Rafa Benitez has called on everyone to “stick together” as Everton attempt to drag themselves out of the huge hole they currently find themselves in.
Goodison Park spilled over into near mutiny against Liverpool on Wednesday as years of under-performance both on and off the pitch came to a head and caused the supporters’ patience to snap.
Benitez has taken his fair share of stick but the criticism goes beyond the dugout, with a slew of under-performing players and a dysfunctional boardroom stoking the fires of an irate fanbase.
Clearly changes are needed but the most pressing matter now is points, with Everton sliding worryingly towards the relegation zone.
Reflecting on the derby result, Everton’s heaviest home defeat to Liverpool in 39 years, Benitez said:
“We are disappointed, really disappointed. It’s a derby, it’s more emotional, but we’re really disappointed in the way things are going on. We were running more than Liverpool in every department, but we conceded four goals. They punished our mistakes.”
This “we are running more than the opposition” line has been used several times in recent weeks. I get the impression the fans are not totally convinced, especially when all that running is peppered with basic mistakes.
Anyway, asked about how the team responds to such a setback, he added:
“Now is a time we have to stick together, go into January in the best position we can. You can complain about our mistakes, quality, things like that - but not commitment. We have to work really hard.
“Every win is a must-win game. Why am I still positive? Because we did it at the beginning (of the season). You can’t be a bad or good manager in one week. If the team was really good, signed two wingers, made crosses - we cannot be wrong in everything after six weeks.
“Again I will say, we did really well at the beginning, so I’m confident we will do well at the end. We know the problems, we are working on the solutions.
“My main thing is to concentrate on the football issues, to analyse the crucial mistakes. I don’t want to blame any individual, we win or we lose as a group. We know the problems, the club has been changing managers for a while and it wasn’t changing the situation.
“I will go back to experience, you have to do the basic and simple things well. We have to be solid, strong, defend as a unit. If you get one or two results, you get confidence and it will be easier.
“Be sure that we work hard as a team and try to keep the ball in a better way, especially don’t make mistakes. We need to go back to the principles and not make mistakes which allow the other team to punish us.”
In Benitez’s defence, he was asked some questioned that are beyond his remit. There has been little communication from the board so this is the only opportunity for reporters to ask about the litany of mistakes (most of which pre-date Benitez’s arrival) that has left Everton in such a mess.
Benitez, understandably, said he would stick to what he can control.
“I said before, I try to concentrate on my job. Everybody knows that money has been spent, but at the moment we have to be sure we improve these players. I talk about injuries because I want people to realise we were doing well with the same group at the beginning.
“We have been talking about that, but I think it’s the time to concentrate on what we can do every week. We need to know how to prepare for the game against Arsenal, how to improve our game. We are working on options.”
“When something is wrong, it’s really important to show character and stay calm. At the same time, keep working, work harder if it’s possible. That’s what I’m trying to do with my staff and my message for the players.”