What a year it has been for Everton! Starting from just before Christmas in 2019 when the Blues were staring up at most of the Premier League from their position at 18th in the table, to the dizzying heights earlier this campaign when the Blues were in sole possession of top spot.
The difference? Carlo Ancelotti.
The Blues mark the tenth chapter in Ancelotti’s illustrious 24-year managerial career, which has included four league titles, six domestic cups in four different countries, and three Super Cups, Club World Cups and Champions Leagues each, with him having taken charge of some of the world’s biggest clubs, such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint Germain, AC Milan and Juventus.
Saturday’s win over Arsenal marked the 34th game of the veteran manager’s tenure, almost a full season in itself, and his record speaks for itself. In that time, he has picked up 16 wins, 8 draws and 10 losses for a total of 56 points, including that nine-game post-resumption spell over the summer when Everton had little to play for to close out the 2019-20 campaign.
Extrapolated over a 38 game season, that would give him about 63 points - equalling two of David Moyes’ second-best seasons (2008-09 & 2012-13) and just shy of the Scotsman’s best year of 65 points in 2007-08. Roberto Martinez still holds the record for most Premier League points for the Toffees in that swashbuckling 2013-14 season with 72 points.
All that has come from just one quiet winter transfer window and a summer that saw an infusion of top level talent in some needed positions. With the Blues sitting in the top half of the table and in prime position to challenge for a spot in European competition next season, the coming year is filled with promise for the Club and the long-suffering fanbase.
More than just being a manager of the Club though, Ancelotti has embraced the ethos of Everton being ‘The People’s Club’ like many others have before him too, to be fair. He has been vocal about enjoying living on Merseyside, walking and cycling around his Crosby home and interacting with the supporters, be it in person before the pandemic and calling up fans who might be lonely or in need during the ensuing lockdown.
It’s also not just us who get to see that side of the Italian though. Over his career the 61-year-old has picked up a reputation for being a players’ manager. He is warm, friendly, affable, and positive with the players even after abjectly poor performances. When the supporters have been baying for blood after poor showings, Ancelotti has come off as the genial uncle, defusing tensions and offering the players a supportive shoulder.
The improvement in some players’ performances has been very visible. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s stratospheric rise up the goalscoring charts has been a direct result of the instruction to keep the touches in the box to a minimum, much like another ‘fox-in-the-box’ Filippo Inzaghi that Ancelotti coached.
The manager has continued to be encouraging of Jordan Pickford despite some hare-brained performances from the England #1, and the tactful manner in which Ancelotti brought in Robin Olsen to rotate with Pickford is a lesson in player management for budding coaches out there.
Ancelotti’s coaching team has his son Davide and Everton legend Duncan Ferguson in it, and both are learning from one of the best. The rapt attention with which the senior figure listens to both younger man is something to behold during games, and it is no surprise that Davide is behind a lot of Everton’s in-game tactical adjustments and setpiece prowess.
As Everton’s Director of Football, Marcel Brands was charged with clearing out a lot of deadwood and reducing the wage bill when he was appointed three summers ago. More than once the Dutchman has indicated that he is looking to lower the squad’s average age my bringing in players in the 25 and under range. However both Brands and Ancelotti smoothly pivoted last summer with bringing in some key cogs that the Italian is familiar with in James Rodriguez and Allan despite their ages.
This was more so due to the unique position Everton find themselves in - the Club has to win now to attract elite talent, but in an increasingly competitive Premier League, was struggling to do so with a younger core. The solution has been to pay the premium for some older players while letting the squad develop naturally. Expect more of the same in the January and summer windows as the Blues will look to sustain their charge towards Europe while clearing out under-performing squad members and bringing in top talent as needed.
In a recent interview Ancelotti had mentioned in passing that when he was signed by the club he had made a promise to majority shareowner Farhad Moshiri to get Everton to Europe. While a number of recent managers like Martinez, Ronald Koeman and Marco Silva have supervised European campaigns, there has not been a feeling that the Blues can sustain those performances on an annual basis. The goal needs to be not just a Europa League run, but continued qualification for Europe every year, with the resulting riches from television money and gate receipts ploughed back into the squad to ensure the Toffees have the success that goes with being called one of the biggest clubs in the land.
For many younger Evertonians who were either not even born or were too young to remember 1995 when the club last won a trophy, these are heady times indeed. Until that monkey has been well and truly shaken off our collective backs though, Everton will continue to be somewhat of a figure to be poked fun of by other fans. It has been difficult to go this long with no silverware, possibly even more so with the lot across Stanley Park winning trophies at the same time, but with Ancelotti in charge this might be the closest we will come to breaking that hoodoo along with a number of unwanted stats, especially wins away at the top six.
Happy anniversary Carlo Ancelotti, here’s wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and looking forward to much success with us at Everton!