Everton have gone and done it. Rafael Benitez is the new manager of the football club.
They confirmed it on Wednesday, bookending June with one of the most controversial appointments in the club’s history after it started with Carlo Ancelotti walking out on the team to rejoin Real Madrid.
The fact that the Toffees have actually gone through with this is unlikely to fully change the minds of a lot of supporters who were against Benitez coming in, be it because of his connection with Liverpool or his sketchy managerial record since leaving Anfield.
🗣 | Determined to deliver.@rafabenitezweb
— Everton (@Everton) June 30, 2021
There’s a general acceptance that Benitez, who is almost universally considered to be a good man and a consummate professional, needs to be given a chance if this most peculiar of marriages is going to blossom. But that’s easy to say in July when you’re not within the grind of a Premier League season.
So there’s a huge sense that if this appointment is going to work in the long-term, there must be some short-term strides made.
If the Toffees were to lose or draw their first game of the campaign against Southampton, then the knives would be out quickly. For Benitez, anything negative thing that happens in the early weeks of his tenure will be amplified 10 times over and that’ll create a difficult environment for the coaching staff and players to work in.
In terms of fixtures, the opportunity is there for him to start well. After the opener Everton face Leeds United, Brighton, Burnley, Aston Villa and Norwich City; as much as any game in the Premier League can be an arduous slog, they are matches Benitez has a chance of picking up a decent points haul from.
With fans having been away from stadiums for so long, they will be desperate to get behind a team that’s playing purposeful football and picking up positive results. Tapping into that emotion is the best way for Benitez to get supporters onside early on.