Carlo Ancelotti feels Everton’s performances are improving ahead of a hectic December schedule kicking off tomorrow at struggling Burnley.
Everton’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester United last month was their third successive loss, and since won 3-2 at Fulham and lost 1-0 at home to Leeds last weekend.
Despite another defeat last time out, Ancelotti said at his pre-match press conference that he has taken encouragement from Everton’s last two showings, ahead of a critical period in this season:
“The last two performances were quite different from the game we played before. The result was not good against Leeds but it was an open game.
“It is really important tomorrow against Burnley. We want to stay attached to the top. It will be important to have a result tomorrow.
“Now is the start of a very important period. We have lot of games at Christmas and it will be important to stay attached to the top. There is a lot of competition at the top, but we want to be there, and so it’s important to have more consistency with the results.”
Ancelotti also confirmed that full-backs Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne, sorely missed in Everton’s defeat to Leeds, will again miss Saturday’s trip to Turf Moor.
Digne’s absence is no surprise given he is not expected to return from ankle injury until 2021, but Ancelotti said Coleman has at least resumed individual training.
“Apart from Coleman and Digne, all of the players are available. [Coleman] is training individually.”
Ancelotti also spoke in glowing terms in Cenk Tosun, who recently returned from an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered while on loan at Crystal Palace last season.
And while many expected the Turk to have left Everton by now, Ancelotti has been impressed by what he has seen from Tosun:
“Cenk is doing really well. His recovery was good. His condition is improving. The fact we have a lot of games in December [means] he is going to have time to play.
“I think he’s really good in the box and I like his quality.”
Without two of their most important defenders, it will only make that elusive clean sheet harder to find for Everton, who have conceded in every Premier League match since their opening-day 1-0 win at Tottenham.
And though Dominic Calvert-Lewin has started the season in blistering form at the other end, does Ancelotti think Everton have found the right balance between defence and attack yet?
“Not yet. I think we are really good offensively; we have problems defensively. We try to solve this problem.
“Every game is a test to see how we are and, of course, tomorrow I hope we can be better in this aspect.”
Tomorrow marks Everton’s first meeting with Burnley since last Boxing Day, a tight 1-0 home win for the Blues in Ancelotti’s first game in charge.
And the Italian is expecting a similar match tomorrow, against a Burnley side who have only four league goals this season but who secured their first win of the campaign in their last home match, against Crystal Palace:
“I think it will be the same game [as last December]. Burnley have not changed since then. Their identity is a strong identity. It will be a tough game because they are better now compared to the start of the season, but we know what kind of game to expect.”
Ancelotti was also asked on whether Everton’s lean run of form heightens the need for signings in the January transfer window, but the manager said his side’s December schedule is too frenetic for him to be focused there yet:
“We are not focused there, honestly. We have eight games in one month, so we are focused there, not on the transfer market in January.”
There will be no fans at Turf Moor on Saturday, given Burnley’s placement in the most severe Tier 3 amid the coronavirus pandemic, but Everton will welcome 2,000 supporters to Goodison Park for their home game next weekend against Chelsea.
And Ancelotti reiterated his excitement about welcoming supporters back to grounds, with Goodison having not hosted fans for nine months:
“It’s really good news. Football without fans is not the football we want to play or to watch. The supporters are a really important part of this environment, without the supporters it looks like a different sport.”