Hell hath no fury like travelling Everton fans when their team has let them down, and the away section at Brentford on Sunday was particularly volcanic.
This latest 1-0 defeat means Rafa Benitez’s side have taken two points from the last 21 and the impoverished nature of the performance could not have come at a worse time, with free-scoring neighbours Liverpool arriving at Goodison Park on Wednesday.
Benitez, who has been swimming against the tide of public opinion, will be firmly in the spotlight as he tackles his former club for the first time as a Blue but Everton’s problems run deeper — far, far deeper — than an unpopular manager.
Sportsmail analyses what is going wrong.
Rafael Benitez faces greater problems than being an unpopular manager at Everton
The travelling Blues fans turned on their side after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Brentford
There is a basic rule of thumb in football that runs from the bottom to the top: if you have a team with the right players and bring in the right characters, your chances of progress are greatly improved. Everton, for five and a half years, have consistently made mistake after mistake.
Steve Walsh was the club’s first director of football, appointed in the same 2016 summer as Ronald Koeman was named manager, but he was jettisoned two years later. Farhad Moshiri, the club’s majority shareholder, had considered Unai Emery and Monchi of Sevilla for those respective roles.
Walsh’s spell was littered with expensive mistakes. But his successor, Marcel Brands, has done little to improve things since he was drafted in from PSV Eindhoven three years ago — yet he was rewarded with a new contract earlier this summer. He is certainly in the line of fire.
The Toffees have splashed the cash but chief Marcel Brands (R) has had more misses than hits
Everton have spent big and handed out huge contracts to players who have done nothing to improve the club’s position — the biggest largesse was the wage for James Rodriguez last summer, which was more than £12million a year. He rarely gave the impression he was committed.
But another example of how muddled Everton have been in the transfer market is in the story of how Alex Iwobi was signed in August 2019.
This is no reflection on Iwobi. He was on holiday in Dubai, having played at the Africa Cup of Nations, and was preparing to go back to Arsenal. Yet in the final hours of the transfer window, in the desperation to get a right-sided player, Everton paid an initial £28m without meeting him in person.
The deal was done with a combination of calls, FaceTime and medical records being hastily emailed out. It should have been slicker — sentiments that apply to all of their dealings.
PAYING THE PENALTY
Benitez has not benefited from the millions Moshiri has made available to his four previous permanent managers — Koeman, Sam Allardyce, Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti. To expect him to make a considerable difference to Everton’s fortunes with an outlay of £1.7m is unrealistic.
He would have liked to have signed Burnley’s Dwight McNeil but they never came close to agreeing a fee. Denzel Dumfries, the Dutch international, was considered but an initial £12m price tag was beyond their limit, while Rangers right back Nathan Patterson (£8m) was out of reach.
So far, Benitez has had to sign stop-gaps — the free transfers of Salomon Rondon, Asmir Begovic, Andros Townsend and Andy Lonergan — plus Demarai Gray from Bayer Leverkusen, but Financial Fair Play restrictions mean nothing will change in January.
Benitez has not benefitted from the millions of majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri (pictured)
Demarai Gray was the Toffees’ only summer signing that did not arrive at Goodison on a free
CHOPPING AND CHANGING
There was a time — certainly when then manager David Moyes was working in tandem with chairman Bill Kenwright — when the club had a quality that made them different. If it needs a term, you could call it ‘Evertonism’. They had camaraderie and spirit and it helped them progress.
Moshiri’s constant chopping and changing of managers, though, has created a climate where it feels like people are passing through. Put it this way, not too many of the squad involved at Brentford will have been hurting or felt the frustrations of those who had travelled down from Merseyside.
Things are changing behind the scenes, too, with Danny Donachie — a popular figure with players — recently abruptly leaving his long-term position as head of medicine.
Everton were always dangerous when the fans, team and manager were in unison — the last real example of that was Duncan Ferguson’s brief caretaker spell two years ago — but the atmosphere in Goodison now feels mutinous.
When Everton lost 5-2 to Watford on October 23, the team were booed off and Benitez was lampooned but Brands, Moshiri and chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale all faced barbs from supporters in the Main Stand. Fans want a team they can believe in but they are miles away from that at present.
Benitez dealt with questions about his future confidently last Friday. He insisted, after a face-to-face meeting with Kenwright at the club’s Finch Farm training base, that he has received assurances and the board understands the hand he has been dealt.
It is inescapable, however, that there is little he will be able to do to change the feelings of fans whose views were entrenched before his controversial appointment. They are not enjoying the football they are watching and have not hesitated to call it out.
Benitez has suffered from the absence of star striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin this season
There is such anger right now because, for the first time, a number of fans have started to talk about relegation battles. Everton should not be anywhere near that scenario but the need to pick up the pace is pressing.
Yes Benitez has been unlucky with injuries and losing Dominic Calvert-Lewin, his main striker, has been a savage blow — they have only scored four times since the end of September — but those who watch and travel the country and spend fortunes to do so have had enough.
Everton now face a demanding sequence of games and more negative results will turn up the heat further. How Benitez needs to delve into his box of tricks and conjure one of those performances that haul him back from the edge.