A lot of changes have been made around the club since the Toffees last took the pitch for a Premier League fixture. Not least among them was the departure of manager Carlo Ancelotti for Real Madrid and the subsequent hiring of Rafael Benítez as his replacement.
Even by the standards of a club that is prone to strange summers, it has been an outlandish offseason at times for the blue half of Merseyside.
In many ways, tomorrow is an opportunity for Benítez to begin to put a whole lot of questions to bed. On the other hand, it feels as though the occasion could serve as an igniter.
The reality of the situation is that the collective leash that Everton fans have for Benítez is rather short. The justness of that matter has been debated at great lengths, but the discourse has not seemed to change the present reality.
Because of the negative feelings around the club at the moment, the start that Benítez guides his team to is especially important.
Of course, it is entirely possible for teams to overcome a poor start or fade after a strong one. Given the heightened emotions among the fanbase, it does feel as though Everton’s first six league fixtures have the potential to serve as a real barometer for how the season will unfold.
Everton’s First Six Opponents
Everton’s first six Premier League matches of the season are as follows: Southampton (H), Leeds (A), Brighton (A), Burnley (H), Aston Villa (A), Norwich (H). Mixed in with the league fixtures is an EFL Cup matchup on the road against Huddersfield.
Just a season ago, Everton hit the ground running by winning their first seven matches of the season. That run included four league fixtures as well as three EFL cup ties.
Expecting an exact replica in 2021-22 is probably unrealistic. However, a similarly positive start would be a great way to build optimism and forward momentum around the club.
For a team like Everton, the ideal next step is to begin challenging the established order of the “big six” by qualifying for Europe, as Leicester City have done in recent seasons. Everton’s opening six fixtures are a perfect measuring stick for this target.
A positive start is a chance to get off on the right foot against your most immediate rivals. A negative start threatens a loss of ground prior to a clash with any real title contenders.
In the eyes of the fans, the margin for error for Rafa Benítez is going to be slim to none. However, he will have been well aware of this when he accepted the position of Everton manager.
In Benítez’s pre-match press conference ahead of the opener against Southampton, he touched upon what he wants his Everton team to look like.
What will Benitez's #EFC look like?
"When I say winning mentality, it is just to give everything on the pitch. I've seen teams come here and struggle with the intensity."
— Patrick Boyland (@Paddy_Boyland) August 13, 2021
Instilling a never-say-die attitude would be a step in the right direction after a home stretch in 2020-21 in which desire was clearly lacking.
Such a shift could come with additional signings before the end of the summer window, or from more time spent with the manager. It could also not come at all.
Either way, a mentality shift like that is not something that will happen overnight. This is why Everton’s opening stretch of the season is incredibly important.
In order to buy himself the time and the goodwill needed to realize his vision for the club, Benítez simply must guide his team to a positive start.
If he fails to do so, an already tenuous relationship could sour very quickly. No pressure, Rafa.
Use the Promo code “couchguy20” or “LLP” at Manscaped.com. Grab some of the best tools in men’s below the belt grooming. Furthermore, using the code you’ll get 20% off of your order AND free shipping. Help out the site and help out yourself by buying some products from Manscaped TODAY.
Tired of soreness and pain slowing you and your workouts down? Change that. Melt stress away anytime, anywhere with the ExoGun. Designed to give you the ultimate recovery utilizing percussive therapy and deep tissue massage, it will change your recovery life FOREVER. Follow this link (Exogun) for 10% off or use code promo code CGS10 at checkout!
– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)
Featured image courtesy of @Everton.