Football Features

Ancelotti to Everton: More risky than some might think, but worth it

By J Smith

Carlo Ancelotti | Everton manager?

Published: 11:01, 18 December 2019

If ever a club can come out of a string of managerial embarrassments smelling of roses, it’s surely by appointing Carlo Ancelotti.

Against all the odds, after the disasters of Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman and Marco Silva, that is seemingly the case for Everton, with reports breaking earlier this week that the Italian has agreed a deal “in principle” to take the reins at Goodison Park.

Ancelotti’s list of achievements is long and impressive and if the Toffees really do get their man, he would come with arguably the most impressive CV the club has ever known.

Carlo Ancelotti to Everton? Five things you might have forgotten about Carletto…

  • Ancelotti’s first managerial trophy was the 1999 Intertoto Cup with Juventus.
  • Since then, he’s become the only manager to win a trophy in each of Europe’s top five leagues.
  • Ancelotti has won three Champions League titles as a manager, including Real Madrid’s ‘Decima’ in 2014.
  • During a previous spell in England, Ancelotti won the Premier League and FA Cup double with Chelsea.
  • The 60-year-old was recently sacked at Napoli by controversial owner Aurelio De Laurentiis, despite going unbeaten in the Champions League group stages.

But for all his Champions League medals, league titles in Italy, England, France and Germany, as well as a host of domestic cup victories, Ancelotti’s appointment at Everton, just like those before him, would be fraught with more risks than first meets the eye.

Over the years, rather than setting himself apart as a supreme tactician, the 60-year-old has forged a reputation as an excellent man-manager with an expertise in dealing with big egos and world-class talent.

“He’s like a big bear, I can say. He’s a cute guy, such a sensitive person. He spoke with us every day. Not just with me but with all the players. He had fun with us. He’s an unbelievable person. I just wish every player could have an opportunity to work with him.”

Cristiano Ronaldo on working with Carlo Ancelotti

Ancelotti has revealed in the past how he motivated his Real Madrid players for their 2014 Champions League final by showing them good luck messages from their family shortly before they travelled to the stadium.

“I remember that at Real Madrid, before the Champions League Final, I got all the friends and family of the players to record a quick good luck message, so wives, children, parents,” he said. “It was a really lovely compilation in the end with lots of children wishing their parents a great game.”

He has also explained his team selection process, and how he likes to keep the players on edge about their place in his starting XI – unless, of course, he senses their unease.

“I announce the line-up the day of the game,” Ancelotti said. “If I’ve got time, then two days before the game, during the tactical sessions, I test out the line-up but then rotate the players, so I always test two or three different situations.

“That way, the player isn’t entirely sure if he will start or not. However, if there’s a player who lets the doubt nag at him and affect his performance, I might tell him ahead of time.

“What I really don’t want is a player who is certain he won’t play, because that drags down the overall confidence of the group ahead of a game.”

This intuitiveness is absolutely vital when managing the very best players in the game and just as with Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, knowing the difference between someone who needs a firm hand and another who requires an arm around the shoulder can deliver significant results when dealing with a squad already at the peak of their powers.

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The big problem at Everton is that is absolutely not the case. Yes, under interim boss Duncan Ferguson, the Toffees have taken four points from two games against Chelsea and Manchester United, but they still lie 16th in the Premier League table, just three points above the relegation zone.

In Richarlison, Alex Iwobi and Yerry Mina, they have some potentially brilliant stars, but none are in their prime just yet and the squad as a whole is desperately short of trophy winners.

Under the incredibly calm Silva, this Everton squad seemed to amble through matches, sleepwalking into defeat after defeat as a result of individual errors, lack of inventiveness and buckling under opposition pressure.

They have responded brilliantly to Ferguson’s more robust methods, playing with an incredible intensity, defensive discipline and a non-compromising approach that truly embodies the man sending them out onto the pitch.

Is going back to a manager known for his placidity and easy-going nature really a smart move for Everton? Despite the doubts, there is a really simple answer to that question – every managerial appointment at Goodison Park since the departure of David Moyes has been a massive risk for one reason or another. Managers of Ancelotti’s calibre don’t come around too often for Everton these days so for them to pass up this opportunity because he might not be a tactical fit for the current squad would be absolutely absurd.

