Aside from the catastrophic FA Cup defeat to Liverpool’s reserves and youngsters, and the capitulation in the 2-2 home draw with Newcastle, it’s fair to say Carlo Ancelotti’s time as Everton manager could hardly have started better.
Since his appointment on December 21, the Italian has presided over eight league games, from which the Blues have soared from 15th to seventh.
In fact, Ancelotti’s points return of 17 marks the best start to any Everton manager’s reign since William Barclay in 1888. From lingering fears of relegation, fresh hope of European qualification has arrived with 12 games to go.
With the Toffees currently in the midst of a winter break ahead of their return to action at Arsenal next weekend, we got the RBM crew to share their thoughts on the start of another new era at Goodison Park:
Rate Carlo Ancelotti’s start at Everton out of 10
Pete Reynolds: Only the derby performance let us down really. I was very sceptical about his arrival but I’ve warmed to him quickly. He’s a class act. 8/10
Brian Lewis: Ancelotti has the team playing at the level it should be playing at, but to me that speaks more to how bad Marco Silva was doing than Ancelotti going above and beyond. That’s his next challenge; to get the team to out perform their talent level. 7/10
Tom Mallows: The Liverpool defeat and Newcastle collapse means I can’t give ten, even if the blame for those results lies more with the players. But those disappointments aside, it has been pretty much faultless given the limitations he has had to work in. 8/10
Pat Mariboe: Other than the loss to the Reds in the FA Cup, he has brought a fresh breath of life to the team that Silva all but crushed. I’m excited to see what this team looks like next season with a full pre-season under his belt. But for now, it’s certainly an optimistic time to be an Evertonian. 9/10
Adam Braun: There’s really only been two negative results since he took over - against Newcastle and Liverpool. I don’t fault him for the Newcastle capitulation, but he was 100 per cent at fault for the Liverpool defeat. No way around it - he got his tactics wrong, and it cost Everton a very winnable match at Anfield. Thankfully, that’s really the only major gripe I have with him to this point. 8/10
Zach Hicks: One point deducted for the Newcastle folding and Liverpool match. But really, given the mental state of the squad he took over and the fact that not a single player in the squad was recruited by him, what more could we ask for than the second-best record in the Premier League during his tenure? 8/10
Matthew Chandler: He’s been pretty faultless, given I have a hard time apportioning any of the blame for the Liverpool or Newcastle debacles to him. Considering the awful run that led to Silva’s sacking, a turnaround of one defeat since his departure on December 5 is remarkable. Early days, but in just two-and-a-half months, I’ve gone from feeling the lowest to the most positive I’ve felt about Everton in years. 9/10
Calvin: I’ll freely admit I was sceptical of the Ancelotti hire when it was announced. After all, why would a recognized manager like him want to come to Everton? Illusions of grandeur aside, we’re not a hot destination for a world-class manager. Either way, he’s here and in the first few weeks showed that he is bought into the project that Farhad Moshiri and Marcel Brands are building. On the pitch itself the team have looked coherent at times, if not downright competent. That is understandable too, as he learns the players he has under him I expect the complexities and other nuances to start coming through with time. 8/10
What is the biggest change in Everton under Ancelotti?
Pete: Being proactive. Too often, Silva was caught making changes too late (whether that be subs, dropping players or tactical tweaks), but Carlo is much bolder in his moves. Very satisfying.
Brian: It has to be how the squad is doing when they go behind early. Under Silva, Everton never even seemed to compete when they went behind, and several times lost large leads late. There was a mental fragility about the squad and Ancelotti has either crushed it or made it small enough that it doesn’t matter. The mental side of the game may be more important than the physical side, especially when Everton had been in the position they were in after sacking Silva.
Tom: The team look stronger mentally and much more tactically flexible. Under Silva, it seemed if Plan A did not work, they lacked other ideas, hence their dismal record when conceding the first goal. But under Ancelotti, the team seem much more able to deal with and adapt to in-game situations, the Watford win being the biggest example of this.
Pat: The team simply looks more confident and the fans seem to be on board as well. Bringing in one of the best managers in the world is such a huge boost and it’s certainly showing. Fans will be expecting a lot in the next few years, but looking at Ancelotti’s past accolades, it’s hard not to see good things on the horizon.
Adam: I’ll give him credit for getting his tactics right (Liverpool fiasco notwithstanding). His 4-4-2 gets the most out of his most important players, has at least partially solved some of Everton’s creative woes, and been defensively stable for the most part. I’m also beginning to think this might be the long-term approach, which I won’t argue about if it keeps getting results.
Zach: I think the comeback against Watford summed it up. This team is developing a mentality that it hasn’t had in recent memory.
Matthew: The clear instruction to play more progressive football has made for a welcome change from Silva’s often laborious, slumberous tactics, while there is definitely a stronger mentality about Everton under Ancelotti which has been really pleasing to see.
Calvin: The biggest change to the club from the fans, the players, the entire organization is that of confidence, and why not. You have one of the most successful managers in the club game who has decided he wants to hitch his name to your wagon. Even if this crashes and burns later, we will always be able to say that Ancelotti managed Everton. His soft-spoken style is interesting, and has had some mixed results in the past when dealing with high-salaried egomaniacs, but we don’t have any of that lot here now and won’t worry about it until we have to. For now, let’s enjoy having Carlo Fantastico for who and what he is.
