It has become a regular sight on the Blue side of Merseyside in recent years- lots of talent and promise, but not enough fight and determination. Brilliance has been witnessed only in flashes at Everton, and when the tough times come along, it all goes a bit flat.
Prior to the start of this season, Everton had failed to win away in any of their last 40 games away at the ‘big six’. There is no shame in being outclassed by better opposition, but at times they were being outrun and outfought, and that was simply unacceptable.
Against Tottenham on the opening day of the season, however, things were different. Everton were strong, resilient, and made it tough for Spurs in a way we haven’t seen the team play against a top side for an awfully long time.
This was what fans had been waiting for ever since Carlo Ancelotti took over as Everton manager in December last year. With little action in the January transfer window and the second half of the season disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, fans didn’t see too much of a change from the type of football they witnessed under Marco Silva.
That all changed in North London. Ancelotti, with the help of those on the board, has flexed his muscles in the transfer market, with the additions of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Allan, and James Rodriguez to the team. The latter, at the very least, is unlikely to have been attracted by a move to Goodison Park without the presence of the former Real Madrid, Chelsea, and AC Milan manager.
It was three signings who made the real difference against Tottenham.
Allan ran the show in front of the back four, winning the ball back on countless occasions, and starting quick transitions into forward areas. He and Doucoure kept things relatively simple in the centre of the park, and it felt like a much more assured Everton side.
In front of them, James Rodriguez produced the sort of display that once made him one of the most coveted players in Europe. He may not yet have reached full fitness, having not had a full pre-season, but the quality was clearly there.
Rodriguez showed he had the ability to collect the ball in tight areas, and open the game up for his teammates. He will want to have more of an impact in the final third, but having only been with the Toffees for a week, this was a fine start.
The three new signings will bring the best out of players in the squad too. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has become more of a goalscorer in the last 12 months, while Richarlison has been a real bright spark for Everton over the last two seasons, even if his finishing wasn’t quite what it needed to be at the weekend.
Of course, this is just the start, but it feels like Everton are finally in a position to achieve something with Ancelotti as manager. The trophies may have to wait for now, but Everton fans may just have one eye on Europe after such a strong opening performance.Published 14 Sep 2020, 20:30 IST