When Carlo Ancelotti decided to take the job on Merseyside in December of last year, he said that something that drew him to the club was its rich history, as well as the ambition to return the club to its past glory; in his playing days, Everton were no slouches across English or European football to be sure. And while the 1980’s saw success in the form of two league championships, an FA Cup and a European trophy, there is so much more to the club than just those campaigns.
One must go still further back however, to the sixties and seventies with Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and the “Holy Trinity”, the twenties and thirties with Dixie Dean, all the way back to the end of the 19th century when football was just being organized, and Everton battled it out with Sunderland year in and out. The Toffees have always been relevant to discussing the sport, in England and the Continent; a tradition like that deserves underscoring and appreciation.
And yet in recent years, those same glories have become harder to remember, and harder to see coming in the future as well; the 1995 FA Cup win seems an eternity ago, relative to the success other major clubs have had since. While David Moyes offered more glimmers than many before or since, silverware has still eluded the Royal Blues of Merseyside. Ronald Koeman, Roberto Martinez and Marco Silva all showed promise at times in more recent years, but could never create anything more sustainable; the signing of Carlo Ancelotti however, the legendary Italian manager, known from teams like AC Milan, Chelsea, Paris St Germain, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and, most recently, Napoli, was obviously a move for a different caliber of manager.
And so nearly ten months after the coup that was his hiring, and although it’s early yet in his first full season with Everton, the man affectionately referred to as Don Carlo, could just as well be known as the Don of Merseyside for his effect on the club.
Everton: Not the Same old Toffees under Don Carlo, and it’s no Accident
While there’s still an entire season to go, through seven matches across all competitions, Everton have yet to lose even one game; this has not been done by an Everton squad in over a century and a quarter. The play of figures, old and new, across the pitch has been breathtaking to watch, with the exception of Jordan Pickford at points; Dominic Calvert-Lewin is making his case as the best young number nine in England, while Richarlison de Andrade continues his compelling rise from obscurity to a top tier footballing talent on either the wing, or as the central striker.
Early on in the tenure of Ancelotti, it was apparent that both he and his assistant, the former caretaker manager and Everton legend, “Big” Duncan Ferguson, were going to attempt to build a team around both of these budding young talents. Fast forward back to this first international break of the new campaign, and it is quite obvious, through this lens, why the Toffees have started out so fast, and why they look so poised to continue onward; it is the team that Don Carlo and Ferguson have built around these two players that really must be addressed and considered.
James Rodriguez has had an interesting professional career since his 2014 World Cup glory with Colombia; he was first unwanted by Real Madrid after Carlo Ancelotti left, before being unwanted by Bayern after he was loaned to the Die Roten outfit, managed by the Italian, before returning to Madrid, only to be unwanted once more. Through it all, many people questioned both his ability and desire to play at a high level still, and yet he has shown that all that was missing in those years was the belief of his teammates and managers.
Rodriguez has been an absolute marvel to watch so far since his transfer; his vision, passion, creativity and movement have all blossomed under the watchful eye of the very father-like Ancelotti. Allan, who formerly played under the boss at Napoli, has been as impressive in different ways. His calm demeanor, positioning, as well as his defensive and offensive organization have done wonders towards creating a better squad, from top to bottom, for the great talent of the club to shine within. Much the same can be said for Richarlison’s former Watford teammate, Abdoulaye Doucoure as well; bringing in those three players, to feature around DCL and de Andrade, has helped to bring other players to life in the process.
Alex Iwobi has already made more of an impact in this campaign, than he made the entirety of last season; his innovation likely spared Everton needing to acquire another winger this summer. Tom Davies has fought for a rotational position in midfield in the meanwhile, and Andre Gomes has appeared, to no ones surprise, accentuated by better players around him. Yerry Mina has too, at times, appeared entirely more consistent than during past campaigns as well, leaving Toffees watering at the prospect of a centre back rotation featuring Mina, a healthy Mason Holgate, as well as new signing, Ben Godfrey.
These players are all playing some really fantastic football, and it’s reflected in their current goal differential and record; most importantly, you can see the fun and love they have for one another while finding this success, something that the boss intimately stresses. And while some of the better teams await as the months roll onward, Liverpool first and foremost, the type of football the Toffees are playing can translate properly against any unit. This team innovation cannot be attributed to but one player; no, only a maestro of men, a Don of Merseyside, could orchestrate men into a team such as this, as opposed to great, disconnected individual talents.
Don of Merseyside, but not yet King of England or Europe; that’s King Klopp
Carlo Ancelotti has won nothing yet at Everton; it is possible of course, that he wins nothing at Goodison Park and leaves after his time has run out, as just another manager in a long line who’ve found success unattainable in northern England. And yet, it certainly doesn’t feel as though that’s the trajectory he and his club are on; both he and his striker, DCL, were awarded the “Best of the Month” trophy by the Premier League for manager and player respectively. But how will they respond to the champions of England, fresh off of a stunning loss to Aston Villa, reeling without their stellar goalkeeper, for the first Merseyside Derby of the new campaign?
It will be a telling match; not a match that will dictate the futures of either team explicitly, but a telling match all the same. How good are Everton actually? How do they compete against a proven juggernaut of both Europe and England? Against the champions of club football around the world in fact? Time will tell; yet should they play with the vision, clarity of spirit and performance that they have shown to date, it will be difficult for even King Klopp and LFC to overwhelm Don Carlo of Merseyside’s Everton contingent.
That would be quite heartening indeed, for where Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool have been recently, both domestically and internationally, Ancelotti wishes for Everton to venture to as well. He would likely be the first to tell you this, along with the fact that his team are a long way from there currently; still, each success is another step closer to those places where the great clubs of each nation routinely find themselves, year in and year out, the domestic top four and European competition. For Everton, it is where they belong, and this was but a reason for Don Carlo’s attraction; what better place for a legend who feels he has something more to prove, then at a legendary club which feels it has gone too long without proving why it deserves this moniker as well?
Both the boss and his team are having fun reinvigorating a club and fan base that has gone too long without the sort of reward that they deserve. No FA Cup, No League Cup, No Premiership and No European glory; but seven wins out of seven is one hell of start, and the span of time which separates this from the last time, should further underscore the point. An eighth would equal the longest winning streak to begin a season for Everton EVER, and would surely, as it’s against Liverpool, send a clear message of intent to everyone in the Premier League this season. Yet, should the team fall short, it will not be for lack of effort from either the boss or the players; win, lose or draw, Carlo Ancelotti is Don of Merseyside for the spirit he has revived within the team, as much as for the present and future success possible under his tutelage and guidance.