While Everton feebly succumbing to a horrible Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night might have sounded the death knell for the Toffees’ European football hopes, manager Carlo Ancelotti is trying to stay positive.
The Blues take on Southampton tomorrow with five games left in the 2019-20 campaign, three of them to be held in the friendly confines of Goodison Park and the wily veteran wants to make sure his side take advantage of the schedule.
“We still have a chance. We have to win games. It will be really important to win the three home games that we have, and to win (away) at Wolves or Sheffield United. It will be difficult but we still have a chance.
“Against Tottenham, a strong team, you can lose. Our disappointment was that the performance was not how we expected.
“Not only on the technical and tactical aspect - we could show more intensity in play but I don’t know if we are able to improve this season, as this season is at the end.
“But next season, improving our knowledge, spirit and intensity will be important to compete better against the top six teams in the Premier League. It’s true we competed but we could compete differently.”
Everton’s bloated squad boasts underperforming players and an inflated wage bill, with Ancelotti and Director of Football facing a big summer of trying to revamp the roster while operating under tight financial confines. However, even if the Blues don’t qualify for Europe, the Italian insists the roadmap he has for the club does not change during what is expected to be a busy transfer window.
“The plan for the future is quite clear. We are going to improve the squad, 100 per cent, to improve the quality of this team.
“We would like to be more competitive at the top of the table. This season we are closer to the bottom. Next season we would like to be closer to the top.”
Saints boss Ralph Hassenhuttl has engineered a remarkable turnaround at St. Mary’s, overseeing a side that was once thrashed 9-0 at home by Leicester City climb out of the relegation zone and into midtable safety. Ancelotti was complimentary of his efforts and expects a challenge tomorrow.
“I know the manager, he was in Leipzig when I was in Bayern Munich. Southampton are really organised. They are a team that is used to playing with a lot of intensity, a strong team to play against.
“Hassenhuttl is doing a fantastic job, with the style he used to have with Leipzig. Southampton, in their shape and organisation, look like Leipzig.”
Ancelotti will no doubt be taking a long and hard look at midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, who has been linked with the Blues and will no doubt provide that energetic spark in the middle his side have been lacking all season long.