Ancelotti makes Everton admission as Blues look to go top of Premier League

With the opportunity for Everton, on Saturday, to top the Premier League for a second time this season, these are heady days for the Merseyside club.

There is a feel-good factor at Goodison that has not only inspired their supporters, but infected the players too – boss Carlo Ancelotti suggesting he feels a transformation in mood around the club, from the dark days of his arrival last season.

A draw at Crystal Palace this weekend would guarantee the Blues assume top spot for at least one day. Remarkably, before this campaign got underway, it was 13 years since Everton experienced that feeling.

Back in August 2007, they also beat Spurs to climb to the summit of the division for eight days, with a team that contained eight Englishmen, and a sturdy stoicism that underpinned much of the early years of the David Moyes era.

This time around, things are decidedly different. There is a Latin flair in form of Colombian superstar James Rodriguez, and his less flamboyant but equally well regarded South American, the Brazil international Allan.

Add Allan’s Seleção team-mates Richarlison and Bernard to the mix, and another Colombian in Yerry Mina, along with the Portuguese thoroughbred that is Andre Gomes, and the mercurial Latin influence in the Blues squad is as unpredictable as it is exciting.

That according to Ancelotti, is one of the factors behind the turnaround he has seen in a squad that was in a desperate state when he arrived. A big factor – but by no means the only one.

“There is a sense of a good feeling around the squad, yes” he explained. “We started the season with more motivation and more ambition.

“The signings make a difference, of course. This can be one reason. But I don’t think that is the only reason – we started so well because of (a number) of reasons.

“But I do see different motivation, a different attitude, different atmosphere in the training ground and on the pitch. A different atmosphere on the pitch when we train.”

Ancelotti didn’t spell it out explicitly, but the transformation has been as much in mentality, as it has quality.

When he arrived, Everton were dangling dangerously close to the relegation zone, with a squad visibly lacking not only in confidence, but also in a clear understanding of what the previous manager Marco Silva wanted.

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There was no obvious philosophy in his team, no obvious technical or tactical blueprint. Ancelotti recognised that, and addressed it immediately.

He knew he couldn’t restore confidence immediately, so instead he imposed structure and organisation on the formation, adopting his favoured 4-4-2 to allow the players to quickly grasp his demands.

It wasn’t always pretty, but apart from a dip at the end of the campaign when there was nothing to play for, there was a real improvement in results…and with it attitude.

“Last season was really difficult for us, really really difficult at the beginning when I arrived; the end: so difficult to,” he suggested.

“And maybe the motivation is because we don’t want to have the same difficulties and the same bad moment this season. We want a different feeling – and at the moment the sensations are good, the confidence is good, the momentum is good.”

The challenge, of course, is maintaining it. In 2007 Moyes did that with a fine end of season run that took Everton into fifth place, and so nearly delivered his second shot at the Champions League.

Ancelotti has been clear this season: they have to aim for the top, to deliver the very minimum of a European place. But to do that, the Italian demands one thing from a squad that doesn’t have the greatest of depth.

“Consistency,” he said with emphasis. “We need consistency to win games like tomorrow, which is a difficult game away. The first two tests, against Tottenham and West Bromwich were so good, and we need to take that with us consistently.”

It is early days, but if one manager can deliver that, then it is Ancelotti.

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