As they sat in the directors’ box, watching their new charges before actually assuming control, Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta could have been forgiven for checking the small print in their contracts to see if there is a way out of this. Each, in his own way, is an auspicious appointment, but the future cannot come soon enough for Everton and Arsenal. This was a stark reminder of why they have underachieved and why their predecessors were dismissed.
Maybe an atrocious game formed part of the legacies of Marco Silva and Unai Emery. Certainly it is harsh to lump all the blame on the caretakers Duncan Ferguson and Freddie Ljungberg but a dreadful draw underlined the problems at both clubs.
Ferguson left the pitch, arms aloft, being saluted by those who remained at Goodison Park. He has gone unbeaten in interim charge and said: “I am proud of what has happened over the last two weeks.” But Ancelotti, whose appointment was announced 70 minutes before kick off, got an early indication that this is very different to the Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Chelsea or Paris Saint-Germain jobs. After two decades managing some of the world’s elite players, he has a team in the wrong half of the table. “The league table doesn’t lie,” Ferguson admitted.
Ancelotti witnessed a side who failed to register a shot on target and Everton came closest to finding the net when Calum Chambers almost scored an own goal, which would have been a suitably ignominious way to decide a match where the ball kept bouncing off players in random directions.
Arsenal ended their longest wait for a clean sheet since 1984 by default. They were no better in an error-strewn affair of incoherent wretchedness. Both sides lacked creativity or confidence, craft or class. Arsenal at least drew the only fine save of the game, Jordan Pickford showing his athleticism to block Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s close-range shot; ludicrously, it was Arsenal’s first shot on target for 140 minutes. But passes were misplaced, crosses overhit, touches poor, David Luiz’s judgement faulty. Perhaps Ljungberg weakened them unnecessarily but his choices were instructive when assessing the issues Arteta inherits, both in terms of the attitude and the composition of the squad.
“I want to see people who run and fight and do the dirty things,” said Ljungberg. “I was unhappy with the effort we put in against City.” Mesut Ozil was injured but would have been dropped anyway. Ljungberg was not impressed by his reaction to being substituted against City. “That is not how we behave,” said Ljungberg. “That is not what I accept from an Arsenal football player.” Ozil is the club's best-paid employee. Their record signing, Nicolas Pepe, was an unused substitute. Alexandre Lacazette was only deployed for 12 minutes, and to replace Aubameyang, not augment him. The captain was a spectator when his colleagues struggled to create.
They had youth as an excuse. It was Arsenal’s youngest Premier League side for more than eight years, with three teenagers and a 20 year old but it illustrated failings in recruitment and of the senior players. Much of Arsenal’s best work involved the two 18 year olds on the left flank. The winger Bukayo Saka showed spirit as a makeshift left-back and the winger Gabriel Martinelli whistled a shot just wide on the stroke of half time.
Both new managers visited the dressing room after the final whistle. Ancelotti, Ferguson said, “came in and made a lovely speech.” The Scot, who had replaced the replacement Moise Kean at Old Trafford, this time substituted the substitute Cenk Tosun. “I am not scared to make decisions,” he said. “I can understand why they are upset but I do it for the benefit of the team.” Ferguson will remain on Ancelotti’s coaching staff. “Brilliant, fantastic,” the Scot said. “We wanted a world-class manager and we have got one.”
Ancelotti was in the directors’ box, surrounded by the powerbrokers who savoured the coup of luring one of the most decorated managers in the world. Owner Farhad Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright have much to celebrate if he can transform Everton. The triple Champions League winner has signed a contract until 2024 and targeted bringing silverware to Goodison Park. He said: “There is a clear vision to deliver success and trophies.”
Director of football Marcel Brands added: “He is the perfect appointment for us. This was a clear and exciting decision for the board to take.” But there was precious little excitement here, let alone perfection.