Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 July 2020

Carlo Ancelotti and Everton can use Leicester City as role models for Premier League progress

Foxes on course to achieve Merseysider’s target and go from mid-table team to Champions League qualifiers

If Everton could be forgiven for looking enviously across Stanley Park, they will have a still more visible reminder of what they aspire to be on Wednesday.

The new champions are their neighbours but next opponents Leicester City are on course to accomplish Everton’s aim and to go from mid-table team to Champions League qualifiers.

If Carlo Ancelotti’s silverware-studded career makes him a manager to emulate for many, Leicester are role models for him.

“The goal as we said from the first day is to be competitive, to fight for the first four places of the Premier League,” he said. “Leicester did really well. They won the league a few years ago and can be a good example to follow.”

Leicester have had a stop-start 2020, and not merely because football was halted for three months, but retain third place.

They could become the first team outside the ‘big six’ to qualify for the Champions League since Leicester themselves in 2016. “A surprise, of course,” said Ancelotti. “Brendan [Rodgers] did fantastic work, in my opinion. He put some new players in the squad and rebuilt it a bit.”

It is the task for Ancelotti, to blend continuity and change. Only two of Rodgers’ recruits, Youri Tielemans and Ayoze Perez, have been regular starters this season but the homegrown winger Harvey Barnes has earned a place in the team and Caglar Soyuncu has stepped from the shadows to replace the sold Harry Maguire.

There are parallels with the job at Goodison. Everton have been big – and, at times, poor – spenders in recent years but director of football Marcel Brands has admitted this summer must be a cheaper one.

Progress cannot come from the chequebook alone but Everton have as many points as Chelsea, 22, during Ancelotti’s reign.

“I have confidence in the future, not for what we did, though it was quite good but for what we can do,” said the triple Champions League winner. “Apart from what is going on in the market, we have a young squad with a lot of players that can improve their quality.”

Ancelotti’s capacity to take players to another level has been evident already.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has a career-best 15 goals this season, eight of them under the Italian. Mason Holgate, who was loaned out last year, has emerged as the first-choice centre-back. His partnership with Michael Keane has been a reason why Everton have consecutive clean sheets since restarting.

“I think it is a good mental sign that we didn’t concede a goal,” said Ancelotti. “To defend well is not only quality but also the concentration and the motivation.”

It is all the more admirable as he has been short of defenders but Yerry Mina is back in contention tonight and right-back Djibril Sidibe will return to training on Friday.

Ancelotti has only had one senior defender in reserve for the 0-0 draw against Liverpool and the 1-0 victory over Norwich.

Leighton Baines has signed a short-term extension to keep him at Goodison for the rest of the season, but the 35-year-old’s longer-term future remains unresolved.

Baines has been mentoring the teenager Anthony Gordon and Ancelotti is keen to keep him. “Leighton is an important part of this squad and above all this club,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for him as a player, a professional and a man.”

Leicester have an equivalent figure in captain Wes Morgan. Yet while they are setting their sights on the glamourous continental competition, Everton have a different European dream.

“It could be a great achievement to reach the Europa League for the next year,” Ancelotti said. “It will be a big fight until the end of the season.”

Updated: June 30, 2020 06:44 PM

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