Everton owner Farhad Moshiri has insisted Rafael Benitez would not be sacked and that the manager needed more time to turn results around.
Benitez took the job at Goodison Park knowing he would be in for a tough time but even the savvy former Liverpool boss could not have expected his job to be under threat after less than four months.
However, a 4-1 Merseyside derby humbling on Wednesday night extended their winless run to eight Premier League matches – their worst sequence since 1999 – and only two points in that time has left them 14th in the table, just five points above the bottom three.
Despite his Red connections, Benitez has largely escaped aggravation from the Goodison crowd and even when Diogo Jota lashed in Liverpool’s fourth with 11 minutes to go, supporters’ anger was primarily directed at those above him with chants of “Sack the board”.
At the final whistle both chairman Bill Kenwright and director of football Marcel Brands were targeted for abuse by those fans who had not left early, but while the supporters may be angry with the club’s failure to progress under the ownership of billionaire Moshiri, it is invariably the manager who carries the can.
In the summer Benitez was the choice of Moshiri, who it is understood will attend Monday’s now pivotal visit of Arsenal. He remains confident things will turn around once he has the likes of striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin and centre-back Yerry Mina fit – and Moshiri agrees.
“Football is about crisis one day and glory the following day. Rafa is a good manager and underperformance is largely due to the injuries,” Moshiri told talkSPORT on Thursday.
“(Over the) 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 over £500million on players since arriving in 2016 and the club appear to be worse off.
Benitez said: “The difference is we are selling players and making big profits and investing the money so in our case you cannot blame the owner for spending money.
“I have been in Newcastle and the owner wasn’t spending money. In January, hopefully the team are not depending on two or three players coming back as we are at the moment.
“January is a difficult window and there are not too many players available but when you have money to spend, you have to do it properly.”
Benitez is clinging to the hope the effort his players are putting in will somehow get them through as he is seriously short of quality while he awaits the return of Calvert-Lewin, who has not played since August 28 because of a thigh problem.
“I think it is important to understand what you are expecting when I came here,” he added.
“Everyone was telling me the fans are expecting the players will give everything.
“Then after that you have to compare this team missing three key players (Calvert-Lewin, Mina and the recently-returned Abdoulaye Doucoure).
“Any team missing three key players for a period of time – players who were scoring goals last season – and making mistakes in defence will lose.
“The only way for us is to get these players coming back and recover mentally.
“I still have confidence we can do well.”
Fans’ anger saw the Merseyside derby briefly stopped after Everton supporters in the Gwladys Street section threw bottles and other items into Alisson Becker’s penalty area in the second half. One fan even invaded the pitch to remonstrate with players.
The PA news agency understands the Football Association is aware of the incidents and will be looking into them.