Wolves ex­pose lack of di­rec­tion at Ever­ton

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Total Football - By Tom Cary

Wolves and Ever­ton be­gan the post-lock­down pe­riod, the­o­ret­i­cally any­way, fight­ing each other for a Euro­pean spot. The for­tunes of the two clubs since the restart neatly sums up where they find them­selves un­der their re­spec­tive man­agers.

Wolves have a clear iden­tity un­der Nuno Es­pir­ito Santo, one in which the play­ers clearly have faith. Af­ter back-to-back de­feats by Arse­nal and Sh­effield United, they stuck to their guns and got their just re­wards here, a fourth win in six games lift­ing them back into the top six and in the Cham­pi­ons League con­ver­sa­tion.

Ever­ton, by con­trast, have lost their way. With this performanc­e, which man­ager Carlo Ancelotti la­belled as “un­ac­cept­able”, they sur­ren­dered any last hopes they had of qual­i­fy­ing for Europe.

More wor­ry­ingly, they raised a host of new ques­tions about their team and whether Ancelotti is the man to re­build it. The Ital­ian has made Ever­ton more or­gan­ised in his eight months at the club, fre­quently switch­ing for­ma­tions midgame to cover up de­fi­cien­cies and nul­lify op­po­nents. But he ar­guably got his se­lec­tion wrong here.

With Sea­mus Cole­man rested, Ever­ton be­gan with a back three of

Michael Keane, Yerry Mina and Lu­cas Digne. Theo Wal­cott and Leighton Baines were wing-backs.

Wolves en­joyed that. Even with­out Adama Traore in their start­ing line-up, they got in be­hind Ever­ton re­peat­edly, winger Daniel Po­dence tar­get­ing Wal­cott in par­tic­u­lar.

Af­ter Mina went off in­jured and Cole­man slot­ted into the back three, things only got worse. Raul Jimenez nearly scored an over­head kick be­fore con­vert­ing a penalty on the stroke of half-time, awarded for a clumsy Digne trip on Po­dence.

The sec­ond half was a hor­ror show from an Ever­ton per­spec­tive. Jar­rad Bran­th­waite, an 18-year-old cen­tre-back signed from Carlisle in Jan­uary, came on for his de­but and within 45 sec­onds gave away a free-kick from which Le­an­der Den­don­cker headed home.

Wolves went through the gears, Traore com­ing on and run­ning de­fend­ers ragged. And they saved the best for last. Diogo Jota’s goal, from Ruben Neves’s won­der­ful long pass, was sensationa­l. But Ever­ton were all over the place by then.

The malaise started at the back – Jor­dan Pick­ford adding to his re­cent bloop­ers reel with one which squirmed be­tween his legs and al­most over the line – and ex­tended into the mid­field. Ancelotti is go­ing to have a stiff neck this morn­ing the num­ber of times he turned and shook his head in frus­tra­tion af­ter Tom Davies gave away pos­ses­sion, which was a ter­ri­fy­ing amount.

Davies and Gylfi Sig­urds­son are patently not a cen­tral mid­field pair­ing. And that has to be the top pri­or­ity for Ever­ton this sum­mer. The club are un­for­tu­nate that JeanPhilip­pe Gbamin, signed to re­place Idrissa Gu­eye in the en­gine room, got in­jured right at the start of the sea­son. But given sport­ing direc­tor Mar­cel Brands’s record in the trans­fer mar­ket – £35mil­lion mid­fielder Alex Iwobi and £30mil­lion striker Moise Kean came on in the sec­ond half here and made zero im­pact – there is no guar­an­tee Gbamin would make a huge dif­fer­ence.

Ever­ton fans will hope Ancelotti plun­ders his con­tacts book and brings in a few of his own sign­ings.

Whether he has the stom­ach for it af­ter so many years at Europe’s elite clubs re­mains to be seen.

“There are some ex­cuses, but I don’t want to have ex­cuses, the performanc­e was not ac­cept­able,” Ancelotti said.

As for Wolves, they have plenty to look for­ward to, most im­me­di­ately a trip to Burn­ley on Wed­nes­day. “It’s about re­act­ing,” said Nuno, dis­miss­ing re­ports he had signed a new con­tract. “Arse­nal was not a good game, Sh­effield United was a bet­ter one. Today we played bet­ter.”

Game over: Diogo Jota cel­e­brates scor­ing Wolves’ third goal to put the seal on vic­tory

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