Everton travel to Burnley for the early game on Saturday looking to right the ship after another loss last weekend, making it just one win in their last five league games. The good start to the season has been well and truly spurned at this point with the Blues struggling to find consistency, and manager Carlo Ancelotti knows he has to arrest this slide before it derails the entire campaign considering the tougher challenges coming up for his side.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference today, with the veteran Italian nearing one year on the job, he insisted that the club is making progress.
“After one year we are there. This season there is a lot of competition [at the top of the table], we are still in front.
“In this kind of game, in this period, we want to stay attached [to the top half], and to prepare well for the second part of the season.
“We are where want to be in this moment.”
Everton have now gone with a three-man backline for two consecutive games, and Ancelotti was asked if this is a long-term shift for the team.
“It’s an emergency, because we are without two important players like Coleman and Digne. It is only for this reason.
“We have the quality in the squad to play with three centre backs because we have a lot of good centre-backs, but it’s a moment.
“The fact we can play with three or four is very good for us.”
After a searing start to the season, James Rodriguez hasn’t made as much of an impact in the last few games. Has he been ‘found out’?
“James Rodriguez is in good condition. He had a problem as everyone knows, this week he trained well and properly.
“We have to consider that for this player to travel around the world to play international games, and the fact that he - and all the other internationals - to be here until March will be good for him.”
Michael Keane has been Everton’s most reliable defender so far this season and comes up against his former manager Sean Dyche tomorrow. How does Ancelotti value his performances so far?
“I am pleased. We were talking about consistency, he has had consistency this year. I think he has improved, he has reached a good level and is able to keep that level with good performances.”
Richarlison, despite just the one league goal this season, has been in good form and the club missed him desperately in their three-game losing streak when he was suspended. Is he back to his best?
“I think so. I think so. We had a difficult period for different reasons because Richarlison was suspended for three games and we suffered without him.
“When he was back, he did well in the last two games I think. Even though he didn’t score he was really important against Fulham giving an assist.
“He is back.”
Ancelotti came in for some criticism last weekend with using Alex Iwobi and Tom Davies as wingbacks with natural left back youngster Niels Nkounkou not even in the squad.
“Nkounkou was not in the squad because I already had 11 players, I decided to put Iwobi on the left. The squad is really big.
“He’s still young, he needs more experience, he needs to work more, but I am honestly satisfied with what he is doing. He will have time in the next game because we have a lot of games.
“The fact that we had two midfielders there is good cover because they have the help of a centreback behind to help them.”