Everton decided to act in the wake of a terrible run of results by sacking director of football Marcel Brands ahead of Monday’s home clash with Arsenal (Match betting – Everton 11/4, draw 13/5, Arsenal Evens).
With six defeats in their last seven games – including a torrid 4-1 home loss to Merseyside rivals Liverpool last time out – the Toffees have plummeted down the Premier League table and are now 15th, just five points clear of the bottom three.
Boss Rafa Benitez was coming under pressure, but the club have opted to dispense with Brands instead, saying on Sunday night that the former Liverpool and Chelsea manager continues to have the owners’ and directors’ “full support”.
The Spanish coach knows he needs a win over the Gunners, who have carved out five wins from their last seven games, and when previewing the game in his pre-match press conference, talked about the need for togetherness at Goodison Park if they want to get out of the rut.
He said: “My experience is telling me to stay calm, to keep working hard, to try to correct the mistakes, then keep going. What we want is to stick together because that is crucial.”
His opposite number, Mikel Arteta, knows how difficult a place Goodison can be for visiting teams having played for the Blues for six years between 2005-11 and, despite their poor form, is ready for a tough night.
He said on the Arsenal website: “They are a team that wants to put things right and win, and on Monday night at Goodison I know what I am going to expect under the lights with the fans they have so it will be a tough game.
“There are a lot of teams that are going through that because this is a league that is so competitive that the moment you lose a game or two, the pressure is coming for everybody.
“It is no different there, obviously it’s a very special place to go back there because I had some amazing years there, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Everton, who are 8/1 to be relegated this season, are still set to be without key forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin and midfielder Andre Gomes, but defender Yerry Mina has returned to training and could feature for the first time since early October.
Salomon Rondon is doubtful with a hamstring injury, but Mason Holgate is available following suspension.
Arsenal (10/3 – Top-four finish) midfielder Bukayo Saka is in contention to start, having recovered from a minor injury but in-form Emile Smith Rowe will have a late fitness test on a groin injury, while Granit Xhaka and Sead Kolasinac remain sidelined.