Since manager switch at Everton, only one club have won more points, so how has it happened?
There is no substitute for class in the dugout.
The cynical view of Carlo Ancelotti's Everton appointment last December was that, after a decorated career managing elite clubs with mega salaries and hefty compensation packages, he was readying himself for a prolonged holiday in the most exclusive villas when Farhad Moshiri made an offer that could not be refused.
Forget ambition or unfinished business in the Premier League, Ancelotti saw Moshiri's millions and thought: "What is the worst that can happen?" Everton, Moshiri was told, should have pursued a younger, hungrier and less expensive coach; Ancelotti was a pricey risk, unsuited to a side who needed a tracksuit manager, his appointment more about image than substance.
In six weeks, Ancelotti has dismantled the preconceptions and shown why such coaches cost so much, his latest success a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace. He is brimming with enthusiasm, as motivated as any of his predecessors, and, most important of all, he has clarity of purpose.
The truest sign of excellence in a coach is getting more out of players, and making the work on the training ground visible on match day. Ancelotti has achieved both so far.
There is nothing wrong with a bit of old-fashioned 4-4-2
Ancelotti admits the recent improvement began with Duncan Ferguson's caretaker stint and the welcome simplification of tactics. Marco Silva did not like playing two strikers. Before him, Sam Allardyce did but they spent most of the time in their own half. Ronald Koeman lost faith in the players to make any system work, while Roberto Martinez would work his way through every formation in the Uefa manual rather than play 4-4-2.
How refreshing, then, to hear one of the wisest football men of the past 20 years speak of his preference for two up front and telling the players it is their responsibility to adapt to his vision and make it work, not the other way around.
It is far from perfect, but the reason Everton are collecting more points is they are moving the ball forward quickly and creating more chances. It enables them to steal a point, or a win, in fixtures where players would previously fear the game was up once they fell behind or suffered a setback.
The exuberance of youth
Within a few training sessions, Ancelotti picked out young players Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Mason Holgate as the foundation for Everton's future. Calvert-Lewin has been transformed by the formation change, while Ancelotti offered his most fulsome praise for Richarlison after Saturday's win.
"Every one of us enjoys having him at Everton because he is really a world-class player," Ancelotti said. "He's young, he has to improve, he has to play with more consistency, but he shows fantastic quality at counter-attack, as a striker."
Ancelotti has been criticised at previous clubs for his relaxed demeanour. But it seems to be what Everton needed, as senior players have also responded to evolve a less anxious brand of football. Players Everton wanted out in the transfer window last month, such as Morgan Schneiderlin, have been given the chance to start afresh.
Where there is trust, there is hope
Evertonians are easily aggrieved. Previous managers have discovered it needs only a misplaced pass, a wasteful long ball, or a contentious selection or substitution to prompt distrust of the manager, especially when the "long-term plan" continues to be plagued by inconsistency.
Ancelotti's pedigree gives him a key advantage over his predecessors. A flag acclaiming his "Magnifico, Fantastico" genius was unveiled after two home games - a deification none of the other coaches of the Moshiri era came close to.
Ancelotti, who is a self-effacing character, humbly acknowledges he has done nothing to justify such adoration yet. But his instant embracing of the culture of the club and the city - and his ability to speak the essence of scouse (albeit with an Italian twang) - means there is absolute and justified belief among the Gwladys Street faithful that they have the right man this time.
With hope, the mood of a club, the confidence of the players and the noise level of the supporters has an impact on the pitch as much as off it.
It might fast-track Ancelotti's Everton back into Europe. (© Daily Telegraph, London)