As I alluded to in the piece on Don Carlo Ancelotti, it seems like an eternity ago that James Rodriguez was putting the rest of the world on notice with Colombia. Still in his early twenties, having just played for AS Monaco in Ligue 1, the sky looked the limit for the talented, versatile midfield and wing player; and there were lots of successes to be sure, from Madrid to Munich and back again, but his own star personally, has not shone as brightly, or as consistently, since that electric 2014 World Cup tournament.
His shortcomings and ambition have been questioned and analyzed in the years of his success, as well as of course, during his lower points. But he always appeared most comfortable playing under Ancelotti, and aside from playing in his system in Spain and Germany, he nearly joined him at Napoli in Italy as well; the Professor has his admirers to be sure, and for good reason as per his CV.
That perhaps should’ve been a hint that England would see a special player in James, not one past his prime or without passion. Oftentimes, being comfortable and happy personally, as well as professionally, leads to the best results across all walks of ones life; what we are seeing with James and Everton is simply the culmination of a long journey that is seeing the winger playing both comfortably, as well as a happier and more confident brand of football.
The Results are Speaking for Themselves on Merseyside
This happy football must be attributed, as I said in the aforementioned piece, to the personality and ability of the boss to be sure; with this being said, it is naive to suggest that such a talented manager could have equal measures of success without thoughtful, able and hardworking players. The results both speak for themselves today, and spoke for themselves in days gone by as well.
Everton had talent last season of course, but it was not a smooth operation to be sure; the progress it had appeared was on the horizon at the end of the previous season had all but disappeared as Marco Silva stumbled to horrifying defeats, before Liverpool finally slammed the door shut on his time as a Toffee. From the time Don Carlo came to Goodison Park therefore, it was very much about organizing the team, analyzing the players they wanted to build with, and those who were surplus requirements.
Fast forwarding to the summer transfer window, innovations in the middle of the pitch and wings became as essential as a sturdier backline in front of Jordan Pickford. The transfer master stroke of Marcel Brands and the Don of Merseyside during this unique window cannot be overstated; Niels Nkounkou has been a revelation and can impact the first team more consistently than was anticipated by many at first I think. Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure have added such intelligence, organization and physicality to the midfield that it has changed both the offensive and defensive tenacity of the unit as a whole.
But, being played as a right winger along a front three consisting normally of Richarlison de Andrade and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, James has to both accentuate his young, talented teammates, while threatening his own versatility and potential too. While some doubted his ability to do so in the Premier League after rocky years in La Liga and the Bundesliga, the one man who had no such doubt was the one man that always seemed to matter most to him: Carlo Ancelotti.
And the results speak for themselves; three goals and three assists across all competitions, in only five games, is absolutely fabulous production. He’s also averaging 2.7 shots per 90 minutes in Premier League action, 3.3 key passes (3rd in the league, leads the league with 2.2 long key passes per 90), 90% accuracy on 8.4 long balls per 90, and 87% accuracy on 48 short passes per 90.
It is hard to ask much more of him currently, for between his generosity and inclusivity regarding players in the build up, his creativity and vision with the ball, as well as his finishing ability, he is proving an absolutely brilliant partner to the younger players to his left. A quick comparison of key stats from this season against his last two years at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich shows a rejuvenated player.
His play moving forward however, will surely contribute to the success and failures we find on our journey, as does every player on the squad. His impact can be as big as the world, and continual impact in this way, can do wonders for Everton’s ambitions as well both domestically, as well as in Europe; the first real test will be when Liverpool visits Goodison Park in just days.
While the Toffees are right to be concerned with the offensive ability of the men Jurgen Klopp has put together, the Reds should be as concerned themselves. No team after all, has scored as much across Premier League football so far as Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Everton have. They will have to contain the two blazing talents of DCL and Richarlison to be sure, but James is the threat and quality that is consistently opening up doors for his teammates; if they lose him or grow weary even for moment, James and the Royal Blues can punish LFC faster than they likely remember Everton capable of doing.
And while Liverpool could take their aggression over their 7-2 loss to Aston Villa out on Everton, I do not find it likely that we are so submissive in this match. Confidence is at a high that is difficult to compare for supporters and writers alike; with such a world class boss, managing obviously world class talent. from young men to intelligent veterans, it is not difficult to see why. But confidence is not the entire game, the players will have to play and out last the cross town opposition; as has been seen throughout the season so far, and will have to be seen as the months go from one to the next, the form of James Rodriguez against LFC will go a long way in building, rejuvenating even, Everton into a club that can take on the best clubs week in, and week out in England and Europe.