After the haphazard sacking of Marco Silva, Everton were linked with a clutch of names to replace him with, foreign and domestic, young and inexperienced to grizzly veterans.
Overall there was an expectation that the Blues would go to an up-and-coming manager that had cut his milk teeth elsewhere and was looking to make a step up to a side just outside the Premier League top six. Look at the last five managers the Toffees turned to - David Moyes from Preston North End, Roberto Martinez from Wigan Athletic, Ronald Koeman from Southampton, Marco Silva from Hull City and Watford FC, and the relegation-fighting aberration known as Sam Allardyce.
However, Everton seemed to toss that narrative right out of the window with their big money pursuit of Carlo Ancelotti once he was relieved of his duties at Napoli. And to no one’s real surprise, the establishment did not fail to notice and castigate the Blues, saying they need to stay in their lane and bide their time, or some other words to that effect.
Not that Ancelotti is a sure bet despite his storied past - Champions League trophies, league titles all over Europe, Cup triumphs every where, a CV that is a who’s who of European football: Napoli, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris St. Germain, Chelsea, AC Milan, and Juventus, and a successful playing career before that to boot.
Indeed, as many supporters have duly noted, any manager comes with risks, so then why not take a shot with the manager that gives you the best risk-reward balance especially if he is being bankrolled by majority shareowner Farhad Moshiri (and mega-billionaire Alisher Usmanov, if you like conspiracy theories)?
Mainstream media however mostly took a different view, as the headlines below will show.
‘Will starstruck Everton never learn? Carlo Ancelotti is a vanity project and only serves to satisfy Farhad Moshiri’s appetite for fine things in life’
- Dominic King in the Daily Mail, 17 December 2019
‘Carlo Ancelotti to Everton is football royalty at a dysfunctional club’
- Matt Dickinson in the Times, 19 December 2019
‘Ancelotti is not the coach Arsenal or Everton need right now’
- Oliver Kay in the Athletic, 11 December 2019
‘Everton need a reality check: Moyes is the best they can get’
- Mark Ogden, in ESPN FC, 11 December 2019
Granted that RBM has also published it’s own fair share of skeptical opinions regarding Ancelotti’s ‘fit’ for the role at Goodison, but to hear mainstream media putting us down is definitely frustrating and plays right into the ‘plucky little Everton’ mindset that the rest of the footballing world has labeled us with.
Let’s put it this way, we might have a dysfunctional Board and disillusioned supporters, but they’re our dysfunctional Board and disillusioned supporters, and we reserve the right as fans to present a united front to the rest of the world, while asking pertinent questions internally.
What has been excessive is the unnecessary eye-rolling and overtly negative tones that most of these articles are taking. And while some of the journalists quoted in this piece have claimed that they did not write the headlines for the articles they penned, that ‘attitude’ does carry in their words too. There has been little attempt to balance out the reaction to Ancelotti’s appointment, virtually no focusing on possible positives while continuing to insist that the sky yet again will soon be falling down at Goodison Park, and hey, they warned us didn’t they?
Sample this selection of sentences -
Yet appointing Ancelotti would be another sign that Moshiri never learns. There is excitement among Evertonians about the prospect of the 60-year-old turning up at Goodison Park but their club is at a juncture where no more mistakes can be made.
You may have read Matt Barlow’s excellent analysis of Ancelotti last week and he articulated why he is not a man to rebuild and revamp a club. Ancelotti applies the finishing touches and makes top players feel a million dollars. He doesn’t drag listing clubs into the elite.
None of this seems to matter to Moshiri, who is pursuing Ancelotti with stars in his eyes. It is the equivalent of rushing out before Christmas to buy the most expensive piece of tinsel when you haven’t got a tree.
- Dominic King (Daily Mail)
There is a similar plot-twist buzz to the idea of Ancelotti at Everton, a manager who is probably in his Wenger-2009 phase now, the age of venerable decline, but who would still be the grandest managerial hire in Everton’s history.
Mainly, though, what we have here is further evidence of the brittle, undercooked, essentially laughable nature of so much of the Premier League’s front-of-house management. This is the second thing. It seems a minor detail by now. But the fact remains, there is no tangible evidence to support the idea either of these hires will actually work.
Ancelotti is a celebrity appointment of a different kind. In 23 years he has never really managed a club at Everton’s current level, and wouldn’t be on the verge of doing so if a more established job had come up.
- Barney Ronay (The Guardian)
The Champions League has always seemed like Ancelotti’s natural habitat, but it is not just a question of whether he would lower himself to a club who are outside of the elite. It is a question of whether a coach of his “profile”, to use the word coming out of Arsenal, would be the right fit for clubs whose overwhelming need right now is for fresh ideas, a fresh vision and fresh energy before they can even think about starting to compete for major trophies again.
- Oliver Kay (The Athletic)
It’s not all negative though, mercifully. While there are heavy lashings of skepticism throughout, primarily at the way the club is being run, Paul Joyce is impressed by Everton aiming for the stars.
