Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti could have been in the opposite dugout if both Arsenal and Everton played it safe… but while Gunners rebuild, should they have hired Italian who has his side SECOND in form table?
- Arsenal host Everton in the Premier League on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium
- Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti will battle it out for glory in north London
- Both managers were linked with each other’s jobs before they were appointed
- Here, Sportsmail compares how both have got on so far at their respective clubs
When Arsenal and Everton were scouring the market for a new manager in December, both historic Premier League clubs had huge decisions to make to ensure their respective slumps didn’t become terminal.
The Gunners and the Toffees had endured extremely alarming starts to the Premier League season and their pre-campaign European dreams seemed a million miles away already.
As a result of their awful domestic form, both Unai Emery and Marco Silva were sacked by their clubs and the hunt had begun for their next appointments to usher in a new dawn.
Arsenal have shown plenty of signs of encouragement under Mikel Arteta since he took over
Everton have enjoyed a surge up the table since Carlo Ancelotti was appointed manager
Arteta watched Arsenal’s bore 0-0 draw against Everton back in December from the stands
Ancelotti was also in attendance after being appointed manager just moments before kick-off
Emery was dismissed by Arsenal at the end of November with the club sitting eighth in the Premier League, already eight points off the top four, and having endured their worst run without a victory since February 1992.
Meanwhile, Everton decided to part ways with Silva early in December after the club were languishing 18th in the relegation zone after three successive defeats.
Both clubs were in dire straits and were in desperate need of inspiring managers to lift the confidence and mood in the dressing room.
Their next moves were critical – get it wrong and they’d fall even further into mediocrity or get it right and perhaps hunt down the European spots – so both sides were more than willing to bide their time to get their desired targets.
Arsenal and Everton were at a crossroads and many managerial names had been floated about – do they go with someone with a wealth of experience to arrest the slump or start afresh with a young candidate that potentially had a big future in front of them?
It led to both Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti being linked with the Arsenal and Everton vacancies, with many arguing the Gunners needed the Italian to partially restore the glory days while others debated the Toffees should look young to rebuild for the future.
Ancelotti has guided Everton to five victories from his first eight Premier League matches
Arsenal’s progress has been slower under Arteta but they finally have a clear identity again
But after plenty of deliberating and knowing the next move was key, finally Arsenal and Everton named their man just before Christmas, and ironically just prior to the two teams battling it out at Goodison Park in what turned out to be a bore draw.
And both teams decided to go for the more outlandish option – Arsenal appointed Arteta in a sign of starting again while Everton picked Ancelotti to bring instant success.
Arteta and Ancelotti were both in the stands on Merseyside as they watched their new sides play out one of the most lacklustre matches of the Premier League season. It was clear Arsenal and Everton were hugely lacking in confidence – and that was their first task to deal with.
They both led their new sides out for the first time on Boxing Day (Arsenal were 11th and Everton 15th at the time) and since then they have enjoyed an upturn in fortunes, especially Everton.
Despite a harrowing 1-0 defeat to rivals Liverpool, who put out their kids in the FA Cup third round clash, things have been plain-sailing for Ancelotti and they now somehow sit just four points off the Champions League places.
Since Ancelotti’s appointment at Goodison Park, Everton hold the second best record in the Premier League – winning an impressive 17 points from eight matches, scoring 14 goals and conceding nine.
Only Liverpool, who are sprinting towards their first-ever Premier League title, have a better record after winning all their matches since Boxing Day.
The Premier League table before Arteta and Ancelotti took charge of their first games
The Premier League table during the time both took charge of their first game and now
The Toffees have been extremely efficient in attack thanks to the heroics of Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, producing 118 shots in Ancelotti’s eight games, with an expected goal ratio of 15.86.
Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin have been a constant threat to opposition defences since the Italian arrived at the helm, with the latter especially enjoying a golden spell in front of goal.
The English youngster, pushing for a spot in Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad, has six goals and one assist in eight games and he has continued to get into threatening positions – having 30 shots during that time with a conversion rate of 20 per cent.
Calvert-Lewin has also created nine chances for his Everton team-mates, showing that he has the creativity to go alongside his goalscoring instinct.
Richarlison has three goals and one assist in six fixtures under Ancelotti, while producing 18 shots at goal with a conversion rate of 16.7 per cent. The Brazilian continues to link up the play brilliantly and he has proven that by creating eight chances for his team-mates.
Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have been in fine form working under the Italian
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison have shone under Ancelotti
The pair are showing they have the all-round game to lead the line in the long-run, and Ancelotti will be hoping the attacking duo continue to push them on in their chase for a Champions League spot.
Meanwhile, it has been a slower journey for Arsenal under the inexperienced Arteta but there are plenty of encouraging signs that the three-time Premier League winners are coming back to life.
Arteta has guided the north London outfit to just two Premier League victories in his first eight games – including an impressive 2-0 win over Manchester United on New Year’s Day and emphatic 4-0 rout of Newcastle last weekend.
They have picked up just 11 points out of a possible 24 and sit eighth in the standings since the Spaniard – formerly working as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City – took over.
But despite their woeful form throughout the season, winning just seven games in total, they somehow only sit as many points off top four. They can’t believe their own luck and Arteta will quietly be eyeing an unlikely Champions League berth following the two-year ban of his former employers.
Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka has been a standout player for Arteta
Arsenal are slowly but surely starting to find their rhythm in front of goal again, dominating the tempo of matches much more under Arteta – enjoying an average of 54.3 per cent possession per game – but that’s not the most significant improvement.
Defensively, Arsenal have looked a lot more compact defensively in recent times, keeping three clean sheets in a row in all competitions (two of them in the Premier League). They have faced 97 shots following Arteta’s arrival, with only 31 of them being on target.
Plenty of stars are showing big signs of improvement at the Emirates, most notably both Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi – two players whose futures at Arsenal seemed dead and buried back in December.
But it’s the emergence and development of the next generation under Arteta that is exciting Arsenal fans the most, with Bukayo Saka leading the way despite playing out of position as left back following injuries to Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney.
The Ealing-born teenager has shown maturity well beyond his years and his impressive form has led him to attracting interest from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
The 18-year-old has featured seven times under Arteta in the English top flight, conceding just six times alongside the rest of his defensive team-mates and making 13 tackles, five interceptions and winning 58.2 per cent of his duels.
Bukayo Saka has been a standout player under Arteta despite playing out of position
And going forward, he has shown no signs of fear, creating one assist and two big chances for his team-mates. If he continues to progress at the same speed he is doing so at the moment, Arsenal could have a special player on their hands.
So fast forward from the goalless draw at Goodison Park on December 21, and things now feel very different heading into the Premier League encounter at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams appear on the up again and head into the weekend’s clash in confident form, somehow competing for a European spot after dismal starts to the season.
While it might be too early to say that their respective managerial appointments have been a success, things are certainly moving in the right direction and the feel-good factor appears to be back at both the Emirates and Goodison Park.
Sunday’s fixture will be an intriguing battle in both the race for Europe and to see what Arteta and Ancelotti could have brought to their opponents had things panned out differently in December.
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