystal Palace looked in danger of making all of Everton’s same mistakes by sticking with older players and a past-it manager. But Sunday showed there can be a better way, just not at Everton.