Carlo Ancelotti has defended “fantastic” Everton forward Richarlison despite admitting he has not reached his usual levels this season.
The 23-year-old forward, scorer of 13 Premier League goals in each of his first two seasons with the Toffees after joining from Watford in 2018, has registered six in 28 appearances this term.
The goal in last Friday’s 1-0 win at Arsenal came about when Bernd Leno turned Richarlison’s cross into his own net.
Asked about the Brazilian, who could make his 100th top-flight appearance for Everton in Saturday’s home clash with Aston Villa, Ancelotti said: “I think this season Richarlison was not at his top.
“He was not so consistent for the quality he has, but he is still a fantastic player.
“We have to consider that he is also young, and it is acceptable that maybe this season he was not at his best.
“I think he had a good period but he has a possibility to score more goals for the quality he has, for sure.”
Defender Michael Keane is available again after missing the Arsenal match with a minor leg issue. It leaves Everton’s list of players out due to injury down to two – Abdoulaye Doucoure (foot) and Jean-Philippe Gbamin (knee).
Following what was their first win in six league games, they are eighth in the table. They are six points behind fourth place with six matches to play – one more than all the teams above them.
Ancelotti said: “We have to try to do our best and see which position we are at the end of the season.
“We are still in the fight, that is really good for us, really important. We are in a good momentum, we have players available, so this is a good sign.
“I think the victory against Arsenal gave us at least more motivation, and I hope we are able to get a result against Aston Villa.”
Ancelotti calm over Rodriguez future
When Ancelotti was asked about talks over new contracts for James Rodriguez or Seamus Coleman, he said: “At this moment we are not talking about this. We know that there are some positions that we have to discuss.
“I think (technical director) Marcel Brands is involved in this and is going to talk in the next few weeks with the players directly.”
Asked again about playmaker Rodriguez’s contract, he said: “His contract is quite clear, he has two years, plus one (year) option, so I think we have time to talk about this. We don’t need to talk now about this, maybe in the next few months we can.”
Ancelotti also said of Rodriguez: “I think he is happy here.”
Ancelotti then answered questions about investment on players this summer, and he said: “It’s a club that has a clear project. Of course, in this clear project, you need to invest because you want to improve and be better in the future.
“We didn’t talk for the next season, but we are going to talk in the next few weeks to try to improve the squad and to be better next season.”