It can’t be easy being Carlo Ancelotti.
Saturday night’s game between Everton and Southampton was his first game in charge of Liverpool’s other team in more than 14 years.
After all, before last season Ancelotti made a habit of taking on Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Then again, you could argue that the Kop, Goodison Park and half of St. Mary’s would welcome Ancelotti in the opposite dugout with open arms. Liverpool is his home — where he changed the club’s fortunes and reshaped the landscape of Europe with Mourinho in charge.
But it was clear from Liverpool’s convincing victory over Stoke at the weekend that the side he’s in charge of has a distinct lack of polish.
“He looked bored,” tweeted Sportsmail reporter and fellow Italian Sandro Mezzadraia. Mezzadraia might be biased, but he might be on to something.
Ancelotti clearly has a tough time concentrating while being paid to talk football, so if there’s one fan he can please, it’s Staffordshire fans.
When the two teams met in 2010, Liverpool won a Merseyside derby 4-0. It was Ancelotti’s first test as Rafa Benitez’s replacement, and this was an open summer to salvage a few memories from that training ground hell.
Liverpool, despite their goalscoring nightmare of this season, certainly won’t be in the same position in five or 10 years’ time.
“Football has changed completely in the past 15 years” — that’s how Ancelotti laid the foundations of his master plan at Chelsea when he took over from Mourinho in 2003. That was a fantastic starting point, not only for Ancelotti, but also for Chelsea’s Champions League ambitions.
Liverpool might have been bounced out of the Champions League last season in the semi-finals, but after the “Brawl at the Bridge” that followed the 4-1 loss to Juventus, there’s not much left to play for in European competition.
Although Liverpool won 2-1 against Everton on Sunday — a comfortable win, but arguably not a commanding win — Ancelotti will have been harder on his “kids” than usual.
An uncharacteristic glaring miss from Marvin Emnes from distance might not have looked so bad from Ancelotti’s perspective, and it’s likely that Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson, two of the players he did spend big transfer fees on last summer, did not have a good debut.
Ancelotti said post-match that the Reds, after failing to score in four out of five games so far this season, were unlucky and would score as the season wore on.
But if you’re playing a team of Stanley Cup hopefuls like Leicester, then it can’t be easy.
Ancelotti’s first competitive appearance with Liverpool will surely be more enjoyable than he’d probably like, but the fact is that Everton and Southampton are just “one of the teams.”
There were so many other European teams occupying seats in the Premier League who have far more to lose.
“We played a young team,” Ancelotti said. “I think we played well. We did not concede a goal.”
Ancelotti has only just taken over the job as Liverpool manager, but he’s already outlined how much the club needs to improve in the short term.
“Of course, we can play better,” he added. “This is my message, that we need to improve.”