Carlo Ancelotti achieved what he had to do during the second half of the 2019/20 season as Everton manager. He steered them away from the relegation zone, collecting 30 points after taking over at Goodison Park during the busy Christmas period.
Regardless of how they ended the season – the Toffees won just one of their last six games – there is plenty to look forward to under the Italian’s guidance.
Everton Season Review: Carlo Ancelotti Steers the Toffees Away From Relegation
Another Change in Manager
Marco Silva could only last a year-and-a-half in charge at Everton.
The Portuguese’s time at Goodison Park was marred by extortionate spending and defensive mishaps. Last summer saw him sign Andre Gomes, Moise Kean, Alex Iwobi and Jean-Philippe Gambin for big fees. Spending big brings high expectations on both players and the team, and they failed to live up to those expectations.
When Silva was sacked in December after a 5-2 defeat to rivals Liverpool, the Toffees dropped into the relegation places. Silva knew that his time was up, as he stood staring into the abyss that was the Anfield turf.
After an interim spell under the hot-headed Duncan Ferguson, Ancelotti was welcomed with open arms at Goodison Park. There was genuine excitement that Everton could attract a manager of his calibre.
Season of Two Halves
The season ran in tandem with the change in managers.
During the first half of the season, there was and real trepidation that keeping Marco Silva could have terrible consequences.
His brand of ‘attacking’ football meant that they suffered in defence. They regularly conceded goals, resulting in the confidence dropping dramatically.
The tipping point came in a 2-0 home defeat to Norwich City. It meant that they had lost to all three promoted teams without conceding a goal; from there, Silva’s days were numbered.
However, the atmosphere changed at Goodison Park after the confirmation of Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival. Subsequently, their form changed too.
The Italian lost just one of his first eight games in charge of his new club, an unsurprising 2-1 defeat to Manchester City that they still remained competitive in. While they did not win their next four games, there remained signs of improvement and progress.
Much like the rest of their Premier League counterparts, their form post lockdown was a mixed bag. A gritty defensive display against Liverpool in the first game back set the signs of what could be achieved.
However, following wins against Norwich and Leicester City, their form went downhill. They won just one of their last six, and suffered defeat to relegated Bournemouth on the final day of the season.
A crisis at the back played its part in that run of form towards the end of the season. There were several casualties to the project restart scheduling, meaning youngster Jarrad Branthwaite debuted, despite only joining in January from Carlisle United.
Changes Helped the Players
Ancelotti opted to use a 4-4-2 formation throughout much of the season. The change certainly helped some players more than others.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin was the beneficiary of the change, scoring eight of his 13 Premier League goals under the Italian’s guidance. He was tasked with staying more central, as the Toffees looked to make more crosses into the box. It meant that the 23-year-old became more involved in attack, as he also doubled up as a targetman for the Toffees.
Much like his team-mate Richarlison’s form turned with the arrival of Ancelotti. A player who thrives on confidence, the Brazilian was restricted by the negativity under Silva. However, he was soon given a licence to roam free, and Richarlison soon returned to exciting the Everton faithful.
In defence, it was perhaps Lucas Digne who shone the brightest. While his attacking work was praised more than his defensive attributes, the Frenchman was a focal point of the side. His overlapping runs and balls into the box from deep positions helped record a tally of eight assists.
Game of the Season – Everton 3-1 Chelsea
Context is perhaps most important in deciding the Toffees’ game of the season.
When all was gloomy at Goodison Park, Duncan Ferguson steered the sinking ship in the right direction. A 3-1 win over Chelsea saw a sense of normality return.
It was an excellent display of how to do the basics correctly, despite only having 30% possession.
After a blistering start that saw Richarlison hand Everton the lead, Dominic Calvert-Lewin doubled their lead shortly after half-time. Both goals came in a similar fashion, as they battled hard against a Chelsea side that were not up to scratch.
After the Blues made it 2-1 in the 52nd minute, Calvert-Lewin then sealed the win late on. The roof lifted off Goodison Park, as the weight of the Marco Silva era fell off of their shoulders.
What to Expect Next Season?
The question on the lips of every Everton fan is whether Carlo Ancelotti is the right man to take them forward.
It is not unreasonable to suggest that the Italian is only a short-term option. The 61-year-old is tasked with trying to get the Toffees into Europe. However, there is no specification beyond that.
Reaching Europe next season is likely to be tough. The ‘top six’ is slowly becoming the top eight, as Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester become more and more competitive among the elite. As a result, the Toffees should target the domestic cup competitions as their best route to the continent.
However, it remains to be seen whether they have the squad to compete at the highest level. Three quality additions are necessary; if that is achieved, then there is a lot to be excited about next season.
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