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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - In the context of a managerial career that has produced 646 victories, 17 major trophies at some of the world’s most glamorous clubs and three Champions Leagues, a 1-0 win over Burnley in a distinctly low-calibre game could fade into insignificance.
Not when it was Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton bow, however, or when it was a result fashioned by his input. “For me, it was a really special day,” said the Italian. His extraordinary medal collection owes something to the hugely talented players he has coached, but his introduction to Everton showed he has the footballing brain to exert a catalytic effect with less skilful individuals.
A natural diplomat has always promised evolution rather than revolution, but his subtle tinkering yielded a decider to defeat a defiant Burnley side. Perhaps there was no surprise that, much as he admires Moise Kean, who he tried to take to Napoli, he started with Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Arguably the outstanding player of Duncan Ferguson’s spell in interim charge responded by delivering the winner.
Yet it came after Ancelotti introduced Kean, a third striker, to give Burnley’s well-organised defence something else to think about. And it came courtesy of Djibril Sidibe’s cross. The Frenchman was one of two specialist right-backs Ancelotti selected. He took on a more attacking role.
“We tried to build up with [Seamus] Coleman a little bit back and Sidibe more forward,” Ancelotti said. “It went well because he put the cross for Calvert-Lewin to score the goal.”
Sidibe had almost struck earlier himself, with a drilled shot that the excellent Nick Pope did well to repel. When he turned supplier with a curling cross, Calvert-Lewin plunged forward to head in via the far post. Ancelotti, who never beat Everton as Chelsea manager, tasted victory in his first game in charge of them.
He observed proceedings from the edge of his technical area. In keeping with his calm persona, he was less vocal and less demonstrative than both Sean Dyche, his Burnley counterpart, and Ferguson. He must, however, have noticed the difference. A manager who is accustomed to working with Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and AC Milan players has rather lesser tools at his disposal. He nevertheless used them astutely.
A disciple of Arrigo Sacchi, he was a devotee of 4-4-2 in the 1990s but has rarely played it in the last two decades. “He has had big spells of playing 4-3-3 with some of the big players in the world,” said Dyche, a fan of 4-4-2 himself.
The Italian kept Ferguson’s favourite system out of possession while altering it when they had the ball. “Defensively we did not change,” Ancelotti said. If Everton retained the Scot’s rough-and-ready approach, Ancelotti’s imprint came in the way they switched formation in possession, moving to a 3-5-2 to get Bernard into space between the lines and to use the crossing of Lucas Digne and Sidibe.
It qualified as an immediate impact, given how little time Ancelotti had to prepare. “We had one training session about the strategy of the game,” he said. It was not too much. The players tried to do something different. For the first time it was good. The performance was good, but not top.”
This was a sequel to Burnley’s tedious win over Bournemouth and Everton’s uneventful stalemate with Arsenal, a game largely lacking in drama and quality. Burnley almost struck first, Yerry Mina clearing Jay Rodriguez’s header from under the bar, but, as Ancelotti noted, “we didn’t concede a shot [on target].”
There was an irony that Burnley, a team who invariably play without the ball, conceded after trying to play too much football with Dwight McNeil the culprit. “Unfortunately, we make a mistake when we could play for position, not possession,” Dyche said.
Everton had the majority of the ball but struggled to convert it into clear-cut chances. Pope, who had not even had to make a save in Burnley’s two previous games, excelled to deny Mason Holgate after Mina met Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free kick. Calvert-Lewin missed a couple of opportunities but earned his new manager’s praise.
“He is a fantastic striker,” said Ancelotti, who urged the scorer to be more selfish. “He is very generous so he moves up and down, left and right, he has to stay more focused on the box.”
Updated: December 26, 2019 10:53 PM
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