By Tony Attwood
Everton confirmed the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti with a four-and-a-half-year contract. Arsenal gave Mikel Arteta a three and a half year contract.
According to the Guardian, Ancelotti’s arrival at the club “will be regarded as a significant coup for the club and its majority shareholder, Farhad Moshiri. Everton are 15th in the Premier League and had feared becoming embroiled in a relegation fight until a recent upturn under the caretaker manager, Duncan Ferguson.” (Arsenal, as was noted almost daily, had suffered severely under Freddie).
On the Everton club website there was lots of pomp and talk of the past and future with the new man saying, “This is a great club with a rich history and a very passionate fan base. There is a clear vision from the owner and the board to deliver success and trophies. That is something that appeals to me as a manager and I am thrilled at the prospect of being able to work with everybody at the club to help make that vision a reality.”
Upbeat was the order of the day, the Guardian inevitably falling into line with, “Ancelotti…will inherit an improved situation from Ferguson. The former Everton striker has overseen impressive performances against Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester – as well as the more sterile draw with Arsenal – and Ancelotti confirmed he will remain part of the staff.”
At that moment Arsenal were four points and six goals better off than Everton, an easy gap for Everton with their top man in place, to make up.
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The Everton man had of course just been sacked by his last club but that was a mere detail and his failure there was hardly mentioned. Arsenal were the ones gambling. You could almost hear the media rubbing their hands with eager anticipation of Arsenal’s failures to come.
Indeed the Guardian said, Ancelotti, “will inherit an improved situation from Ferguson” (the interim manager). “The former Everton striker has overseen impressive performances against Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester…”
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Ancelotti took up the theme saying, “I have seen from the performances in the last two weeks that the players are capable of so much. The work Duncan has done is a great credit to him. Strong organisation, strong discipline and the right motivation are some of the key ingredients in football and I’m pleased he will be part of my backroom team moving forward.”
Ferguson played his part in the propaganda. “We knew … the club were about to appoint an unbelievable manager, that gave everyone a lift,” he said. “We wanted a world-class manager and now we’ve got one, I can’t wait to start working with him and learning from him.”
For yes, Ancelotti had pedigree winning the Champions League three times, and each of Serie A, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1, as well as the double with Chelsea.
But while all was sweetness and light at Everton the media were also highly critical of Arsenal. Lots of publicity was given concerning Manchester City’s complaints about “Arsenal’s conduct” in offering Arteta a job, as the Guardian put it. The media were given the story that “until a seven-figure compensation fee was paid, [Arteta] would not be released.”
Thus while Ancelotti slipped neatly into Everton, there was the implication of chaos and cost at Arsenal. The Guardian next reported that, “The precise makeup of Arteta’s backroom team has yet to be decided. Ljungberg will almost certainly be involved in some capacity while Rodolfo Borrell, who works with Arteta and Pep Guardiola at City, is understood to be a target. Domènec Torrent, who also coached at City before a 15-month spell as head coach of New York City FC, may be in their thoughts too but Arsenal’s prospects of signing either or both men are unclear.”
No such lack of clarity at Everton, as the transition was said to be smoothness itself.
So what happened?
By the end of the season the table looked like this
The gap between the two clubs had widened to seven points. The goal difference between the two was now 20 goals. Arsenal also had a spot of FA Cup playing to do, as time went by – quite a lot more than Everton who went out in the third round. Arsenal, you may recall won the FA Cup and Community Shield while Everton won just one in their last six games. Arsenal won five of their last six matches including victories against Liverpool (twice), Man City and Chelsea.
A league table of matches after lockdown (by which time both managers had settled in) shows Arsenal running neck and neck with Liverpool (they got 17 post lockdown points, we got 16). Everton however struggled.
Yet still there’s been little criticism of Ancelloti, and no look back by the media to their fine predictions about what life would be like under him – or Arteta. No apology either for failing to see the way Arsenal would turn themselves around.
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