So far, so good for Don Carlo and the L4 Azzurri Toffees.
Few fans would believe you if you said at the start of the December that Everton would end the month in the top half of the table with Carlo Ancelotti in the dugout, yet here we are.
In this tightly-packed Premier League two wins can make a huge difference so those victories against Burnley and Newcastle have dragged Everton up to 10th.
We are still closer to the bottom than the top, but for the first time in weeks we can start looking up rather than down.
Ancelotti has admitted he has done little more than tweak the team’s tactics given the little time he has had on the training ground with them. But his formations, tactics and substitutions have undoubtedly played a key role in the last two games, building on the platform given to him by Duncan Ferguson.
The next two matches away at the two best sides in the country may prove to be a reality check, but at least we can go there with confidence after a hugely encouraging few weeks.
After two seasons of utter domestic domination, Manchester City are finally showing signs of fallibility.
Granted, Liverpool’s exceptional form accentuates City’s struggles, but Pep Guardiola’s side do not look like the rampant footballing machine of recent years.
The result is patchy league form that has seen them lose five games already, meaning they go into the new year a huge 14 points behind leaders Liverpool having played a game more.
Unsurprisingly, Guardiola has already talked about planning a title charge next season.
Injuries have played a key part in that downturn, the loss of Aymeric Laporte to a season-ending injury combined with the summer departure of Vincent Kompany has left them short at the back, with 34-year-old midfielder Fernandinho filling in on occasion. Leroy Sane hasn’t featured since the Community Shield while the likes of David Silva, John Stones and Sergio Aguero have all had extended spells on the sidelines.
They do still, however, have a formidable squad and in Kevin De Bruyne one of the most gifted players in the world. The Belgian has been involved in 19 goals so far this season, only Jamie Vardy has been involved in more, and has an assist in each of his last three matches.
Everton 1-3 Man City, September 28, 2019 (match report)
Everton battled hard for long periods during their last meeting in September, going into the break level after Dominic Calvert-Lewin cancelled out Gabriel Jesus’ opener. But late goals from Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling sealed victory for the champions.
Newcastle (A) Won 2-1
Burnley H) Won 1-0
Arsenal (H) Drew 0-0
Leicester City (H - Carabao Cup) Drew 2-2 (lost 4-2 on penalties)
Manchester United (A) Drew 1-1
Sheff Utd (H) Won 2-1
Wolves (A) Lost 3-2
Leicester (H) Won 3-1
Oxford Utd (A - Carabao Cup) Won 3-1
Arsenal (A) Won 3-0
Everton have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip to Etihad Stadium, with all the players coming through the Newcastle win unscathed. Morgan Schneiderlin is back in training after a calf problem and is likely to be in contention for the FA Cup derby.
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “It will a fantastic test for us against City, to see where we are.
“It’s a really strong team but we have confidence to do our best and play a fantastic game. The moment is good for us and it’s good to have this kind of test. We have to be happy to complete against the top teams.
”We need to have the confidence to compete and to be focussed on our football. We don’t have to look too much to the opponents’ team because they are really strong. It’s better to be focussed on our football.”
Man City boss Pep Guardiola: “They struggled a bit this season for points,” said the boss.
“But the quality is there and they are with a new manager of incredible experience.
“A manager like Carlo, with his capacity – he is one of the smartest guys - it doesn’t matter the team he takes, he is always able to make them work and he got good results in the last two games.
“It is a difficult test for us.”
This game is pretty much a free hit for Everton, with the pressure eased significantly thanks to their fine festive form. But this is also a City side that has looked vulnerable this season so there is no reason to go there with fear. Let’s have a real go and see what happens.
Happy New Year!