With Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola trading records and honors in recent seasons. It’s easy to forget that there is another manager in England who is more than worthy of ‘best in the league’ shouts. No, I’m not talking about Jose Mourinho, but rather Carlo Ancelotti.
The Italian Don boasts a long list of honors that includes three Champions League trophies. Domestic league titles in England, Germany, France, and Italy, and ‘World’s best club coach’ not once, but twice.
All of these accolades have come with Carlo Ancelotti at the reigns of the biggest clubs in the world. Managing the best players in the world, so naturally, eyebrows were raised when he was announced as the new manager of Everton. Their last major honor was an F.A cup triumph twenty-five years ago.
Fast-forward 10 months from his December 2019 appointment and Everton sit atop the Premier League. Having taken maximum points from their opening four games against far-from-straightforward opposition. Is this incredible run of form a fluke? Or are we on for another fairytale underdog story, similar to Leicester City’s 5000/1 Premier League triumph in 2016?
The ‘Summer’ 2020 transfer window (a term used loosely after Covid-19 forced an extended deadline) certainly had it”s winners and losers. Whilst Chelsea stole the headlines with over 200 million pounds spent on new additions. Ancelotti and Everton were quietly working on plugging holes and strengthening the infrastructure of a squad that lacked any kind of depth and quality.
By the close of the window, they had secured an array of new players. With star names such as former World Cup golden boot winner James Rodriguez, Watford’s Abdoulaye Dououre, and Napoli’s Allan making a statement that the Toffees meant business.
Out of all of these, James Rodriguez was the signing that raised the most eyebrows. After an impressive debut season in Spain, has struggled to maintain a place in Madrid’s starting lineup. He has seemingly wasted his prime years warming the bench.
No better way to silence your doubters than an electric start to life in England. However, with the Columbian recording five goals and two assists in Everton’s opening four wins.
Despite Everton’s ambitious business in the transfer window, the player to steal the headlines so far this season is one that has been at the club since 2016.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is a home-grown English striker who, prior to Ancelotti’s appointment, struggled for form and goals despite a regular place in the squad.
Between the start of the 2017/18 season and the end of 2018/19, he registered 10 goals in 67 league appearances. Under Ancelotti in 2019/20, he collected 13 goals in just 36 games.
So far this season, he is the Premier League’s joint-top scorer. With six goals in just four games, including the winner against Tottenham Hotspur on an opening day and an impressive hat trick in a 5-2 demolition of West Bromich Albion. His cup form has been equally impressive, with another treble to see off West Ham in the EFL Cup.
His seemingly unstoppable form caught the eye of England manager Gareth Southgate. He handed him his England debut in the recent friendly against Wales. He returned the favor with yet another goal in a 3-0 win.
Considering the crazy start to this very unique season. Where the Premier League has recorded a record number of goals by quite some distance in the opening four rounds of games. Having a striker with the form of Calvert-Lewin will no doubt be vital if Everton hope to mount an unlikely title charge.
The questions is of course, can he maintain form?
Over the years in the Premier League, we’ve seen many unexpected goal-scoring streaks. With some putting big-name strikers on the map such as Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy. Others turning out to be a flash in the pan before returning to mediocrity. Famous names that fit the bill include Andy Carroll, Demba Ba, and most recently Teemu Pukki. Who’s fantastic goalscoring form saw him pick up the player of the month for August 2019. 9 months later, the goals had dried up and he saw himself relegated with Norwich City.
The weak link?
Like several other teams this season, Everton is not only scoring a lot of goals but conceding a lot too. Only one of the four games that they’ve played has resulted in a clean sheet, with five goals being conceded in the remaining three.
Whilst some goals have been unavoidable, the erratic form of go-to keeper Jordan Pickford has been largely to blame.
The England number one has already accumulated a collection of mistakes and direct errors leading to goals. But his embarrassment has been spared due to the attacking force of the team pulling results out of the bag regardless. You get the impression, however, that this run of form cannot continue if Everton wants to carry on their winning ways. This issue has already potentially been addressed with Ancelotti making the late acquisition of Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen on loan from AS Roma. Whilst Olsen has been signed as a backup. Jordan Pickford will no doubt be looking over his shoulder and considering his spot in danger.
A rise in form from fellow England goalkeepers Nick Pope and Dean Henderson will put his place in the national set up in doubt too. So the incentive is there to up his game and shows some dramatic improvement soon.
Who is ready to ruin the party?
Whilst talk of Everton doing the impossible is enjoyable. There are plenty of teams competing for the Premier League title who will look to leave them in their rearview mirror, none more than Liverpool. For those that are unaware, Anfield and Goodison Park (Liverpool and Everton’s stadiums) are separated by less than a mile. As a result, there is a huge rivalry between the two clubs. Everton’s recent run-in form will no doubt be leaving a sour taste in the mouths of Liverpool fans, who are reigning Premier League champions.
‘The Reds’ will be looking to continue their phenomenal form from last season. With the addition of Champions League-winning midfielder Thiago and Portuguese winger Diego Jota to strengthen their already fierce squad.
Other potential challengers include:
Manchester City, who spent just over £100m on two new defenders, Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias. Will no doubt be looking to reclaim their Premier League crown after Liverpool convincingly stole it away last season.
Chelsea, who as mentioned earlier have invested heavily in a new-look attack under Frank Lampard.
Tottenham, led by serial winner Jose Mourinho in his first full season in charge. Who impressively dispatched Manchester United 6-1 in their last Premier League game.
As of today (12th October) Everton is 20/1 to win the 2020/21 Premier League with Ancelotti.
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