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Ancelotti ambition invigorates Everton

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LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 18: Dominic Calvert-Lewin of Everton in action during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Everton FC at London Stadium on January 18, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Everton mid-season: awful start progress made by Matt TownsendIn the second part of my review of the season so far, let’s look at the reinvigorating impact of Carlo Ancelotti since he took over as Everton manager in mid-December.

When Ancelotti arrived there was a huge lift in morale amongst Everton supporters as we all blinked and pinched ourselves to make sure it was real and that such a previously unlikely coup had been pulled off by the club.

As for the team itself it was surely as eye-opening to see that the Toffees had secured the services of such a prestigious coach. Obviously I don’t know what went on in the dressing room, but I imagine that the players were also suitably impressed seeing who was now their boss.

So the question was how quickly would the new manager need before making a visible and significant impact on the team’s performance?

The Italian’s first Premier League game was at Goodison Park against Burnley on Boxing day. Although the Blues laboured somewhat to secure a 1-0 win, it was clear that Ancelotti was having an immediate impact straight away.

There was on the face of it no real change from the sides that Duncan Ferguson had established during his three matches in charge.

Ancelotti set out a 4-4-2 very similar to Ferguson’s sides. However there were subtle but important alterations on display.

In particular he adjusted the side’s defensive set-up. Ancelotti pushed the two full-backs, particularly Djibril Sidibe further forward and in line with his past tactics, and his back line shifted to a three when one or other full-back was breaking forward.

This allowed Sidibe the opportunity to provide the cross that led to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s winning goal.

Next up was a match away to Newcastle United. This was an important game as the Toffee’s chronic away-day problems had been a major reason for past failure and inconsistency.

The Blues went to St James Park and despite being pegged back to 1-1 after Calvert-Lewin had scored in the first half, they went on to win the game and claim a rare three points away.

So here was another small step on the road to recovery. Everton showed a degree of resilience and capacity to recover and win after a setback.

More games followed thick and fast and although the Toffees lost narrowly at Manchester City, there were continuing signs of progress.

However then came biggest setback with the horrendous FA cup defeat at Anfield, a result which underlined the deep-seated issues around mental strength the players have. It was also perhaps a necessary wake up call to the new manager showing how much work still needed to be done.

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Ancelotti didn’t panic and instead has continued to gradually mold the team in his image. The results have followed and Everton have picked up 17 points in the Premier League since Ancelotti joined the club.

It’s now becoming mathematically possible for the Toffees to qualify not just for Europe, but perhaps even the Champions League. We will see whether that is still the case after this upcoming run of fixtures is completed.

In related news, Ancelotti has been quoted saying he is already thinking of signing a contract extension at Everton and committing to even longer as Blues boss.

He is apparently really enjoying life at Goodison Park and would be ready to take the team forward beyond his current contract.

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All this represents great news for Evertonians and will hopefully give the club much-needed stability for the long-term.

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