Everton will start the 2021/22 Premier League campaign under their new manager of Rafael Benitez. Benitez, formerly of Liverpool, has replaced Carlo Ancelotti at Goodison Park, so unsurprisingly there has been a lot of animosity from the fans.
Carlo Ancelotti led his troops well, and after initially looking primed to finish in the top six, the Toffees fell flat in the second half of the campaign and ended 10th in the league table.
The Toffees underachieved, considering the pool of players Ancelotti had at his disposal. Benitez, a very experienced manager, has an uphill task of turning the tables at Goodison Park, but first of all, he has to win over the fans.
So far under the Spanish tactician, Everton have signed Demarai Gray from Bayer Leverkusen, whilst adding Andros Townsend and Asmir Begovic on free transfers from Crystal Palace and Bournemouth respectively. He still has time to assess his new squad and identify areas that need reinforcing before the Toffees start the new season at home to Southampton on August 14.
That being said, here are three things Benitez needs to help Everton challenge for a place in the top six.
#1 A solid centre-back
Everton struggled defensively last season, shipping in 48 goals in 38 games. Centre-backs Michael Keane and Mason Holgate failed to put in consistent performances, while Yerry Mina again endured an injury-curtailed campaign.
Ben Godfrey was the rare bright spark in the Toffees’ defence, with the Englishman also proving his versatility by operating at full-back positions when needed.
Thus, it is clear to see the need for a solid, robust centre-half at Goodison Park and Benitez must try recruiting one as quickly as possible.
#2 An injury-free squad
The Everton squad of last campaign was plagued by injuries, which directly affected Ancelotti’s plans and gave him very few opportunities to put out his strongest XI on the pitch.
All of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, James Rodriguez, Lucas Digne, Allan, Yerry Mina and Seamus Coleman missed large chunks of the season through injury and the Toffees might well have proved more of a threat for a place in Europe if these key players remained fit.
Benitez needs a squad that is injury-free and consistent to compete for a spot in the top six. And for that to happen, he and his coaching staff including the club’s medical team will need to start working round the clock from now on.
#3 Competition for Dominic Calvert-Lewin
The Toffees have strengthened their wide department with the additions of Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend. Now, Benitez must turn his focus towards providing some competition and cover for chief striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Calvert-Lewin was Everton’s top scorer last season with 21 goals in 39 games. In addition to him suffering hamstring problems in February, goals became tough to come by. Richarlison continued doing his job well from one side but couldn’t really help the England international get back his form.
Joshua King failed to make much of an impact after his January move from Bournemouth and has been rightly released, while Moise Kean, who spent the last season on loan with Paris Saint-Germain, is eyed by Inter Milan (h/t The Liverpool Echo) as a replacement for Chelsea-bound Romelu Lukaku.
Therefore, Benitez must prioritise signing a reliable option alongside Calvert-Lewin up front if he is to achieve a top-six finish with the Toffees.