So Rafa Benitez has gone less than seven months into the job – is anyone really surprised?
In the voice of Paul Rudd: “Not me!”
Benitez and Everton was a toxic combination destined for failure. But while the narrative will likely be that it was the Spaniard’s Liverpool connections that made his position untenable, it was actually the horrific run of results that proved the tipping point.
Don’t get me wrong there were plenty of Evertonians who simply would not accept Benitez as Toffees manager and he had little credit in the bank when things started to go wrong.
Don’t forget he was applauded by the Goodison fans ahead of the opening game of the season against Southampton and many supporters were willing to give him a chance.
But any manager would be shown the door after the wretched run Everton have been on. The Toffees have taken just six points from the last 39 available and lost to a Norwich side on Saturday who had lost their last six and not even scored in 10 hours of Premier League football.
Benitez’s Liverpool connections were of course used against him but it merely added a layer of toxicity to an already fractious situation, while giving gleeful Liverpool fans plenty of ammo to mock Evertonians with, which poured more fuel onto the fire.
It was his tactics, team selections and dreadful results that got him the sack.
There is plenty else wrong with Everton but Benitez was making things worse and should have done much better with the squad available, even allowing for injuries to key players and lack of funds to strengthen over the summer.
The players, too, need to take a long hard look at themselves. Yet another manager has been forced out of the door thanks to abject performances by an expensively assembled squad and it is far from a guarantee that a new face in the dugout will be enough to get a tune out them.
But the issues, like all big organisations, start at the top. Farhad Moshiri’s financial generosity is without question and we are all hugely thankful for his efforts in getting the new stadium project off the ground. But his footballing appointments have been dreadful, from Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh to Sam Allardyce and now Benitez.
He stubbornly refused to listen to the fans when appointing him over the summer, arguing that he had listened to the fans when deciding against bringing David Moyes back in December 2019 and instead turning to Carlo Ancelotti. The fact Moyes now has the Hammers pushing for the top four was not lost on Moshiri, who dug in and continued to back Benitez throughout this poor run.
He seemed to give Rafa full rein to change what he liked at the club in an almost desperate attempt to justify his decision. In doing so Benitez saw off head of medical services Dan Donachie and director of football Marcel Brands.
He was then given £30m to spend on two full-backs before pushing Lucas Digne out of the door, with the Frenchman bemoaning that “Sometimes it only takes one person from outside to destroy a beautiful love affair.”
The fact Benitez has now gone a matter of days after Digne’s departure adds to the shambolic nature of the club right now.
What makes the decline so baffling is that the team started the season well, taking 10 points from their opening four games. A win over Norwich and draw at Old Trafford then left them fifth at the start of October. But since then results and performances have gone off a cliff, sending the club into a tailspin towards the relegation zone.
The assumption that we are too good to go down is a dangerous one. Just six points now separate Everton and the bottom three and nothing from the last four months suggests they have enough to pull themselves clear without significant change.
Duncan Ferguson is likely to take temporary charge in the hope he can inspire a short-term adrenaline-fueled turnaround like he did after Silva’s departure.
Beyond that though and the future is unknown, with Toffees fans nervously wondering whether the bottom has yet to be reached or if finally Farhad Moshiri and his Board have learned something about how they are running the footballing side of Everton Football Club.