Carlo Ancelotti is promising “more attractive and attacking football” as the Everton manager prepares for the next phase of his Goodison Park tenure.
Italian Ancelotti is in the thick of a battle for a top-six Premier League finish in a season when Everton improved every key performance indicator.
With five games remaining, they have more points and more wins and more goals than last term – and are on course to concede fewer goals.
An explosive start to the campaign gave way to a comparatively measured approach after injuries in the full-back positions forced a style re-evaluation.
Ancelotti subsequently opted to stick with the more pragmatic model he felt better suited to his personnel.
The former Real Madrid boss's tactical flexibility prompted mentor Arrigo Sacchi to describe Ancelotti as a “chameleon”.
And, to continue ex-AC Milan and Italy manager Sacchi's metaphor, Ancelotti is getting ready to change the colour of Everton’s football.
“For next season, maybe we need to improve some positions on the pitch, with better quality, to try to play more attractive football,” said Ancelotti, who takes his team to West Ham United on Sunday.
“It is a step we have to use.
“The attitude and spirit was good [this season].
“To have a step, you can improve the quality and try to play more attractive and attacking football.
“We have weaknesses and we have qualities.
“[Some of] the signings last summer were players [Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure] who put more energy in midfield, because we needed to improve there.
“I think speed and energy are really important in modern football but not the most important parts.
"The results we had away were from the attitude of the team, not from the quality.
"In some parts of games we played well, but the best results were from the attitude and spirit."
Everton have won 15 games and scored 45 times to collect 52 points from 33 Premier League fixtures this season.
In 2019/20, they gained 49 points after winning 13 matches and scoring 44 goals.
They let in 56 goals last term and have conceded 42 in 2020/21; they’d need to ship an average of three per game – they've conceded that many only three times, against Manchester United, twice, and soon-to-be champions Manchester City – to slip beneath last season’s performance.
“I don’t like to analyse five games from the end but I saw a team that improved this season, that was fantastic against the top-six sides,” said Ancelotti.
“We failed against teams when we could do better.
“We lost six points against Newcastle and four against Burnley.
“This team, this season, was a little bit strange.
“We had difficult moments after fantastic results.
“And we went into difficult moments after fantastic performances, so it is quite strange, in this sense.
“But the team has improved compared to last season.
“The next step will be consistency and continuity in results.”
James Rodriguez will be very much part of that step, insists Ancelotti, following the Colombian’s easy adaptation to Premier League football.
In a season punctuated by injuries, the silky midfielder has scored six goals and assisted nine from 23 appearances across the competitions.
James will miss out at West Ham this weekend with what Ancelotti termed a “little problem”.
He will return highly-motivated, vowed Ancelotti, who maintained that if his next batch of additions won’t necessarily belong in the same superstar bracket as James, they will be no less important to the team.
“James was excited about the project and is still excited about the project,” said Ancelotti.
“He had some [injury] problems but this doesn’t affect the desire he has to stay and play for Everton for the future.
“The target is to have good players who are necessary to improve the quality and strength of the squad.
“It doesn’t matter if these are big names.”
Securing European football, reiterated Ancelotti, isn’t a pre-requisite for Everton actioning the next stage of their long-term plan.
He added: “It would be a step forward for everyone but it is not going to change the idea of the project, which is to improve the squad and to be more competitive next season.”