The new year opened with renewed optimism amongst Everton fans as they got used to the fact that a manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s calibre had become the Blues boss. So what impact could he have on the teams fortunes this year?
Everton opened 2020 with a tough game at the defending champions Manchester City. Unsurprisingly the Blues were beaten, but only 2-1 and again it was a better performance than might have been expected earlier in the campaign.
However, then came another embarrassing defeat at Anfield as the Blues lost 1-0 to Liverpool’s youngsters in the FA Cup third round. It was still early days in the Ancelotti reign, but the lack of fight and self-belief shown in this game was evidently still a significant problem to be addressed.
Shaking off that defeat, the Toffees continued their good home form under the Italian as they defeated Brighton 1-0 in their next Premier League game.
Now there were two draws in a row. First of all away to West Ham and then a very frustrating match at Goodison Park as the Blues hosted Newcastle United.
Everton were playing well and combining a solid defense with goals, at last. The Toffees were much the better side again, especially in the first half, and were good value for the two goal lead they had with just a few minutes remaining. On another positive note Moise Kean had also opened his account at last, netting his first Everton goal.
The game looked signed and sealed, then it all went wrong as maddeningly a series of lapses in defensive concentration led to Newcastle scoring two late goals to force an undeserved draw.
These late-game lapses had been another feature of the season so far. On several occasions the Blues had let leads slip in injury time as their concentration waned.
February started with a trip to Watford and another away win, it was Everton who scored a late winner and came away with a 3-2 victory.
The Blues then faced two London clubs back-to-back. First Crystal Palace were well beaten 3-1 at Goodison Park and then came a trip to the Emirates and the Toffees were involved in another five goal game, this time Everton finished the losers.
Despite that defeat, the Blues looked a more confident team, playing some good attacking football and had hauled themselves back into mid-table. In other good news Andre Gomes made a stunningly early return to football coming on against the Gunners.
There were still some issues to address, especially in midfield. Ancelotti was sticking to a 4-4-2 and that created constant selection headaches as he struggled to find the players to make it work properly. But relegation was now almost certainly avoided and qualifying for Europe was a real possibility, something that had seemed a distant dream just a few weeks ago.
As March began Manchester United were the visitors in the first game of the month with belief beginning to build that a corner had really been turned in the team’s fortunes.
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Once more Everton were embroiled in more VAR controversy as a disputed last-minute goal denied the Blues a winner. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s late strike was ruled out as Gylfi Sigurdsson was lying prostrate on the ground in front of him as he swept the ball home.
Ancelotti was incensed at the decision to chalk it off, and after remonstrating with the referee was sent off in the dying moments of the match at Goodison. It was yet another example of what seemed often arbitrary and almost perverse decison-making that charaterised VAR all season.
Now came another trip to the capital, never a happy hunting ground, and without warning the wheels fell off again as Everton slumped to a dreadful 4-0 defeat, their worst of the season. It was a dispiriting match in which all the old weaknesses in the team seemed to return. Surely that recent revival wasn’t just another false dawn, was is..?
Before we had chance to find out, came the virus lockdown and before the next game could be played the Premier League was suspended indefinitely.