Graham Potter reflects in his programme notes on recent results and the excellent job Carlo Ancelotti has done at Everton, ahead of the Toffees' visit to the Amex tonight.
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A warm welcome to Carlo Ancelotti, along with the players and officials of Everton for tonight's game at the Amex.
Since my last programme notes against Newcastle United, we've had contrasting fortunes in terms of results, but we have been pleased with the performances, and when you look at our form and results in 2021, I feel we have made significant progress. We still have work to do between now and the end of the season and the challenge is to maintain, or, better still, improve that form, secure our status and finish as high up the table as we can.
Reflecting on the Newcastle match, I feel we have added a clinical edge to our performances in recent weeks; we showed it at Southampton the previous weekend, and it was really pleasing to see us find the target three times – and score three goals of the highest quality.
It was nice to go into the international break on the back of those wins, particularly after an intense couple of months of fixtures. For those players who go away with their countries, as a club manager your hope is that they return having had a positive experience and remain injury free. Leandro Trossard and Jakub Moder carried their recent club form with them, and did really well with their goalscoring exploits for Belgium and Poland respectively, while Robert Sanchez enjoyed his first taste of international football with Spain.
On the back of the break, we went into the Manchester United game last Sunday with an added confidence and belief that two wins naturally bring, and once again our level of performance was really good. We had a game plan and knew it would be a tight game; we knew we would not have a lot of opportunities, against a team second in the Premier League. What was pleasing was that again we showed a cutting edge when those chances arrived. The two moments of real quality we produced in the final third of the pitch were the game’s talking points from a Brighton perspective; and could, and perhaps should, have been enough to win the game.
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Neal Maupay and Danny Welbeck combined to good effect for both of them. The first created an excellent goal, while the second opportunity we felt Danny was impeded – and had he not been he would have restored our lead. At the time I was surprised a penalty was not given, and as I write these notes I still think it was a penalty, and therefore it would also have been a red card. These are the fine margins and frustrations that come with Premier League football. We have found ourselves on the wrong side of those margins on a few occasions this season, but we have to work hard to change that ourselves; the more we continue to improve, then I am certain the less we will suffer on the wrong side of these margins.
The goals we conceded against Manchester United were disappointing from our perspective, but overall there was a lot about our defensive work that we can be proud about. We restricted United to very few clear-cut chances, but we knew heading into the game, their forwards can be ruthless, as we’ve seen that many times this season – not least at the Amex. They have world-class quality, and they scored when the opportunities came their way. It was a frustrated changing room afterwards, and the players were right to feel we deserved something for our efforts in the game.
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Tonight we face an Everton team who have had an excellent season to date; the fact that they remain very much in the hunt for a European place is an indication of the excellent job Carlo Ancelotti has done this season. He is a man many of us have the utmost respect for, and given his achievements both as a player and manager, we know we will have to be at our best this evening against a team that really impressed me the last time we met at Goodison Park earlier in the season. Finally, I’d like to say a big well done to Hope Powell and her WSL team for their excellent win against Manchester United last Sunday that secured their top-flight status for another season. Five wins from six games is an excellent return – including standout wins against Chelsea and Manchester United – and an indication of the progress made by the team since the turn of the year.
Enjoy the game.