Rafael Benitez gets vote of confidence – but Arsenal eye Dominic Calvert-Lewin to dent Everton rebuild

Everton’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri has vowed to stand by manager Rafael Benitez despite the Merseyside derby mauling, and promised to strengthen the squad in January.

But Benitez’s hopes of reinforcing a misfiring team could be dealt a blow with top four-chasing Arsenal one of a number of clubs looking at a move for the England striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Wednesday’s 4-1 hammering by Liverpool has not led to any boardroom discussion on Benitez’s future, as he seeks to reverse a slide to 14th in the Premier League, Everton losing six of their last eight games.

The defeat was met with furious scenes, with most of the fans’ discontent directed at the board rather than the coach. A chant of ‘sack the board’ greeted the full-time whistle, while chairman Bill Kenwright and director of football Marcel Brands were in the direct line of fire from fans who assembled near the directors’ box

One irate supporter targeted the latter by shouting “What do you do, Brands?”, adding: “Get out, get out of this club. Absolute s—-. Did you recruit them?”

Brands react by stopping and responding: “Do you think it’s only the players?”

Moshiri, who did not attend the derby, made Benitez his fifth managerial appointment in the six years since he invested in Everton, and he gave his backing to the Spaniard on Thursday with the promise of support in the January transfer window and time to turn things around. 

“Football is about crisis one day and glory the following day,” Moshiri told Talksport.

“Rafa is a good manager and underperformance is largely due to the injuries. Next two weeks, we will get to a full squad and, in the meantime, results will improve. 

“Rafa needs time to have his mark on the squad. He will be supported to add depth to the squad. Managers need time. I have no doubt that we will have a strong second-half to the season.”

Moshiri has spent £532 million on new players during that time, and also paid around £30 million in compensation or pay-offs to managers. His rare public statement reaffirms his determination to give Benitez extra time to repair the damage of years of poor recruitment.

But the hopeful wait for Calvert-Lewin to return from injury may be dented by the emergence of interest from Premier League rivals that include Arsenal, who they face in their next fixture on Monday night before games with Crystal Palace and leaders Chelsea.

Meanwhile, Liverpool full-back Andy Robertson said Jurgen Klopp’s side ‘put right’ the wrongs of last season’s derbies with their emphatic victory.

“Last season was a blow in more ways than one,” Robertson told Liverpoolfc.com. “The game here (at Goodison) we obviously picked up two bad injuries and we got a 92nd-minute winner chalked off by a close margin.

“And we got beat at Anfield, which is never nice. So it was important that we tried to put that right this season and we’ve got off to a good start. We only put one point on the board against them last season; now we’ve already got three.”

The four major problems that have plagued Everton

The chants from the Everton fans who decided to prolong their punishment and stay beyond the final whistle after the Merseyside derby were venomous.

“Sack the board,” they yelled.

The issues at Goodison Park pre-date Benitez’s appointment, but how has it come to this? And how will Everton turn it around?

The Everton transfer wasteland

It’s always about the money. In this case, the world class wasting of it. Whatever accusations can be aimed at Moshiri, failure to invest in the squad and club is not one of them. 

The figures are mind-blowing since he took control in 2016, with £532 million squandered on new players – a net of £234 million placing Everton fifth in the spending league over those five years. 

That made Benitez’s claims of rival Liverpool having ‘spent big money’ ring hollow since the neighbours’ have been positively frugal in comparison. What Benitez may have wanted to say is Liverpool have not spent big money like drunken sailors. 

The list of shocking Everton deals is endless, from the £54 million combined fee for Yannick Bolasie and Morgan Schneiderlin at the start of Moshiri’s reign, £47 million sanctioned for Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun under Sam Allardyce, and more recently £35 million for Alex Iwobi in a deadline day deal in August 2019 which screamed desperation. The return on such investments has been pitiful. 

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