In a little over five weeks, Carlo Ancelotti has seemingly transformed Everton’s season from a struggle against relegation from the Premier League to aiming for a European place.
Having dispensed with the services of Marco Silva despite having backed the manager with around £100 million over the summer, the Toffees were looking for a top drawer front line manager to save a stuttering season.
The work done by caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson in a short four game spell brought the club back to life before Ancelotti’s arrival and since then the Italian has started to bring the best out of a talented but at times young squad as they look to repair the damage done over the course of the first half of the season.
Ferguson installed passion from the sidelines during his spell, unbeaten in Premier League games and whilst knocked out of the Carabao Cup by top four challengers Leicester City, the Scot certainly ignited and united the Goodison Park crowd to get behind the team.
Ancelotti has a fantastic proven track record across Europe having managed some of the biggest teams around and for Everton to attract a manager of his calibre given the starting position he inherited must mean he believes he can have the Merseyside outfit challenging for European places very soon. With the unpredictability of the Premier League this season, the Toffees could still snatch a spot in the top six or seven and with it, potential qualification for the Europa League.
Their only defeat since the Italian took charge has been away to the current champions Manchester City, vitaly picking up points off those sides around them to charge up the table and the Toffees now sit handily placed to capitalise should any one of those teams go through a bad spell.
The visit of Crystal Palace this weekend is the final game before the Toffees mid-season break and they face a side very much out of form, confidence should be high expecting to claim another three points which would push them to within four points of the mark which generally confirms Premier League survival for another year, something that looked a long way off at the beginning of December.
Everton do appear much harder to break down than under Silva, to stop conceding goals must have been Ancelotti’s first priority, although under Ferguson you could see there was more resolve within his back four and with Dominic Calvert-Lewin firing on all cylinders in attack, the Toffees look more assured with each passing game.
Should Calvert-Lewin continue his form over the remaining few months of the season, there will be clamour for his inclusion in the Euro 2020 England squad given the injury to Harry Kane, the retired Jamie Vardy and the loss of form for Callum Wilson.
Having held onto Richarlison in the January window the midfielder will be one of the keys to finding out where Everton will finish in the table as he is the talisman of this side.
Turning down £85 million from Spanish giants Barcelona might be seen as brave as the cash could have been used to bring in two or three new recruits, the Brazilian is the only other player than Calvert-Lewin to score more than twice this season, but cashing in on him could well have caused more problems than retaining him would have done and seen the good work being undertaken now come crashing down around Goodison Park.
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37