Have Faith Like Carlo Fantastico

Carlo Ancelotti is a man of faith and Everton were once again able to snag three surprising away points against Nuno Santo’s technically gifted Wolverhampton side, through belief and team-spirit.

Gabriel Ricci 13/01/2021 10comments  |  Jump to last
Carlo Ancelotti is a man of faith and Everton were once again able to snag three surprising away points against Nuno Santo’s technically gifted Wolverhampton side, through belief and team-spirit.

This exceptional 2-1 victory comes just three days after the FA Cup clash against potential Championship relegation side Rotherham United. As we all know, Everton we're expected to win the game comfortably, but instead made an absolute meal of it. An extra-time goal by Abdoulaye Doucouré was needed in order to move on to the 4th Round. This was not ideal for Everton leading up to the Wolves game at Molineux Stadium, where they hadn’t won since 2011 under David Moyes.

Even though these past two games were in different competitions, against two clubs with a large gap in terms of talent, the personnel selected were pretty much the same, give or take a few players.

Mason Holgate had a much-needed rest on Saturday. Robin Olsen started over Jordan Pickford for the cup-tie. Niels Nkonkou and Bernard only appeared as subs in the cup game. Finally, Cenk Tosun and Anthony Gordon both started against Rotherham on Saturday as well.

Tosun and Gordon made it more obvious than any of the listed players as to how much trust plays a factor for Carlo Ancelotti, even more so considering both Tosun and Gordon were involved with the first goal on Saturday but did not play at Molineux.

Some Evertonians were in shock to see that the team-sheet did not include a true striker for Tuesday’s game, and thought the squabble was lost before kick-off. With Dominic Calvert-Lewin nursing a minor hamstring injury and Richarlison not being fit enough to endure a full 90 minutes. Many expected Cenk Tosun to step up today, especially after scoring in the FA Cup match previously.

Yet, to our surprise, Carlo opted to shake things up, like he has been forced to do countless times during this chaotic season. Gylfi Sigurdsson started as striker beside James Rodriquez, who was pretty much positionless and had permission to roam freely and spray admirable passes about the pitch with his golden left boot.

Many fans may still be scratching their heads as to why Gylfi received the nod over Tosun and it really only comes down to one thing: Trust. Gylfi was non-existent and only touched the ball 17 times all game... yet Carlo trusts him tactically along with players such as Ben Godfrey and Lucas Digne. Who were also asked to play out of position and were given clear instructions for their new role. Although left back is becoming quite common for Godfrey.

Carlo simply does not trust Tosun to make a significant impact in a game against a team like Wolverhampton. Although Tosun scored a lovely dink past the Rotherham keeper off a great feed from Anthony Gordon, he did not stand out for the remaining 111 minutes as he failed to link-up play with teammates; it was also quite clear he does not fit well with the other players that are in Carlos favour.

Even if he struggled tonight, Carlo clearly favours Sigurdsson’s quality to link-up with teammates against a much higher-level opponent, even if he is out of position. Most of us would not be surprised or disappointed to see Tosun leave this January or in the coming summer window.

Another player that has not won over Carlo's trust just yet is Anthony Gordon. It was evident that he lacks faith in the 19-year-old to fulfill his defensive duties while out on the wing. Thanks to an empty stadium, Carlo could be heard shouting defensive positional instructions to Gordon throughout his 61-minute shift during the ugly cup-tie.

Many fans have naively scoffed at Carlo for being hesitant to play the youngster in Premier League matches this season, but it became evident as to why, after the 1-0 victory against Sheffield United, in which he could not compete physically.

Gordon is currently at an odd place in his young career; he is too good for the U23s but not yet good enough to play in the Premier League on a consistent basis. It was also very telling Carlo decided to sub him off shortly after Rotherham equalized, in place for Bernard who is rumoured to leave in the winter or summer window as well.

Anthony Gordon definitely passes the eye test offensively for a young winger. He can cross, he plays with his head up, loves to drive the ball forward, and he can deliver a nice through-ball like he did for Tosun on Saturday, but he is not quite there physically. He also struggles to work with the team defensively; he found it quite difficult to keep shape with the rest of the squad while the Blues were not in possession of the ball.

It is quite clear he has to become more tactically savvy, which is obviously something most 19-year-olds struggle with. As much as he divides the fan base, Tom Davies is quite good tactically for Carlo; he religiously stays in his designated position and is willing to follow the manager's instruction to a tee. This is why he is currently filling in for Allan and it seems as if he won that starting role over André Gomes for now.

Without a doubt, there will be better players coming to Everton in near future, which we are all excited for, but before then, it’s time for Evertonians around the world to understand that Carlo Ancelotti is a very adaptable manager who knows how to organize and get the best out of each player he trusts every given matchday.

So next time when you’re shouting for a Niels Nkounkou to get a chance, just remember, Carlo may change the formation, he may swap players out of position, but he knows exactly where his faith currently lies in this unfinished but ahead-of-schedule Everton product.

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Reader Comments (10)

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Dave Leeson
1 Posted 13/01/2021 at 09:08:48
Well said!
Jerome Shields
2 Posted 13/01/2021 at 16:59:49
There is no doubt that Ancelotti is tactically adept and technically aware of the need to develop the ability and range of individual players.

