If there were any doubts before the season started, they’ve quickly been dispelled: Carlo Ancelotti is the right man to take Everton forward.
While the Italian manager may not have had the easiest of starts last season, coming into a fractured squad midway through a tough campaign, hard work and patience has started paying off as the Toffees got off to a fantastic start this time around.
Top of the Premier League at one point, Everton’s form might have dipped a bit over the past couple of games, but there’s no denying the mood has been lifted at Goodison Park, and it’s mostly down to Ancelotti.
When he first arrived, there was an air of disbelief on the blue side of Liverpool, as few would have expected such an iconic manager to take over from Marco Silva, especially with names such as Mikel Arteta also doing the rounds.
But, for the manager itself, it was a no brainer, as he explained in an interview with France Football.
He said: “My arrival was the result of a mixture of things. I only was in contact with Everton after being fired from Napoli. The day after I was dismissed, I got a phone call from Everton, who had been looking for a manager for a couple of weeks. I wanted to continue to work, and the idea was to come back to the Premier League. Everton were giving me that chance”.
Unlike Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain or even Bayern Munich, the expectations aren’t about regularly winning titles at Goodison Park, but for the team to be strongly competitive in all games and perhaps even the hope of European qualification when the season comes to a close.
Last in the Premier League while in charge at Chelsea in 2011, Ancelotti admits England’s top-tier has changed a bit, notably in the strength of the teams in the bottom half of the table.
He said: “All the team try and build from the back, especially the centre-backs. Technically, I feel the defences have improved. They take more risks in attack and that translates in getting the ball higher up the pitch. There are more goals coming from a high press. It creates more energy in a more advanced section of the field”.
Asked if it was harder to do that at Everton than at, let’s say, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, Ancelotti replied: “Regardless of the club, you have to take into account the history and tradition. In Milan, they were based on technical ability, so the clubs tried to bring players fitting that criteria. At Everton, the fans are very attentive at the players’ behaviour on the pitch. They want to see them fight. That’s something you need to take into account”.
His arrival at Goodison Park also allowed the club to attract a different type of player than what Toffees fans were used to in the past, with the likes of Allan and James Rodríguez moving to England to play under their former manager.
Regarding the Colombian, Ancelotti used him as the perfect example on why statistics aren’t the be all and end all when it comes to football.
He said: “We use them, especially in training, but I’m going to tell you something: when I signed James this summer, everyone was worried about his physical state and to see how he’d cope with the intensity of the Premier League. During the first four games, do you know how many times he shrined? Seven! He’s got more assists and goals than he did sprints. So what are we talking about? Of what we expect a player to do on the pitch?
“When I was at Milan, we brought in Ronaldo. At his arrival, he weighed 100kg. Before the first game, I told him: ‘You know I can’t play you. You need to lose weight’. He replied ‘What do you want me to do on the pitch? Score or run? If it’s to run, put me on the bench, if it’s to score, play me!’. I played him. He didn’t run, but he scored two goals. For James, it’s the same thing”.