Everton host Chelsea tomorrow night in the feature game of the day in the Premier League. Ahead of the clash at Goodison Park, manager Carlo Ancelotti was asked about the recent criticisms leveled at superstar James Rodriguez regarding his (perceived) lack of defensive contributions.
“James is a fantastic player for us, he did really well at the beginning and had some problems after the game against Liverpool. But we have to be, and we will be, able to adapt. We have a good squad, we are going to play a little bit different.
“What can I say? I say that we have signed James not to defend!
“We have signed James to help the team have better quality in front. The job he has done offensively is very good. Defensively, I haven’t asked him a lot of work because you are going to lose him in front.
“It’s like what I asked of Richarlison, nothing different. they have more or less the same position. I am not going to ask them a lot defensively, just to stay in position, and to cover space well. Defensively there are other players.”
Seems to be an enduring media narrative that James is 'lazy' because he doesn't track all the way back to the Everton half every time. #EFC https://t.co/kArtA7W1JP— Royal Blue Mersey (@RBMersey) December 7, 2020
With just one win in the last six, Everton are in a miserable run of form right now. What did Carlo think about the club’s struggles on the pitch.
“We are working to take care of the problems we showed in the last period, of course it was not a good period. I think in the last three games against Fulham, Leeds and Burnley, the team showed some good qualities.
“We are where we want to be, fighting for the position in Europe. There is a lot of competition at the top of the table but Everton is there. We want to be there for as long as we can.
“Tomorrow is the start of a really busy and difficult period, and for us it’s a really good test.”
Part of the slump is from the defence’s struggles, with just one clean sheet this season on the opening day.
“Of course we are not happy, only the first game we had a clean sheet.
“That was the problem this period, we tried to solve this using different shape, different style, but as I said we have to improve the attitude and concentration defensively.
“We are working on this. Honestly I have to say the players are all focused there.”
What has been the biggest change that Ancelotti has noticed in Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who leads the Premier League scoring charts and is on track for an incredible scoring season.
“It’s quite clear, he has more consistency in the box compared to last season. He is really focused in the box in this moment, he has scored a lot of goals from the work of Richarlison and James.
“I’m hoping that Richarlison starts to score goals like Dominic.”
The Italian veteran continues to show faith in Alex Iwobi, but the player remains inconsistent in his performances and tends to disappear in games.
“I think when Iwobi is fit, he can play everywhere. Sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right.
“In this moment I have a lot of confidence, because his physical condition is really good. He can help the team with his performances both at wingback and winger.”