Embarrassment at Anfield
Carlo Ancelotti would have known in advance the job he faced at Everton when a few weeks ago just before his appointment he witnessed their Premier League game against Arsenal at Goodison Park that was mostly dour and ended 0-0. He shook his head a few times and was a man who wanted to get straight to work on his team.
Good results followed when taking his seat in the dug out, Everton first beat Burnley and then they impressed many with a 2-1 win at Newcastle, which was only the Magpies second loss at home this season and their first since the opening weekend of the season. A 2-1 loss away to champions Manchester City was the kind of result that the players could look themselves in the mirror about, and then the mirror cracked when they faced old foes Liverpool in the FA Cup, and it cracked big time.
Of course when the draw for the 3rd round was made and Everton knew they were facing the mighty Liverpool at Anfield, the blue half of Merseyside would have groaned, that was up until the day of the game where it became very clear that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp wasn't going to field a strong side. Everton fans smelt blood and more importantly they could smell Everton's first victory at Anfield since 1999 was near. Liverpool obliged starting only 4 recognisable senior players and some of them have been fringe players. James Milner played at the back and there was room for Adam Lallana, Joe Gomez and of course Divock Origi who has had an uncanny ability lately to break Everton fans' hearts, the others were all youngsters.
Much to everyone's surprise, Liverpool won 1-0 after a fantastic goal by 18 year old Curtis Jones becoming the youngest player to score in a Merseyside derby since Robbie Fowler 25 years ago. But the damning truth is that against a full strength Everton side Liverpool deserved the win. They had more shots on goal, more corners, more possession, indeed all they lost out too was the amount of fouls that Everton were resigned to letting out. It felt like a dark day for Everton and it was.
Ancelotti by his own admission broke his own rules after the game and talked to the players, he usually does this the day after. And that was that, Everton were out of the FA Cup, and a wait for a trophy is extended to 25 years. All of a sudden Ancelotti has managed 4 games and already lost two of them and he will have to work perhaps the hardest he has done in his career to get Everton back on track and have the team playing to his vision. It will be interesting.
As for Liverpool they can do no wrong, European champions, world champions and looking like champions-elect with a 13 point lead at the top of the Premier League and with a game in hand.
Our thoughts: Getting knocked out of the FA Cup to a reserve/youth Liverpool side is somewhat embarrassing for a Premier League side, especially rivals Everton, however lets not forget Liverpool have a very talented reserve/youth side. On top of that, Liverpool do seem to get away with being a bit physical at Anfield, with sometimes clear fouls going completely unnoticed, so maybe beating Liverpool's reserve/youth is not such an easy task at Anfield after all. However it's the manner of defeat which is the biggest cause for embarrassment. Everton actually had the best chances in the first half and could have been at least 2-0 up at the break, and some may say had that happened it all would have been different. The thing is, that didn't happen, and instead of Everton coming out in the second half to try and create more clear cut chances, they came out and never even managed a single shot on target. Also, when Curtis Jones scored in the second half, where was Everton's response? They didn't have one, if anything their response looked like they were just waiting for the final whistle. There is something wrong with the mentality of the players at Everton, they are not winners, they are just doing a job. To be a winner you have to have desire, pride, passion, you have to give 110% week in week out whatever the situation, whether it's a big match or just day to day training, and we don't see any of those qualities from the majority of these players. The even more worrying thing we're now hearing is that according to The Athletic several of the senior players refused to accept responsibility for the poor performance, and instead blamed tactics for the defeat. The report also states, some feel Ancelotti's tactics are limiting the potential match impact of certain players. Now Ancelotti has won League titles in Italy, Germany, England and France, and has three Champions League titles to his name and the Everton players feel they have the expertise to question his tactics, it's utterly farcical. These players have had numerous different managers in recent seasons, each time the manager has ended up getting the blame for their poor performances, maybe now they know that wont happen again, Ancelotti has too good a CV to be blamed for performances like the one at the weekend. For the first time since David Moyes, the players are now acually having to take responsibility for their performances and they don't appear to like it. Maybe Silva wasn't that bad after all, maybe the problem lies in recruitment, have they been buying players without a winning mentality? Either way, we see a massive clear out on the cards, and hopefully some of their talented youngsters will also be given a chance to prove themselves.
FA Cup Round-Up
The FA Cup dominated the weekend in England and there were some shocks to be had. Derby knocked out Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park and Brighton lost at home to Sheffield Wednesday. Perhaps the find of the 3rd round was Norwich's Adam Idah who bagged a hat-trick. The Irish teenager could be the future for the national team and one Mick McCarthy was full of praise for him.
Apart from that the big guns sailed through though Wolves held Manchester United to a 0-0 bore draw and will have to replay that match.
Odds to win FA Cup: Manchester City 3.25, Liverpool 6.00, Chelsea 8.00, Leicester 10.00, Tottenham 10.00
Some of Europe were playing domestic games and it is as you were. Barcelona and Real Madrid have 40 points each and are 5 points clear of third place. In Italy Juventus and Inter Milan have the same points but Lazio have emerged as a threat and the team from Rome look great value for the Serie A title at 12.00 (note they are dropping all the time).
Finally in France the circus continues at Monaco after they sacked Leonardo Jardim for the 2nd time in a year. The first was because Monaco had fallen into the relegation zone after selling their star players. The second was because Monaco had improved and were 7th in the league currently 3 points from a top 4 spot. It's all rather bizarre and Jardim can afford to be perplexed by the situation. Perhaps he had a falling out with players or the owner because there doesn't seem to be a footballing reason as to why he would be sacked.
Back to the Premier League
The Premier League continues at the weekend and the highlights include Mikel Arteta's Arsenal side going to Crystal Palace. The Gunners have been poor on the road and it will be interesting to see how they perform against such a stubborn defence. The big game is Tottenham v Liverpool though. Can Jose Mourinho find the tactics to beat this Liverpool side for the first time this season, or will Klopp come out victor once more? That is sure to be a classic and another defining moment in the title race.