Everton have taken their January spend to about £29m with the signing of Nathan Patterson from Rangers. With it, they have addressed two key areas for Rafael Benítez and finally delivered the money in his second transfer window. With it, the club will rightly demand their manager finally delivers a return of his own.
Patterson, a 20-year-old Scotland international, signed a five-and-a-half-year contract on Tuesday after Rangers accepted a deal worth about £11m. The right back was the subject of two failed Everton bids in the summer having been identified as a prime young target to challenge and ultimately succeed the 33-year-old Séamus Coleman, the selfless captain who continues to carry a substantial workload as well as heavy responsibility for a dysfunctional team.
“It was an easy choice to sign,” Patterson said. “This is a massive club with huge history and the fanbase is tremendous. Obviously we aren’t in the place where we want to be right now but we can definitely get there with the talent in the changing room and staff here, and I have full belief we can do that. It was also great for me knowing the manager really wanted me here and that made my decision. When a club really wants you, it makes your mind up early on. I wanted to come here from the very start.”
Patterson’s arrival follows that of the Ukraine international Vitaliy Mykolenko, the 22-year-old left-back who cost an initial £17.9m from Dynamo Kyiv and was unveiled before the home defeat by Brighton on Sunday. Time to adapt to the first transfers of their professional lives represents a luxury in Everton’s predicament, and one the manager is unable to afford.
Benítez wanted to strengthen both full-back positions and midfield this month, having spent £1.7m during his first window as Everton navigated Premier League profit and sustainability rules. He was unaware of just how tight the financial constraints would be when agreeing to become Farhad Moshiri’s fifth, and most controversial, permanent managerial appointment in June. Another necessary rebuild was delayed as big earners remained on the wage bill – until September in the case of £200,000-a-week James Rodríguez – and an extensive injury list that has included the outfield spine of the team has exposed the squad’s well-known limitations. The job, as Benítez has admitted, has been far harder than advertised or anticipated.
Yet Goodison Park is not a toxic, disillusioned place (a strange mix, admittedly) that boos Salomón Rondón simply because Benítez once managed Liverpool and dismissed Everton as a small club. Moshiri’s appointment was divisive, disregarded supporters’ emotional connection to their club and guaranteed patience would evaporate at the first sign of trouble. But a crowd that afforded Benítez a rapturous reception before his debut in August has turned for the simple, time-honoured reasons of results and performances. Both have been dire and while there have been legitimate excuses for the downward spiral (that Benítez has seized upon too readily), the manager has presented his detractors with several open goals after an encouraging start.
Brighton on Sunday was the worst example so far. Everton had a clear fortnight to prepare because of three consecutive postponements and Dominic Calvert-Lewin back after a four-month absence. Yet Benítez’s switch to a wing-back system sowed confusion and his choice of Coleman over Lucas Digne on the left was a self-defeating act of stubbornness. A fallout over tactics is believed to be behind Digne’s ostracism, with the manager wanting the creative France international to concentrate on his defending, although other, more basic factors may be at play. Digne is a sellable asset at a club that has few. And Benítez likes a tall full-back. At 5ft 10in and 6ft 1in respectively, Mykolenko and Patterson may not be mountainous but they bring more height to a weak backline than 5ft 9in Digne and 5ft 8in Coleman.
Everton head to Hull in the FA Cup on Saturday on the back of a dreadful run of eight defeats and one win from their past 11 Premier League games. A return of 19 points from 18 league games is the club’s lowest haul since 2005-06. On previous form Moshiri would have been expected to sack his manager by now. Instead he has backed him, and at considerable cost given Everton’s finances and the impact of the pandemic on the entire industry. Benítez needs to unearth evidence for the strong second half to the season that he has repeatedly promised, and quickly.