While the Blues looked disjointed and lacked energy in their recent loss to Aston Villa at Goodison Park, they couldn’t have looked much different on their trip to east London.
The visitors were well organized, disciplined and engaged throughout the pitch – fully deserving the three points with which they returned to Merseyside.
Much of that was due to another roster adjustment, with Ancelotti using what mostly looked like a 3-5-2 to quell the Hammers’ offensive threat and effectively place Everton on the counter.
The tactic worked very well, but the match also exemplified the handling of the boss’s men when it came to two returning players to the side.
First, Michael Keane was introduced to the left side of the three-way defense, starting his first game since the draw with Spurs after suffering a minor injury before the victory over Arsenal.
The England international would likely admit he wasn’t in his best form before being forced to leave the squad, however.
Mistakes had crept into his game and he was starting to drift away from the form that had established him as one of Ancelotti’s most trusted players since the lockout returned.
There was a suggestion from some quarterbacks that an omission of Gareth Southgate’s last England team could have been the cause of the drop, but there was no hint of that on Sunday.
With England assistant manager Steve Holland in attendance at the London Stadium, Keane was back to his best.
Perhaps the tactics played out in the hands of the returning defender, getting into a three-way defense rather than a couple takes the pressure off somewhat.
Aligning with three midfielders in front of that line also added a layer of protection for Keane to come back to the side with relative ease.
Of course, he still had to get up and show his quality – and he did that very well in the 90 minutes.
The center-back won four aerial duels as West Ham tried to shoot crosses into the box to create opportunities, with the England international comfortably slamming that door in the face.
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One tackle, one interception and eight clearances – the latter being the most players on the pitch – were all signs of a player who was back in shape.
It appears that a small spell on the sidelines, forced or not, was exactly what the defender needed to refocus and ensure he was ready not only for the Everton showdown – but for a possible recall from the ‘England.
Ahead of him, Tom Davies was also back in the camp against West Ham.
The circumstances around the midfielder were a bit different from those of his teammate. The 22-year-old was arguably in his best form in an Everton shirt before retiring to the side.
In the last two matches, Fabian Delph and Andre Gomes have apparently been favored over Davies in some scenarios – confusing a number of supporters.
It might have been easy for the other players to lose focus and motivation after this, but the returning midfielder showed ultimate professionalism on his return.
Entering the squad allowed Allan next to him to progress a bit further down the pitch, with Davies often staying put and making sure he stopped West Ham’s attack at every opportunity.
He was determined and tough in the tackle which saw him inexplicably stopped by the referee on several occasions – but it was clear he hadn’t lost any of what impressed the Evertonians so much about him recently.
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This is another example of Ancelotti knowing what to do with his two players, motivating them in the best possible way to get results on the pitch.
The Italian is held in such high regard not only by the Blues team, but by most of the stars who have played under him in the past.
His tactical understanding and willingness to learn about the personal attributes of his team members allows him to know exactly what to do in situations that could prove difficult for others.
Earlier in the campaign, with Jordan Pickford’s form change, the boss turned a bit more between England No.1 and Robin Olsen to relieve the pressure somewhat.
Look how it went. Suddenly the goalkeeper is at the height of his power again.
Those two occasions were lesser examples of that, of course, but if they produce similar results by the end of the campaign, they could be crucial to Everton’s European push.