Benitez admits key area Everton were ‘short’ in after losing unbeaten start

Date published: Saturday 18th September 2021 9:44 - Samuel Bannister

Everton boss Rafael Benitez clapping the fans after beating Southampton at Goodison Park

Rafael Benitez reflected on his lack of squad depth after Everton suffered their first defeat of his reign in a 3-0 loss to Aston Villa.

Everton competed for large portions of the game but a nine-minute window saw Villa pull away with it. Matty Cash opened the scoring before Lucas Digne headed into his own net a corner from Leon Bailey, who went on to score Villa’s third as well.

It thus ended Everton’s unbeaten start under Benitez as they felt the effects of a number of absences. For example, Jordan Pickford, Seamus Coleman, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin would all normally be regular starters but were unavailable.

Thus, after the game, Benitez was left ruing the lack of fresh legs he could turn to as the game drifted away despite a decent beginning.

“I think that we started the game quite well,” he said. “We had a lot of situations on the counter in the first half and the final decision was not right.

“We had a couple of chances in the second half then conceded and again soon after. We started with too many problems but the team was fighting well.

“Sometimes if you have players you can make situations and have fresh legs. In some positions we were short of legs.

“Salomon Rondon, Demarai Gray, Alex Iwobi, we had some situations where it could have been different.

“We made mistakes too soon, too early, too close and it was difficult to react. Hopefully we can manage that in the future.”

Benitez then confirmed it would be “at least one or two weeks minimum, we have to see” before Pickford, Richarlison and Coleman can return.

Benitez reiterates need for time

Everton knew that their unbeaten start to the season would not last forever, although it did restore some optimism after a mixed reaction to Benitez’s appointment.

He was keen to reiterate, though, that this transition is a long-term process.

“What we cannot forget about us is that we are a team who finished 10th last season with a new manager,” Benitez said.

“What we did in the window was for reasons everyone knows. We need time to improve, time to work together and I am happy because the commitment of the players is there for everyone to see.

“It’s too early for me as a manager. You have to adapt, change things and improve.

“If you win everyone will have more confidence but our starting point is what it is. Today is an example we can compete, even missing players, but we have to always do right if we want to stay there (near the top of the table).

“We will have situations where we will do better and situations where maybe we cannot. I’m confident we can do it but the players will do their best and hopefully we can cope.”

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