Is Carlo Ancelotti the right choice for Everton?
Background image: Biloblue, CC BY-SA 4.0
When reports on Monday evening suggested three-time Champions League-winning manager Carlo Ancelotti had agreed a deal in principle with Everton, Merseyside's blue half went into ecstasy. Although the club subsequently made a statement insisting that no deal had been agreed for any manager as of yet, hype continues to build around the Italian’s appointment at Goodison Park. As well as his extensive success on the continent, the 60-year-old lifted silverware on English soil, winning the Community Shield, FA Cup, and Premier League title in 2009/10 with Chelsea. Widely recognised as one of football's best managers, he represents a leap in quality after the Toffees dipped their toes in relegation waters under Marco Silva. Now, Evertonians are leaping from the top diving board at news of the Italian's potential appointment.
As excited as fans are, whether Ancelotti is right for Everton remains unclear. Used to walking into top European clubs and finding world-class players such as Arjen Robben and Cristiano Ronaldo at his disposal, Champions League football in the offing and a firm foundation on which to build, he can't tick any of those boxes at Goodison Park.
There is certainly talent in Everton's squad although they are crippled by injury to the point of requesting volunteers to play in midfield. The club are desperate to escape the relegation zone after a dismal start to the season. Nor have they played in Europe since an embarrassing effort in the group stages of the 2017/18 Europa League. If Ancelotti buys into what majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri and Director of Football Marcel Brands are trying to build at the club, his appointment could prove a wise choice.
While at Bayern, Ancelotti told ESPN of the need for "creativity and freedom in the final third because, without it, you only have sterile possession." Sterile possession was one of the main symptoms of Marco Silva’s demise. Ancelotti already has a finger on Everton's pulse, then, but is the squad strong enough to survive open-heart surgery?
After an emotional 3-1 victory over Chelsea and a 1-1 draw at Manchester United, the answer appears to be yes. At the same time, Everton’s rush to appoint a new permanent manager might be unnecessary. Duncan Ferguson is clearly excelling in the role. Why are the board so quick to move for a successor? Evertonians demand a passionate, committed manager and there can be none more so than Big Dunc when it comes to the Toffees. On the other hand, Ancelotti is a cold, calculating professional already moving on less than a fortnight after his sacking from Napoli.
Ferguson knows himself he’s not quite ready to manage at this level of football. While the Toffees enjoy a honeymoon period with their club legend, that moment will eventually pass as it did for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer at Old Trafford. With the club preparing a planning application for a new stadium, Farhad Moshiri requires stability on the pitch.
Ferguson’s decision to substitute Moise Kean at the end of last weekend’s game at Old Trafford after the striker had come off the bench only 18 minutes prior raises doubt over his ability to provide a calm, productive environment. While some viewed the decision as bold since Kean wasn’t doing the job required, the 19-year-old must be treated with care. Any teenager should be but especially one with the Italian's potential. His reaction to being lifted, surprise and confusion followed by a direct exit to the dressing room, made clear there was now a rift between the club's past and its future. Appointing Ancelotti, an Italian who can better understand and communicate with the £30 million prodigy, might save Moshiri's considerable investment in the youngster.
Ferguson has encouraged Everton to hire a world-class manager so that he can learn more on his way to potentially becoming one himself. Carlo Ancelotti is clearly a world-class manager, with 15 major managerial honours and league titles in four different countries. However, taking over a side currently 16th in the Premier League and without a major honour since winning the FA Cup in 1995 represents his biggest challenge yet. With a transfer window approaching in just two weeks’ time, Mr. Moshiri may need to empty his pockets again.