This season we have seen a adaptable Everton and when things weren't going so well, a willingness of Ancelotti be proactive in trying to change things and give players a range of experience to increase the depth of the squad, when under pressure. This was very necessary given the unavailability of players due to injury and bodes well for future squad depth and availability.

Of course Ancelotti does not always get it right. He was caught out by Moyes, who had better tactics on the day.

Mike Gaynes
3 Posted 13/01/2021 at 17:26:20
Gabriel, fine article... and Jerome, good response.

No manager is perfect, and even Carlo is going to be out-coached on occasion, as he was by Moyes -- but to me he is calm, consistent and wins most of his battles with the fellow on the other bench.

We are one of three clubs with ten wins in 17 games, a level of performance I never expected this season. And we have accomplished this with less talent and less depth than any of the teams around us, and several below us.

As I see it, Carlo's major failing so far has been an inability to establish the same consistency on the pitch that he exhibits himself. We tend to play down to the level of inferior clubs and better against the stronger ones. Only when we improve on that -- and our lack of depth -- will we be genuine Top 4 contenders in my view. But I remain absolutely delighted with how Carlo's first full season has gone thus far.

Jerome Shields
4 Posted 13/01/2021 at 18:56:22
Mike #3

That area of lack of leadership to get control of the game, raising the play and dictate the pace is the main weaknesses, as you well observed. In the Wolves game there was that many Everton midfielders they had to communicate and take immediate command, which they don't always do in other formations.

Its a tract peculiar to Everton and those fans with years of experience can identify it. It has been the downfall of many past Managers and even Ancelotti looks bemused by it, when it happens to him.

There have been posts on the causes and how to remedy. I am at a loss on how to remedy it myself, other than needing better leaders on the pitch. I don't think this is Ancelottis solution. It will be interesting how Ancelotti sorts it out, as he probably is aware of the need to.

Thomas Richards
5 Posted 13/01/2021 at 22:46:51
Great article, Gabriel.

Mike #3,

It's a good point you make. Ancelotti is using a strong base with a set-up to play counter-attack football.

The better teams attack in numbers leaving more space for the counter. The lesser teams defend in numbers leaving no space for counter-attack.

As you say, the next step will be interesting. As the article says, I have faith in Carlo to work it out.

Paul Reeves
6 Posted 13/01/2021 at 23:16:07
The Wolves result was a tonic with a sound defensive base to boo.t But, as the season progresses, we will need to up the ante with more goals.

It's alright getting a one-goal victory but goal difference will also count at the end and ours isn't so good at the moment

We cannot sit back and defend a one-goal lead in every game – Carlo's Italian way – all the time. If these are to be our tactics, we need to be extra ruthless with those counter-attacks to improve the goal difference.

Mike Gaynes
7 Posted 14/01/2021 at 00:56:53
Jerome #4, I'd say the lack of leadership you cite is on the pitch, not the touchline. Ancelotti does a great job of setting the agenda, but it takes a strong captain to raise the level at a key moment of the game -- the manager can't do that.

There aren't many captains like that around. I can only think of a few in the Premier League at the moment -- Ward-Prowse, Coady at Wolves, Henderson, both Fernandinho and De Bruyne at Man City. We haven't had one in a long time -- Seamus is passionate and exemplary but lacks the gravitas at this point.

Alun Jones
8 Posted 14/01/2021 at 03:28:01
Interesting article. I think when you look at it, Carlo has used a fair amount of players this season and has probably rotated more than for example Silva ever did. Admittedly some of those changes are due to injuries but I would say that most of the players in the squad probably feel they have a chance of some game time.

I do feel a bit sorry for Anthony Gordon, though, who I feel might have deserved a bit more time on the pitch, as I certainly don't feel Bernard offers more defensively than Gordon, in fact the opposite from what I have seen.

As for Cenk Tosun, I would say that he might not have played against Wolves due to a 120-minute run-out against Rotherham and is probably not match fit. Having said that, he did all he could have been asked to do in the Cup; he is no Calvert-Lewin but I think he gets a raw deal from some people here. I would hope we don't get rid of him in January unless we are bringing in a replacement. In the summer, fine.

Jerome Shields
9 Posted 14/01/2021 at 09:53:31
Mike #7,

I agree with you and come down on your side, thinking a new signing is the answer. But I do think that Ancelotti will not want to be dependent on one player, but a blend within a midfield four, with an additional signing to do this. He may be even working on existing players.

Davies and James did get there to some extent, but though Sigurdsson got the positioning right in relation to Wolves, he failed to link up with the other midfielders. Gomes and Davies don't work well together, giving us a headless look. Doucouré and James are the most consistent, as is Allan.

But it still leaves problems with blending in of Davies, Gomes and Sigurdsson. They can be effective as subs. It will be interesting to see what Gbamin brings to the blend.

I don't think there will be any additions in January.

Dale Self
10 Posted 22/01/2021 at 17:00:51
Good stuff, Gabriel! I spent too long huffing and puffing on the postponement thread obviously. The tone of your statements is well taken, nice presentation there.

And particular thanks for pointing out the reason for selections. The solidity at the back and the protection in front have been what we've been able to rely on. Now it provides a tricky puzzle for opponents on how they can set up against us.

With other teams feeling the injury hex as well, we are in good position with what Carlo has been able to cobble together.

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