Who is the most-improved player under Ancelotti?
Pete: Dominic Calvert-Lewin would be the obvious one, although it could be argued that this started earlier in the season and especially under Duncan Ferguson. Either way, he’s clearly becoming more of a typical number nine than his earlier gazelle-like performances which saw him charging around the field. I certainly didn’t see his transformation coming.
Brian: Calvert-Lewin. Maybe it is just Silva leaving, but he has finally found the form that everyone has talked about for several seasons. A combination of trust and being given better direction on the pitch has allowed him to flourish under Ancelotti.
Tom: With six goals in nine games since his appointment, it has to be Calvert-Lewin. Though, credit to has to go to Ferguson for switching formation to 4-4-2 and pushing Richarlison up top alongside him, which has brought out the best of both players. Special mention also has to go to Bernard, who also looks a greater threat (particularly at home) under Carlo.
Pat: Mason Holgate. Up until Michael Keane ran into a bit of bad form, I never really thought Holgate would make the cut in the team. He’s been playing brilliantly recently and there’s talk from the fans of him being future captain, which is something I never would have imagined with Silva in charge. With Lewis Gibson currently excelling on loan, our defense looks set for years to come.
Adam: This is a tough one because there are a lot of good candidates. Gylfi Sigurðsson has looked better, Lucas Digne has got more involved, Calvert-Lewin can’t stop scoring, and Richarlison is weirdly a creator now. But I’ll take Bernard, who was born to play the hybrid left-mid / No. 10 role that the 4-4-2 revolves around. I hope to see Alex Iwobi get more success in that role in the future, but right now you simply cannot bench the Brazilian.
Zach: Theo Walcott. A player I thought was absolutely done suddenly shows signs of being a useful Premier League player again; incredible.
Matthew: Holgate. Ferguson and even Silva also deserve some credit for this, given he has been a regular since late October, but I feel he has really come on leaps and bounds under Ancelotti. Holgate looks a far more mature central defender than 18 months ago, and has even proved himself an adept midfielder recently, too. He is captain material.
Calvin: Bernard and Calvert-Lewin are two obvious names that others have mentioned, while Richarlison and Bernard are also thriving under him. While we still have small sample sizes for Gylfi Sigurðsson and Morgan Schneiderlin, they too are looking more at ease on the ball under Ancelotti. I can’t wait for Carlo to start to really work on Jordan Pickford, hopefully imparting sage wisdom that will calm him down so that he can eliminate some of the mental errors that have crept into his game again.
How confident in Ancelotti are you longer-term?
Pete: Cautiously optimistic. It’s been a great honeymoon, but let’s hope that we finally have a manager with whom we can build the club on rock-solid foundations.
Brian: I’m still on the fence. We’ve all been lured in before by some nice results early in a manager’s tenure. I want to see what Ancelotti does with a summer transfer window to shore up the squad and how he does once the squad is used to his management style. The good thing is Ancelotti has lots of experience with more fractured dressing rooms than Everton, but it remains to be seen if he can solve the problems that have plagued Everton since David Moyes left.
Tom: Extremely. The whole mood around the club has changed over the past two months. Not only are results improving but the bond with the supporters, fractured for so long, looks to be restored. As an Evertonian I am naturally braced for further disappointment (it’s a natural defence mechanism) but I can’t help but feel optimistic for the future given the progress Ancelotti has made in such a short space of time.
Pat: His recent comments about his ultimate plan and goals for the future certainly made me more confident that this isn’t simply a stop-gap for him. He’s really bought into the Everton way and it seems like the players and fans are both behind him. Everyone always says qualifying for Europe is both a blessing and a curse due to fatigue and league form, but I believe qualifying this season would be a great step for us, as Ancelotti has so much success in past competitions and that alone should calm any nervousness from fans.
Adam: He’s saying the right things, the players seem content, and he’s got results without adding anyone in the January window - that’s great for the short-to-medium-length outlook. The major long-term indicator will be how he deals with the summer transfer window. Can he work well with Marcel Brands? Can the pair get what they want while working with Farhad Moshiri and Bill Kenwright? If so, this has the potential to be the start of a very successful, lengthy partnership.
Zach: 100 per cent. The schedule is about to get tougher which will probably mean a dip in results and Everton fans will panic as they usually do, but this is a world-class manager who needs time and some of his own recruitment to turn this club into a European fixture. He’s a top three manager in the Premier League and the fan base needs to acknowledge that.
Matthew: My only concern with Ancelotti is not any particular shortcoming on his part, but rather that the curse of Everton building you up to let you down will strike again; that too much will be expected too soon given his pedigree. But we can only go off what we’ve seen so far, and that is a hugely impressive manager who is clearly a cut above his predecessors. If anyone can get Everton going in the right direction again, I have great faith that it’s him.
Calvin: If Ancelotti is going to be here for a few years then it’s hard to be anything but confident. A couple of transfer windows to build the squad with players of his own choosing and I want to believe that the Blues are going to be contending for the top six again.