Everton is a club in need of direction from top to bottom and it would be interesting to gauge the thoughts of Marcel Brands, the director of football, on the prospective appointment because the route in which they are now proceeding seems a deviation from what the Dutchman was brought in to oversee 18 months ago.
Is Brands going to tell Ancelotti which players he can and cannot buy? What remit does Brands have when it appears the agent Kia Joorabchian is working almost in an advisory capacity for Moshiri.
- Paul Joyce (The Times)
Martin Samuel at the Daily Mail however has fully bought in to the idea that Ancelotti is a good direction for the Toffees to take.
If Everton renew their interest this January, they now have a unique selling point: three Champions League titles, the domestic crown in Italy, England, France and Germany, four domestic cups, three European Super Cups and the Club World Cup twice. Against nearly winning promotion with Derby and looking smart sitting next to Pep Guardiola.
So the only question, really, is why not? If Everton can get Ancelotti, why not? If Everton can change their status overnight, why not?
Bringing in Ancelotti shows they mean business, just as it did when Leicester recruited Brendan Rodgers, or Tottenham replaced Mauricio Pochettino with Jose Mourinho. It does not guarantee success but it sends a message about where Everton want to go.
No club that employs Ancelotti is happy treading water.
- Martin Samuel (Daily Mail)
Again, while Ancelotti’s body of work may not have shown that he can transform Everton, the fact that a veteran manager wants to take on this role certainly does mean that he is willing to take up the challenge. What also needs to be kept in mind is that indications are that the Italian’s contract is heavily incentive-based, that is, the king’s ransom he will be making will have to be earned based on performance-related achievements, which is the right way for Everton to go.
Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail gets it right again -
The worst to be said is that Ancelotti is only coming for the money and has no real ambition for the club. In which case, it is on him, not them. They are taking the man at his word, that he wants to do his best for Everton.
And if his promises are false, if he arrives disengaged and marking time until a better offer comes along, it will reflect poorly on the individual, not the club.
- Martin Samuel (Daily Mail)
A couple of the articles mentioned above also go into Ancelotti’s philosophy as a manager, but that is best articulated by this snippet from an interview he did a few years ago.
When he was at Bayern, I asked Ancelotti what his football philosophy was: pic.twitter.com/xNrMJqXPT3— Simon Evans (@sgevans) December 20, 2019
There is also the perception that is touched on often that Ancelotti can only manage teams that are about 90% there, and not necessarily rebuild-from-the-ground-up projects. Again, that is entirely possible, but it is not going to be that different from how he made his name early on in his managerial career at AC Milan.
While the quality level is different - the situation at Everton is not dissimilar to that of the 2001 Milan. A collection of good players but with no real identity as a team and no clear system of play. It many ways the task is classic Ancelotti territory.— Simon Evans (@sgevans) December 20, 2019
Motivation, ambition and resources aside, there might still be concerns purely around the loss of players’ faith in him that occurred in his last two stops at Bayern and Napoli. There may have been extenuating circumstances for both, but they do look like a manager who has gotten bored and disillusioned and can’t be bothered anymore.
Whether that is what really happened we will never know, but it does appear the Everton Board have taken that into consideration and are looking to compensate him enough to prevent that.
While trying to warn the Everton fans, Matt Barlow in the Daily Mail inadvertently makes the case for why he should be the kind of manager Everton should be interested in, one who is more like Marco Silva in his relations with the players than a disciplinarian like Ronald Koeman or simply aloof and tactically insolent like Sam Allardyce.
Ancelotti speaks English fluently and is experienced in the Premier League.
Ancelotti is a calm and kind coach, a friend of the players rather than a dictator, whose greatest asset was perhaps to cajole egos and bring the best out of his best players.
He is not heavy on instruction. He does not drive his players hard on the training ground. There is no iron rod.
- Matt Barlow (Daily Mail)
Media bias against teams outside the top six like Everton is about 60% figment of the imagination and 20% circumstances, but the remaining 20% is most certainly grounded in reality. And articles in mainstream media do tend to take on the “how did they dare”, “the sheer temerity of the Blues”, and “who do they think they are” attitude. When Everton comprehensively beat a top six side the talk in the media is always “Sky-Six-team lost to Everton”, and rarely ever “Everton beat Sky-Six-team”.
Here’s a sample.
I find myself thinking the guy who’s never managed before is a great appointment and the guy who’s won three Champions Leagues is a bit of a risk and I wonder if maybe my logic has got a bit contorted somewhere along the way.— Rory Smith (@RorySmith) December 21, 2019
As Matthew on the RBM team so eloquently put it -
“I feel if we appointed Arteta and Arsenal appointed Ancelotti it would be ‘great appointment by Arsenal’ and ‘another flawed appointment by Everton’.”
However, if Ancelotti can turn fortunes around at Everton like his countryman Roberto Mancini did a decade ago at Manchester City, it’s the Toffees who will be having the last laugh at just about everyone else.