Editor: Ahead of a new season and a disappointing transfer window thus far as well as a new manager at the helm, Everton season ticket holder Matt Jones returns to share his Everton preview.
We all have them.
Those sleeps when we fade in and out of consciousness. We wake up groggy, unsure of what is real and what is not. We realize our subconscious conjures up some bizarre stories and realities.
Well, that’s a little bit like what Everton feel like at the moment.
In March 2020, a raucous Goodison Park jeered a VAR decision to overturn a last-gasp winner over Manchester United. Then-manager Carlo Ancelotti made steady headway in a stacked Premier League.
The stadium was ablaze with emotion and rage in those final seconds. Here we stand in August 2021, 15 months removed from that day.
This Saturday will be the first time since that afternoon that Goodison will be full. The stands will look fantastic again. There will be a din around the place. Hope and anger and the quintessential Evertonian rancor again live on the horizon.
Returning to a different Everton
Ancelotti is out as manager, resigning at the end of the 2020-21 campaign. His replacement is the man who guided Everton’s biggest rival to their greatest night in its history. Rafael Benitez, who most recently managed Dalian Pro in the Chinese Super League, takes over at Goodison.
Benitez’s Everton is changed from Ancelotti’s 15 months ago, too.
James Rodriguez is part of the first-team squad. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has developed into a high-class forward. Everton is using digital season tickets and COVID-19 spot checks throughout Goodison. And there’s now a countdown on Goodison too, with work having started on a three-year build for a new stadium down at Bramley-Moore dock.
As one can imagine, a day out from their long-awaited return to a full Goodison, emotions are mixed among Everton supporters.
Like every set of fans in the country, Toffees have missed the match day. The pandemic and subsequent restrictions snatched tradition and passion from millions.
Football is an anchor to certain people who you wouldn’t see otherwise. As you get older and life flings more responsibilities at you, free time is precious. Going the match is almost immune from that. It’s untouchable.
Every couple of weeks you can see friends, have a drink and scream at 11 lads in royal blue. And it’s just accepted.
But what kind of Everton team will supporters bellow at when they dust off their seats at Goodison on Saturday?
Benitez lackluster in Everton Preview
Hopes are not high around Everton at the moment. After tanking in the second half of last season – they were second on Boxing Day and eventually finished in 10th – and losing Ancelotti unexpectedly to Real Madrid, their plans for the summer were tossed into disarray.
While there were no standout candidates to step into the void the Italian left, few anticipated they’d opt for Benitez.
Not only is he a figure forever tied with Liverpool, he’s a coach that’s arguably past his best. Since leaving Anfield in 2010, Benitez owns a mixed record of success. His previous role with Dalian Professional showed signs of a manager winding down his career on a healthy, large contract.
Everton cannot afford Benitez patience because of his name. In fact, fans made their presence heard at the most recent Everton preview match. The 4-0 thumping at the hands of Manchester United drew ire from those in attendance. To boot, Benitez must deal with a number of problems regarding lineups and rosters.
But Everton have obviously seen something in him.
Limited Transfer Action
With the club spending a total of £2 million on three players this summer, perhaps they see a dependable presence who will keep the club in the middle of the Premier League. There’s a new stadium on the way after all and those don’t come cheap.
The futures of Rodriguez and Moise Kean are up in the air. Richarlison just returned to the club following his exploits in the Olympics and Copa America with Brazil. Calvert-Lewin missed the Everton preview at Old Trafford with an injury.
Factor in the major gaps in the squad – Everton, amazingly, still haven’t signed a right-back to offer competition to Seamus Coleman – and there is potential for this season to go wrong. And with Liverpool-legend Benitez at the helm, it could go spectacularly wrong.
In terms of positivity, Benitez brings heightened organization and conditioning compared to Ancelotti. A favorable fixture list certainly helps to boost morale and momentum as well.
Honestly, given the way things have gone at Everton in recent years, nothing would be a surprise.
Here’s hoping that come May, we will not be wishing it was another bad dream.
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