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Everton bent to Rafa Benitez’s will in every department – then they sacked him

Defeat to Norwich proved to be end of Rafa Benitez’s ill-fated spell as Everton manager.

There will be many who will say his tenure was doomed from off simply because of his historical links to Liverpool, a factor that irked a significant portion of Toffees supporters from the get-go.

However, the strangest aspect of the Spaniard’s reign at Goodison Park was the way in which the club bent almost entirely to his will right up until the moment he was sacked.

These days, many of his Benitez’s peers occupy the role of head coach, meaning their responsibilities are contained exclusively within the day-to-day management of the playing squad.

The 61-year-old prefers an old-school approach, adopting the far-reaching title of a manager who takes greater control of several facets of the football club.

End of the road

End of the road

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this method it’s just it requires the club to place more faith in the appointed individual, which is exactly what Everton did.

In the six and a half months since Benitez was controversially chosen, the Merseyside club have ditched their director of football, the popular head of medical services, and other employees previously considered key components, all because they wanted to ensure the club was shaped to the new manager’s liking.

And this moulding extended to the playing squad as well.

Salomon Rondon was signed on deadline day to reunite with Benitez having played under him at Newcastle and Dalian Professional in China.

The 32-year-old Venezuelan has looked noticeably sluggish in his 15 appearances this season – he’s scored just one goal in nearly 800 minutes.

Rondon’s form has encapsulated the significant drop in Everton’s form after what was actually a rather bright start to the campaign.

The Toffees lost just one game out of nine prior to mid-October when a narrow defeat at home to West Ham prompted a dramatic reversal of fortunes.

Since then they’ve only beaten Arsenal and Hull and have endured nine losses, including demoralising defeats to Watford (an almost inexplicable 5-2 loss), Brentford and, most recently, Norwich.

Rondon has struggled to make a positive impact

Rondon has struggled to make a positive impact

The most infuriating saga revolved around the breakdown of Benitez and Lucas Digne’s relationship.

The Frenchman was one of Everton’s better players but was eventually sold to Aston Villa after a prolonged feud with his gaffer only for Benitez to follow him out of the door a few days later.

The Goodison Park faithful are rightfully questioning why Digne was ousted to appease a manager who was one defeat away from getting the boot.

To make matters even more inscrutable, owner Farhad Moshiri is said to be extremely keen on hiring Roberto Martinez this month, the first manager he ever fired after purchasing the club in 2016.

The Belgium coach’s inability to construct an organised defence at club level is well known and was ultimately the reason many Everton fans called for him to be replaced seven years ago.

Overseeing the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Youri Tielemans, Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lukaku on the international stage is about as favourable it gets in the world of football coaching.

You have to wonder whether Martinez would be suitably prepared to transition from his current role to what is now essentially a survival project.

Digne has moved onto pastures new

Digne has moved onto pastures new

Relegation still seems unlikely given the fortunes of Burnley, Newcastle, Norwich and Watford but it’s understandable why Everton fans are so disgruntled – their club was supposed to be competing for European qualification by now at the very least.

From a Dream Team perspective, most gaffers shouldn’t be touching Goodison assets with a barge pole.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has provided healthy returns when fit in recent seasons, as has Richarlison (£3.6m), but the environment just isn’t conducive to plentiful points right now.

Will Moshiri stumble upon a solution to the Toffees’ woes this month? Only time will tell.