Between two international breaks with twelve points at stake, Everton have picked up just the one point from a fortunate draw in the Merseyside Derby, followed by three consecutive losses.
While no fan could have predicted that Everton would maintain their hot start that saw them turn a 100% record into a spot at the top of the Premier League table, they equally would not have expected this capitulation over the last few games.
Speaking after this latest loss when the Blues let an embattled Manchester United side come back from a goal down to win 3-1, manager Carlo Ancelotti did not mince his words.
“I consider this period really, really bad. An unfortunate period. We had injured players and suspended players and I hope after the international break all the players will be back. We are going to work on the defensive aspect. I hope to see my team play like they did at the start of the season.”
On what went wrong at Goodison yesterday against United -
“We were not compact. We gave them the opportunity to play between our lines. We were not so focused in the box and we didn’t mark the box. They were collective mistakes. This is the clear problem and we have to solve this.
“We prepared the game and focused on the defensive aspect. We have to work more on this aspect because the last few games, in the last period, we have conceded too many goals. This cannot happen. If we want to win games then we have to keep clean sheets because it is not always possible to score three or four goals every game.”
The Blues were better in the second half, but the horse had already bolted the stable by then.
“It was not a good performance. The key point point above all was after we scored our goal we were not able to defend properly. We were not so compact. We gave them the opportunity to score two goals easily. That is the reason for the defeat. We could defend better above all else after we scored our goal. At 1-0 up, and with the team more compact, we could keep the first-half 1-0 up and then we could manage the second-half.
“The second-half performance was good, we showed a lot of spirit and some quality but not enough. The wrong aspect was in the second period of the first-half.”
Everton have now conceded two or more goals in five straight games, while this was Ancelotti’s first time losing three league games in a row since his time managing AC Milan in November 2006.
“It is different territory for me. But I know how to manage the difficulties. Every year, you have difficulties to manage – and this is the moment we have to manage difficulties.
“I hope after the international break, we have players back without injuries. To start again, because this season is not finished.
“We started the season well. We had this bad moment and we have to be focused. I am not worried about the offensive aspect. Where we have to work is on the defensive situation... we are going to do this and I hope to see my team play like at the start of the season.”