Winners and losers if Ancelotti joins Everton

  • Winner – Moise Kean: Signed to much fanfare in the summer, it’s safe to say the teenage striker’s time at Everton so far has not been happy. Kean is yet to score for the Toffees, has started just two Premier League games and his latest low point was being hauled off just 18 minutes after entering the pitch at Old Trafford. That said, Kean does have the obvious potential to become one of the best centre-forwards in Europe and the guidance of compatriot and expert man-manager Ancelotti might just be what he needs. Ancelotti has lavished praise upon Kean in the past.
  • Loser – Michael Keane: Right now, Everton are short at centre-back so Keane probably wouldn’t see an immediate drop-off in playing time under Ancelotti. However, the Italian much prefers ball-players at the heart of his defence and if he has his way in the transfer market, at least one centre-back of this ilk could join the club. Mason Holgate and Mina are for more comfortable in possession and on the turn, so Keane could lose out here.
  • Winner – Lucas Digne: Digne had a sensational first season on Merseyside and while he’s still been performing to a high level this time around, it’s clear Everton’s struggles have hampered his attacking influence. Ancelotti very much likes of his wing-backs to get forward and support the attack and the obvious candidate to do that at Everton is Digne.
  • Loser – Gylfi Sigurdsson: Sigurdsson is by far and away Everton’s best ballplayer but a distinct lack of mobility and a propensity to drift out of games has caused doubts over his place in the side once the Blues finally have all their midfielders available. Ancelotti prefers to have one box-to-box player in his central midfield partnership – instantly ruling out Sigurdsson – while the other needs to create from deep and exert defensive influence. The latter is not Sigurdsson’s strong point.
  • Winner – Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 system requires a partner for Kean, should he opt to trust his compatriot. While Kean would be the goalscorer, Ancelotti also looks for someone to do the dirty work alongside his assassin and at Everton, this would absolutely be Calvert-Lewin. The 22-year-old has a lot of work to do when it comes to finishing chances and ball control, but his selfless running into channels and closing down opposition defenders have been priceless during Ferguson’s two games in charge. He and Kean could form a mobile, fast and dynamic duo.
  • Loser – Arsenal: The Gunners are the other English club Ancelotti is being seriously linked with. Arsenal  have egos and talent aplenty at the Emirates, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe. Ancelotti could be the perfect man to get the best out of them but they’re now in serious danger of missing out on the Italian.
  • Winner – Farhad Moshiri: Despite the immense investment Moshiri has poured into the club, there remains a certain level of doubt regarding his impact so far among Everton fans, thanks to some failed managerial appointments and lack of progress up the league table. Ancelotti is just the marquee name Evertonains have yearned for since Moshiri’s arrival and exactly the kind of statement the Iranian businessman needs to once again remind supporters he really does mean business on Merseyside.

How would Everton line-up under Ancelotti?

Given that they both prefer a 4-4-2 formation, the transition from Ferguson’s short interim tenure to Ancelotti taking over should be an easy one.

Jordan Pickford would obviously retain his place between the sticks, while Digne and Djibril Sidibe would likely remain at full-back. At centre-back, as mentioned, Ancelotti would look to give Everton more control of possession, so don’t be surprised to see Holgate partner Mina, rather than Keane.

Everton | Carlo Ancelotti | Line Up

The Toffees’ midfield injury crisis is dire right now, so a short-term partnership of Sigurdsson and Tom Davies is almost unavoidable. Moving forward with a fully-fit squad, though, summer signing Jean-Philippe Gbamin could come in as Ancelotti’s midfield destroyer, bombing up and down the pitch to win back possession and give Everton an all-action presence in the middle.

He would be partnered by the elegant and technical prowess of Andre Gomes, provided the Portugal international can sufficiently recover from his horrific leg-break. Gomes is superb at taking the ball under pressure and distributing progressive passes from deep positions and could form brilliant passing triangles with his centre-backs and those further forward.

Richarlison and Iwobi would offer Ancelotti a great mix of creativity, industry and goal threat from wide areas, while neither is opposed to tucking inside to make Everton more compact and robust. And up front, we’ve already mentioned the workhorse and assassin dynamic Calvert-Lewin and Kean could offer.

Sure, there will be work to do in the transfer market, with Everton needing at least one centre-back, a long-term right-back option and possibly another centre-forward, but the players are there to fit Ancelotti’s tactical profile. The question is, are they suited to his management style?

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