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Everton at Sheffield United: Three Thoughts | Sigurdsson’s strike the difference

Three thoughts from Saturday’s hard-fought win against Sheffield 

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Jon Super - Pool/Getty Images

Here’s to Another Year of Carlo

On the one-year anniversary of Carlo Ancelotti’s first game in charge of Everton — a 1-0 home win against Burnley — the Italian manager saw his team earn three points with an identical scoreline 365 days after his first win as boss of the Toffees. In the year Ancelotti has been in charge of Everton, he steadied the course of a team that was floundering in the bottom half of the table, brought in world-class players — Allan, Abdoulaye Doucouré and James Rodríguez — and led the Merseyside club to its best start in 40 years. A manager who never panics, Ancelotti saw a sharp decline in form this fall, only to recover with wins against Chelsea, Leicester City and Arsenal.

Despite injuries limiting his preferred players, Ancelotti has shown a willingness and flexibility to alter his formation based upon availability. With one game remaining in 2020 — a midday bout with Manchester City — Ancelotti has his team three points from the top of the table and in a festive mood.

Super Subs

An abundance of injuries at Finch Farm provided 19-year-old Anthony Gordon with his first start in the domestic league. A player with pace and skill on the left wing, many — myself included — have been calling for Gordon’s inclusion in the starting XI. For the cacophonous clamoring, Ancelotti has been hesitant to play the young Englishman outside of the League Cup. And while he did start, Ancelotti yanked Gordon after only 55 minutes.

Although it was disheartening to see Gordon hooked early in the second, his replacement, Bernard, proved to be a difference-maker on the pitch. And it wasn’t just Bernard. Ancelotti brought Seamus Coleman onto the pitch for Michael Keane and inserted André Gomes in favor of Tom Davies in midfield. Both Bernard and Coleman helped set up Sigurdsson’s strike, and Gomes brought strength and a forward-thinking passing range. Again, Ancelotti showed his mastery in the arena of substitutions.

Ups and Downs

Oh, to be an Everton fan. The season began with a surprise win at Tottenham Hotspur, continued with an incredible run of wins, crumbled as winter arrived and now is ascending once more. Everton have now won four consecutive league matches for the second time this season. The last time they managed such a feat was during the 1986-87 campaign. We don't need to remind anyone that was also the last season the Toffees won the First Division.

Previewing the Toffees’ upcoming matches, Ancelotti’s side face Manchester City in the last game of the year, West Ham United on the first day of the new year, meet Rotherham in the FA Cup, then close out January with a string of fixtures against Wolverhampton (12th place), Aston Villa (6th), Leicester (3rd) and Newcastle (13). With a furious set of games quickly approaching, Ancelotti’s team management will have to be immaculate if the Toffees are to avoid further injuries and maintain their current run of positive results. For all the challenges of an already hectic Premier League season, trusting in Ancelotti seems like the easy part.