it's fairly obvious that the squad is in poor shape. scattergun recruitment, profligate wage bills, a bad run of injuries, and all the rest. anyone who comes in still has all of that to deal with.
the point of brands was to sort that out, and arguably he's improved the situation with shedding the bulk of the deadwood, and managing that around stupid buying patterns (and who knows who was actually behind those - could be brands, kenwright, moshiri, managers...). however, he's not improved it enough and we're in poor condition.
as to how the team are playing... oddly, i didn't think we were out of the game last night until seamus' silly mistake. against brentford, we kept on going and attacking, but we didn't have the cutting edge we needed to actually score. our lack of goalscoring threat up top with richarlison and calvert-lewin out (and not having doucoure making things happen in the middle of the pitch hasn't helped), and trying to play rondon back into fitness hasn't helped.
otherwise, our defence is arguably the thing that's been causing us the most problems - too many mistakes, terrible organisation, getting caught out too often. keane doesn't organise the defence, godfrey's been struggling post-covid, digne's all over the place at the moment, and seamus should really have been replaced years back. mina comes back in for keane and that'll help once he's back up to speed if only in height terms, but otherwise our defence is poor and has been for several seasons.
as always, we're praying on the kids to save the day and make a name for themselves - but they can't do that unless they get onto the pitch. gordon's taken his chance but is still learning but he's hampered by those around him. i'd love to see the likes of dobbin and ellis get a bit of time to show what they can do but even then the issues are really behind them and i doubt branthwaite, godfrey and holgate can fix that. i'd keep godfrey, send branthwaite out on loan, and sell/replace the rest myself. i've not heard much about how nkounkou is doing over at liege, mind you.
so, realistically, what can benitez do? what would his replacement be able to do differently? imo, nothing will change without recruitment, and we need badly new bodies in defence. if the kids aren't playing here, they need to go out on loan.
the only thing in my head that would suggest that we should look at replacing benitez is if his coaching isn't improving anything or making a difference. at the start of the season, we looked great. currently, our defence looks like they've never met before, we're struggling to keep players fit and injury-free, and those injuries have severely impacted our performances. for me, then, the jury is out - if, once everyone's fit and we're still leaky at the back and failing to score, then you've got to look at coaching and tactics (and as for coaching - how much is the manager, how much the coaching staff around him? who knows?). otherwise, this feels like squad depth/recruitment issues (again) rather than managerial, and the fact that the last five or six managers have also struggled with the squad implies changing the manager would do nothing.
tl;dr version: keep him, and hope we can recruit a new defence sooner rather than later