Despite the recent defeat to Chelsea, most Everton fans are confident that the right man is in the dugout at Goodison Park. Ancelotti’s contract runs until 2024, and there is a sense that he will leave the club in better shape, at least in footballing terms, than how he found it.
The nice run The Blues had over Christmas and January feels like it has petered out, however. Nobody knows what’s going to happen with regards to coronavirus and the fixtures. Still, it seems we can draw some similarities to Manchester United’s appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last year (yes, they are from very different managerial worlds).
No, the parallels come from the fact that both Solskjaer and Ancelotti lifted their teams after in the initial appointment, showing that there were at least some bright spots to build upon. Reality kicks in, however, and a realisation that there is work to be done.
Chance to Prepare for Next Season
Everton are currently 20/1 in the football betting markets at 888sport to finish in the Top 6, but a more sober reality is the 11/20 for a Top 10 finish. That’s not a price that suggests the bookmakers have confidence in the Toffees. Most Everton fans are sick of hearing this, but it is again a case of looking to next year and making some personnel changes.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that the first team requires a complete overhaul, or that such drastic measures will be taken. Ancelotti, for all the rich talent he has managed in the past, seems a patient sort. And, the suggestion that he will sign two or three players in the summer seems about right. Indeed, plenty of fans will be hoping to see some movement the other way, getting deadwood off the hefty wage bill.
In terms of areas where Ancelotti will be looking at, “mobility” should appear most prominently in the transfer word bubble. It’s been a constant theme at Goodison for years, and fans are crying out to see it on all parts of the pitch. Of course, you can see the train of thought there with players like Walcott and Iwobi, but it hasn’t really worked out so far. Moreover, it is about more than having mobility on the wings, as anyone who has watched Michael Keane will testify. The legless midfield against Chelsea was also worrying.
As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see if a partnership can be formed between Fabian Delph and André Gomes. The former hasn’t really got going yet due to illness and injury, whereas the latter is arguably the first name on any Everton fan’s teamsheet. Injury has blighted Delph’s career, but he has shown enough to be given a chance. Nobody likes to call an entire season a dead rubber, but we have the luxury over the coming months to provide Delph with that opportunity.
Pickford Looks Jaded
Everton’s goalkeeping situation is a strange one. Jordan Pickford’s problems are not insurmountable, but it feels like he needs to take a step back. The possibility that he loses his England place going into Euro 2020 is a real one, and one fears that you end up with a situation like what happened with Joe Hart. A suitable back up must be found in the summer if Pickford, giving Ancelotti the option of dropping Pickford for a while if he feels it is needed.
Upfront, to be sure, Everton look strong. The fear for many fans was that Richarlison was sold for big money and that the cash would be reinvested haphazardly similar to the Lukaku sale. The fact he has signed a long-term contract and is forging a partnership with Calvert-Lewin feels like the right step for player and club.
Perhaps what we are looking for is a quiet revolution engineered by Ancelotti. A knee-jerk reaction of new signings and clear-outs does not feel right for Everton. The first-team squad feels like it needs streamlining, a smart reboot; not sledge-hammered. We can never be sure, but it seems that Ancelotti is aware of this fact.