With Dominic Calvert-Lewin — Everton’s leading scorer — missing last night’s game with a hamstring injury, creating offense would have to be a collective effort, and it was. It started in the 6th minute when Yerry Mina sent a ball out wide to Alex Iwobi, who hit a quick pass to James Rodríguez. The Colombian turned and slashed a pass over to the left wing where Lucas Digne was unmarked. Digne touched the ball back into the center of the box to Iwobi, who had continued his run, for Everton’s first goal.
Without the team’s most lethal offensive player, it was a combination of Iwobi and James on the right wing and Lucas Digne and substitute André Gomes on the left that carried Everton to a 2–1 win over a struggling, yet talented, Wolves side. And to cap it all off, center-back Michael Keane got in on the fun, scoring the game-winning goal in typical fashion — slamming a curving cross into the back of the net with his noggin.
It came as no surprise to anyone that Everton’s xG for the game was a mere 0.27, but excellent finishing ensured two goals came out of that.
In recent fixtures, it has been easy to criticize the questionable lineup choices made by Manager Carlo Ancelotti. Against Wolverhampton, however, the Italian not only got his modified starting eleven spot on, but his utilization of the bench was superb.
Playing Digne at left midfield allowed Everton to reap the benefits of his attacking nous, while shielding him as he regains his match fitness from a pacy Wolves side, and he looked more dangerous than any wide midfielder has this season. It also allowed the return of the ‘fab four’ - Carlo’s four centrehalves backline that pretty much nullified Wolves speed and passing ability.
Starting Tom Davies will never do much to ease any pregame worries about poor play in midfield, but it does allow for Ancelotti to bring a better playmaker off the bench when needed. And while it sounds counterintuitive to select an inferior player to start, it does allow for a spark off the bench, assuming Davies has done enough through 65 minutes. In other words, Davies did enough to keep the game competitive, and Gomes helped put Everton over the top — his cross created the opportunity or Keane to win the game. Ancelotti also brought on the veteran Seamus Coleman to see out the game and withstand any late pressure.
#EFC managers' Premier League away record— Royal Blue Mersey (@RBMersey) January 12, 2021
Carlo Ancelotti: 10 wins in 19 games (53%)
Marco Silva: 6 in 27 (22%)
Sam Allardyce: 3 in 12 (25%)
Ronald Koeman: 4 in 23 (17%)
Roberto Martinez: 18 in 57 (32%) pic.twitter.com/9cxUUaQy8r
The Ancelotti Effect
Yesterday’s win highlights what every Evertonian knew would happen upon Ancelotti’s appointment just over one year ago. When he took over a floundering team that sat 15th in the Prem, his task was to steady the ship and avoid relegation; Everton finished the 2019/20 campaign in 12th place.
This season, the goal was to re-establish the Toffees as at least a top-eight club if not push for a Champions League spot. Through 17 games, Ancelotti has done just that. Everton sit in fourth place and are a mere four points behind Manchester United for first. Despite unexpected losses against Newcastle and West Ham United, the Toffees are still above the likes of Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in the table. Ancelotti has brought a sense of purpose, camaraderie and, most importantly, accountability that was absent with recent managers. The Ancelotti Effect manifests in the passion of goal celebrations, the postgame social media content and the general ethos of infectious positivity around Everton right now.