Realistically, the Carlo Ancelotti tenure couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. With the injuries facing Everton, six points from the first two matches, regardless of the specifics, was an outstanding achievement.
Now he faces the third of the holiday period matches, a trip to a (relatively) struggling Manchester City. Despite City’s underwhelming form, Pep Guardiola’s side remains among the most talented in the Premier League, and it’s a huge ask for Everton and Ancelotti to get a positive result here.
Because it’s the third match in seven days for Everton, squad rotation will be the key once again. I’m making two assumptions for this week’s projected XI:
- No player is going to start all three of the matches in this period, so anyone who started both against Burnley and Newcastle won’t start against City.
- Carlo wouldn’t ever admit it, but I don’t think he’s going to particularly care about the outcome of this match given that the Liverpool FA Cup fixture is this weekend. Given the option to rest important players here or go for a result at the Etihad, I think the Italian will choose the former.
Tactics and Formation
Given the players still missing in the center of midfield, any tactical approach against Manchester City other than “sit deep and counter often” is probably suicidal, so that’s the assumption I’ll move forward with for this match.
As for the formation, it’ll be primarily a function of which players meet the criteria of (1) above, and how they fit together in a way that can retain a sense of defensive solidity. In my mind, that most likely means a basic 4-4-2.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne- 8/10
Leighton Baines did a fine job again when called upon this week, but Digne remains the preferred player, and played only in the Burnley match so far this week. As long as he’s healthy (which I recognize isn’t a sure thing), he’ll start.
Yerry Mina - 10/10
Mason Holgate got the start while Mina rested against Newcastle — I suspect now the inverse will be true.
Michael Keane - 8/10
Keane looked lost in the first half of the Newcastle match, but recovered reasonably well in the second half, succeeding in somewhat managing the aerial threat of Andy Carroll for most of the match. It’ll be a much different challenge against Manchester City, though.
Seamus Coleman - 9/10
Djibril Sidibe started both matches in this period, so Coleman looks the obvious choice to slot in at right-back for this match.
Tom Davies - 10/10
Fabian Delph - 9/10
Gylfi Sigurdsson has looked a new man under Ancelotti so far, but he’s also done a ton of running, making it very unlikely he’ll start here. Look for Ancelotti to rest the Icelander ahead of the big match against Liverpool this weekend.
Bernard - 9/10
Theo Walcott - 9/10
Moise Kean - 9/10
He has still yet to score for Everton, but the Newcastle match was definitely Kean’s best for the Toffees, and he’ll likely get another shot in the City match. Look for him to get in behind the suspect City central defensive pairing on the counter.
Cenk Tosun - 7/10
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - It might seem crazy not to start Calvert-Lewin given his form, but putting more wear-and-tear on the young striker ahead of the Liverpool match this weekend just seems unwise.
Richarlison - The Brazilian has done a lot of running in every game he’s played so far, look for him to get a break and possibly come on for Bernard with half an hour to go.
Much as was the case for the Newcastle match, I’ve made a fair number of assumptions here based on what I think Carlo’s attitude toward squad rotation will be. I think they’re relatively safe assumptions, but one can never be sure!