Carlo Ancelotti hasn’t been at the club a month yet, and he could be making an early Everton mistake following his comments on Michael Keane and his other central defensive options following the 1-0 win against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.
The Toffees picked up a much-needed three points following their largely dreadful display against severely-weakened arch-rivals Liverpool in a 1-0 FA Cup defeat the previous weekend at Anfield.
Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate and Seamus Coleman started in a back three against Jurgen Klopp’s men, but Ancelotti made changes to his backline for the visit of the Seagulls by switching to four in defence, with Michael Keane replacing Mina at the heart of it.
The hosts went on to pick up the victory and also gained a clean sheet, which made the manager’s post-match comments a little confusing.
As per The Liverpool Echo, the 60-year-old said: “I made some changes [yesterday], but I saw the training and a player that played like Michael Keane that didn’t have a lot of opportunities the last games gave me total confidence to put him in.
Speaking about Mina, he added: “It was just a rotation that I did just to keep Michael Keane involved. It was not a technical decision – Mina is going to play the next game and I am maybe going to rest Holgate.
“The three defenders all give to me the same confidence. Sometimes they will have to get used to rotation.”
Those quotes show how brave the Napoli boss is as he isn’t afraid to make the difficult decisions, but you also have to question him in this particular case, too.
Firstly, how can you say that Mina is definitely going to play in the next game when the two central defenders you picked in the previous game have just picked up a clean sheet?
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What message does it send out to Holgate that he could be effectively dropped against West Ham United this weekend – a full week after he last played meaning tiredness shouldn’t be an issue – having not put a foot wrong against Graham Potter’s men.
In addition, Keane is visibly still adapting to trying to play the ball out from the back like Ancelotti wants his centre-backs to do, while Holgate is certainly already more accustomed to doing it than his partner on Saturday.
Surely if you also want that defensive understanding and organisation when it comes to certain drills, you need to have the same players – and especially the same central-defensive partnership – playing in every game to know what each other are going to do. The former Napoli manager’s proposed chopping and changing isn’t going to help that.
He may say that he feels the trio are at the same level, but in reality he needs to pick a favoured pair and stick with them.