Benitez needs to think creatively to solve Everton problems

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: Rafael Benitez, Manager of Everton ahead of the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton at Molineux on November 01, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: Rafael Benitez, Manager of Everton ahead of the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton at Molineux on November 01, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /

Rafa Benitez has some big decisions to make as he begins to consider what team he will pick when Everton face Tottenham on Sunday.

This match is going to be another hugely pressured occasion and it’s hard to imagine what might happen if Everton lose yet again against Spurs.

There are though no quick fixes and ultimately it doesn’t matter who you pick to play and how they line up if there’s no commitment and character from the individual players in the side.

But, let’s try and find some slivers of hope and optimism and consider whether there are any changes that might make a difference.

In the last two matches, the manager has made crucial mistakes with his team selection. In particular on Monday night at Wolves he persisted with a central midfield two including a player who hadn’t played a full match for over two years in Jean-Philippe Gbamin.

I wanted Gbamin to get a chance to play, but in a three-man midfield where he would have the extra body to help and support him. His lack of match time and fragile confidence were fully evident, he was exposed and I’m not sure the player we originally signed will ever fully return.

Just like against Watford but even more starkly at Molineux, with just two in midfield including one way off the pace, the Blues’ got overrun far too easily in that critical part of the pitch.

It was telling and a little bizarre that Fabian Delph proved the difference when he came on in the second half. It comes to something that a player who has himself hardly played and shown little commitment to the Toffees, was arguably the best individual on the pitch in the end.

He kept it simple and did what was needed to get a grip of the flow of things in the centre of the park and it stabalized the situation to some extent.

So, as we approach the Spurs game I think Benitez simply has to prioritise making this Everton side harder to beat and that means reverting to a 4-3-3 with a midfield of say Allan, Gbamin and Delph.

Or Benitez might consider Tom Davies. He’s a limited player but I think he can do that deeper sitting role perhaps allowing Allan and Delph or Gbamin to provide better defensive cover and also get forward a bit more at times.

The other area requiring some major improvement is obviously that defence. I don’t know what exactly is the problem with defending set-pieces whether it’s the system itself or the players or both, but the Blues’ have to do better on Sunday or we’ll almost certainly be looking at another loss. You can’t consistently win football games if you give away soft goals week after week.

Although it seems very unlikely, we can only hope and pray that Yerry Mina is fit by the weekend or else it’s hard to imagine this backline not letting in at least one goal minimum.

But, given that he almost certainly won’t be available on Sunday then I assume Benitez will have to continue with Mason Holgate and Micheal Keane at centre-back.

Then we come to the full-backs. I thought that perhaps Ben Godfrey would be able to recover some form and confidence being at left-back again where he thrived last season.

However, there was no evidence of that against Wolves. Maybe he can and will improve, but at the moment he looks a pale shadow of the energetic, powerful young defender we saw a few months ago.

But, at this stage there’s still no certainty that Lucas Digne will be fit for the weekend so he might be playing there again – afterall there’s no other specialist left-back in the squad after Everton allowed Niels Nkounkou to leave on loan!

As for right-back where Seamus Coleman was again awful, perhaps Benitez should take a chance and try something different like possibly playing Andros Townsend there. He has got Jonjo Kenny but doesn’t seem convinced with him and had the youngster get up as if to come on and then sit down again on Monday night!

Modern full-backs are basically wide attacking players anyway these days and as I’ve said before Townsend is an experienced, hard-working player who will track back and cover defensively so perhaps he could come in and do that job.

And, if Benitez opted for a 4-3-3 he would have the extra body in midfield so in theory giving his full-backs cover and more freedom to get forward. This might work with Demarai Gray who naturally likes to come inside taking a defender away and allowing Townsend to overlap.

Up front I would be tempted to give Anthony Gordon a start who was good and positive when he came on against Wolves. Surely he’s done enough to merit a proper chance and I’d think about teaming him with Richarlison and Gray in a front three.

Well, all these possibilties are surely worth considering as Benitez tries to find a way to get something out of these chronically underperforming footballers on Sunday.