Rafa Benitez teases James Rodriguez as Everton learns a £100 million transfer lesson from Ronald Koeman.
Rafa Benitez will have recognized the irony.
He was scarcely spoiled for game-changing options that night, since he was granted the option of making four replacements instead of three.
The Blues were given an extra change thanks to Aston Villa’s application of the concussion sub rule. Benitez did, but it was merely a token gesture late in the game.
Indeed, with Villa Park filling up with Evertonians, he brought on Jonjoe Kenny and Tom Davies to give two others a respite at 3-0 down.
At any moment throughout the 11-minute span in which the game went from 0-0 to 3-0, the players who could have made a difference were either injured or left at home.
Except for Ellis Simms, who had only returned to training this week after months out injured, he’d already done his best in introducing Andre Gomes and Anthony Gordon, but the game they’d been supposed to change had gotten away from Everton in less than 15 minutes.
Benitez has been questioned about his persistent omission of James Rodriguez, but if the manager prefers to enter a game with eight subs rather than nine, it indicates a major breakdown in the Colombian’s relationship at Finch Farm.
It was what he didn’t say in his response that hinted at a schism in their understanding of what it means to be fit and accessible.
But, with or without James, this was a night that showed the frail condition of Everton’s roster. It’s debatable how much Rodriguez, who would have played in his first game of the season, could have accomplished.
Because once the first-choice starting XI and a few of subs are removed, the squad is depleted.
But we both knew it, as did Benitez.
You can see why he kept repeating the term “one game at a time” even as Everton’s unbeaten start grew.
He wasn’t going to get carried away.
Of course, he must be concerned by the manner in which Villa scored three soft goals in a short period of time, because he would have expected more given the way his players had previously responded to setbacks.
But he’s been in long enough. “The summary has come to an end.”