Everton have been waiting for a big move since Carlo Ancelotti came to Merseyside. While he decided to abstain during his first Winter window, outside of Jarad Branthwaite, everyone knew that when it came time, the splash would eventually be massive. Signing the Brazilian midfielder Allan, formerly of Napoli, as well as Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez are two massive innovations in the middle of the pitch, with Rodriguez having played out wide and likely be asked to do so again in England.
The Toffees need a culture change - these signings could be the start of just that, a new era at Everton with new ambition, full of fresh and fluid play as the calling card. If they can both stay healthy, a big if, the legacy each player leaves at Everton could be much larger than whatever statistics they register.
Two midfield maestros finally reunited with Don Carlo
We have been waiting for Ancelotti to bring in some of his men, creating the culture and results the boss wants will be easier with players who are intimately familiar with his temperament and ambition already. Both players fit those requirements wonderfully and will play a big part in the development and progress of the team as a whole, as well as the young players around them in particular.
Should Everton play with two up front in a 4-4-2 as they did often last season, Dominic Calvert-Lewin will have more serious support than during his breakout campaign. As currently constituted, Richarlison could find himself next to DCL once again, unless Moise Kean remains and breaks into the first team somehow; in that particular instance, Richarlison would likely slide to the right or left to provide width instead.
But in the scenario where DCL and Richarlison are playing up front, which appears most likely, Moise Kean will spell either one as becomes necessary. Around this, one can imagine James Rodriguez providing width to the left or right. Allan meanwhile, could find himself more usually in a centralized role compared to Rodriguez, helping to connect the back to front and distribute with his vision, creativity and imagination. Who plays next to him in the shape is not currently clear, although with Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucouré also about to join the Blues, then that would likely round out the central midfield. All of these innovations likely spell the end for Gylfi Sigurdsson in central midfield as well.
What is done out wide will be a matter of taste and comfort for Ancelotti and Everton. At this stage of his career, Theo Walcott is not likely a viable option moving forward on the right, for where Everton wish to go anyway. With James Rodriguez on the right wing, Alex Iwobi feels like the natural fit to slot to the left, or right if necessary, of the two up front; Bernard Duarte could factor in as well, although he could also find his time at Goodison Park fleeting under Ancelotti.
Anthony Gordon can play wide on either side, although preferably on the left - might it be the young Englishman’s time for more consistent first team minutes? If he is given an opportunity and impress, do not be surprised to see Everton begin to finally use him in earnest. Imagining the attacking side of the pitch is fun because adding players like Rodriguez, Allan and Doucouré might really organize and streamline the attack and protect the back line more seriously.
There were too many games last season where poor service, lack of creativity and inefficient ball movement left the defense and Jordan Pickford exposed. Signing both Allan and James Rodriguez are steps in shoring up all these dimensions, but ultimately what they provide goes beyond the physical game of football.
Beyond the Physical Game: The Rebirth of a Storied Club?
Everton need higher tier talent around young offensive players like Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Moise Kean, and Anthony Gordon to help them develop further. In the midfield, young Tom Davies will grow beside a pair of tried and true central midfielders, while Fabian Delph will have a better supporting cast than during his first injury-plagued campaign, if he remains that is.
Young defensive players like Mason Holgate, Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne can benefit and improve their physical play and positioning, with greater protection as a result of competent and fluid play at the midfield level as well.
But Everton, as stated above, need a culture change as well as tactical and practical innovations. The Blues need to as an entire club remember how to expect to win. They must begin expecting a higher level of play, and eventually competition, than they have in recent years. To achieve some of what Ancelotti has enjoyed at previous stops, they will have to learn how to play and win at a level not seen in decades, not mere years.
Allan and James Rodriguez are key in this - they will offer better service, better consistent play and more ideas in the lead up to these opportunities. But they will also offer insights into big games, and playing at bigger clubs. Insight into proper preparation, and how to think about football in the most effective way and they will offer guidance and leadership, on and off the pitch. Between those different facets of the game, the two new additions to Everton can play a critical role in the rebirth of a storied football club. If that isn’t enough to make one excited, the rest of the window still remains very much open.