Farhad Moshiri, Everton‘s owner, will be in the directors’ box on Monday night for one of the most significant games in his five-year reign.
There will be one empty seat to his right after the latest development in a chaotic period for the club. Marcel Brands, who Moshiri appointed as director of football in 2018, left his post with immediate effect on Sunday, paying the price for a disastrous spell of recruitment.
But it will be the potential empty seats all around the stadium in the 27th minute on Monday night, however, that will be just as revealing about Everton’s current state — a mass walkout has been planned for that moment during Arsenal‘s visit to show exactly how deep feelings run.
The significance of the time is that next May marks the 27th anniversary of Everton‘s last trophy, the 1995 FA Cup. It is the longest post-war period they have gone without silverware and, on the back of collecting two points from the last 24, fans want to be heard.
Success has never felt so far away. Evertonians want change and Brands, who was confronted by an angry fan following last Wednesday’s 4-1 skewering by Liverpool, was the first high-profile scalp on Sunday. He never endorsed the arrival of Rafa Benitez in the summer and this move is Moshiri further backing his manager.
Yet it can’t be said that the vast majority of fans feels the same about Benitez, so it will be intriguing to see how many are prepared to get up and go — and what effect it will have on Moshiri, who is adamant the Spaniard needs time.
Benitez has done his best to speak diplomatically through the tumult and would not be drawn on a video that was recorded after the Liverpool game, during which Brands responded to criticism from one man about his recruitment by saying: ‘Is that just the players?’
The answer to that pointed question is ‘no’ — what you are seeing from Everton at present is five years of erratic decisions coming to a head. Brands, though, cannot plead innocence as he never really did what a director of football should do.
There was no attempt to forge a playing style from top to bottom, there was a disconnect with the underperforming academy and all the things that were promised on his arrival in 2018, such as finding emerging young players and tapping into the South American market, never materialised.
‘When you have a bad run it is the time to stick together,’ Benitez said. ‘I don’t talk too much about things outside the pitch. I don’t think that helps the team improve. I understand the frustrations of the fans. Trust and believe me — we want to win more than anyone.’
But with injuries to key players, including leading striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Financial Fair Play rules meaning it is difficult for them to strengthen considerably in the January window, there are concerns that Everton will be sucked into a relegation battle.
Everton have played 38 Premier League games this calendar year, taking 48 points. It is the sequence over the last 10 fixtures, however, that has caused fears to rise, with only five points from a possible 30.
‘The reality is that the table doesn’t lie but at the same time win one game and you could be in the top eight,’ said Benitez.
‘I still have a lot of confidence we will do well. Even if we have difficult times — and now is a difficult time — we will be in a much better position by the end.
‘I think the fans appreciate that. I am convinced we will do well. I want us to do well and I am really frustrated when we don’t do that. I understand the frustrations of the fans. The only thing that I can do is make sure we make the right decisions.’Internet Explorer Channel Network