Tottenham Hotspur will face Everton tomorrow in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Spurs are trying to keep their hopes of multiple trophies alive while Everton are facing their last realistic opportunity for silverware this season. Both clubs are still in the hunt for Champions League positions, though Everton are in slightly better form. Joining me from Royal Blue Mersey is Matthew, who answers questions about Carlo Ancelotti, his summer wishlist and whether or not Jordan Pickford is actually good.
CFC: Everton are sniffing the European places currently in this topsy-turvy season. What’s been the biggest catalyst for the Toffees this season?
RBM: The manager. Carlo Ancelotti has hardly put a foot wrong. He’s improved individuals like Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Michael Keane and Tom Davies, he’s made Everton far better away from home and far more resilient in games, too. Plus he’s bought well. All in all, he’s done a fantastic job so far.
CFC: How have James and Allan been overall this season and who has been the biggest standout?
RBM: Both excellent. Like I alluded to before, every signing Ancelotti has made so far has impressed and improved our team. James Rodriguez is majestic on the ball at times, while Allan has brought such tenacity to what was an awful, anaemic midfield last season. He’s been injured since December 15 and has been a big miss, but could make a welcome return against Tottenham.
CFC: Let’s say Everton continue this push and crawl into the top four at season’s end. What position is on your wishlist this summer?
RBM: Right-back, because Seamus Coleman is in decline now and Ancelotti clearly doesn’t rate his deputy Jonjoe Kenny, given he played centre-backs there over him before loaning him out to Celtic last week. Also goalkeeper, because Jordan Pickford isn’t good enough.
CFC: Carlo Ancelotti seems happy where he’s at and is signed through 2024. Have you been surprised at all with how he’s managed this squad? Any changes you think he needs to make tactically?
RBM: A little surprised, given how many of these players looked busted flushes under previous managers, but then again his reputation and CV speaks for itself. I’d like us to be less one-dimensional at home, but I don’t think that will be a problem against Tottenham - it’s been more of an issue against ostensibly lesser sides.
CFC: Is Jordan Pickford good again? It seems like he’s had less blunders lately.
RBM: Better, but still not convinced he’s the answer. An awful mistake against Leicester, when he let Youri Tielemans’ tame shot go through him, cost us 2 points and was such a shame because he’s been much-improved lately.
The introduction of Roma loanee Robin Olsen has helped; he has excelled bar Saturday’s draw at Manchester United, and has also provided Pickford with stronger competition and thus made him more motivated and focused.
But in short, I don’t think Pickford is a bad goalkeeper, just not the goalkeeper I’d like in my team.
CFC: I give you the following choice: FA Cup or Top Four. Which do you take?
RBM: FA Cup. Your league position is a better barometer of more wide-scale progress, but it’s 26 years since Everton won anything; the longest trophy drought in the club’s history. And as a fan, I’d rather an unforgettable day out at Wembley (once we can go, anyway) than celebrating finishing top four.
CFC: What’s the lineup looking like for Wednesday?
RBM: Ancelotti has paid the cup competitions a lot of respect with his lineups, so I think it’ll be as strong a side as is available to him.
I will predict Olsen; Digne, Mina, Keane, Godfrey; Davies, Gomes, Doucoure: Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin, Rodriguez.
A big thank you to Matthew for joining me. I did the same for him over at Royal Blue Mersey, so you should check it out when you get a chance!