A Merseyside derby represents a dangerous time for an Everton manager under pressure, as Marco Silva can attest.
The Portuguese was fired in early December 2019 after suffering a 5-2 drubbing at Liverpool, the final straw in a run of eight defeats in 11 Premier League games.
Two years later, almost to the day, Rafa Benitez finds himself in a similar predicament.
After making a promising start to his tenure, Benitez’s Everton hit a tailspin that he has been unable to arrest, taking just two points from their last seven top-flight matches.
As their free-scoring neighbours from across Stanley Park prepare to visit Goodison on Wednesday evening, it’s easy to see why the former Reds boss has been installed as the bookmakers’ favourite to be the next Premier League manager sacked.
“It’s a derby, a massive game, it’s different, it’s special and an opportunity for us to change things and improve everything for us for the rest of the season,” Benitez said.
“With a bad run of results it’s important to do well and three points could be a massive change in our season.”
It is not just the results – like Sunday’s defeat at fellow strugglers Brentford and the 5-2 home defeat by Watford – that have caused alarm at Everton.
The Toffees have lost their balance and forgotten how to score: they have now gone 294 minutes since finding the net in a top division fixture.
That predicament would turn up the heat on any manager; for a coach who was never wanted by some fans because of his strong Liverpool connections, however, it’s even less comfortable.
Supporters voiced their dissatisfaction to the hierarchy with a banner displayed at Brentford which read: “We demand Nil Satis Nisi Optimum [the club’s motto, meaning Nothing But The Best Is Good Enough], it’s about time our club did too.”
Everton and a high turnover of managers
Under their current ownership, Everton has not been a forgiving place for managers.
Since Farhad Moshiri acquired 49.9 per cent of the club in 2016, they have dispensed with five permanent coaches: Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce, Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti.
But they haven’t been so quick to sack mid-season. Allardyce and Ancelotti left at the end of a campaign and Martinez with just one game remaining, after results fell off a cliff.
Koeman’s Everton were in a slump similar to that which befell Marco Silva and is now afflicting Benitez when he was ushered out two months into his second season at the club.
So there is reason to think Benitez may get more time even if his old team – the league’s highest scorers by some distance, with 39 – deepen his misery on Wednesday night.
In the Spaniard’s defence, he has had to cope without Dominic Calvert-Lewin since the end of August.
The England striker scored three in three before suffering toe and thigh injuries. Without him, Everton have averaged less than a goal a game in the league.
“The fans understand we have had some issues. We have a better situation in terms of a number of injuries,” Benitez said.
“At the beginning of the season we were doing well, the connection of the players was really good and what we need to do is get back to this level.
“We have a bad run and now we need to start winning. A derby is an opportunity to put things right.”