Following an injury against cross-town rivals Liverpool in the October Derby, James Rodriguez has struggled to find the brilliance that was vital to Everton’s early-season success; maybe a comfortable FA Cup match against a floundering Championship squad was the perfect remedy. And while his two assists from corners put the game to bed, he spent 85 minutes conducting an orchestra that would have had even Sir Simon Rattle buzzing.
At Goodison Park this season, James has tallied three goals and seven assists, a measure topped only by Bruno Fernandes (11) and Harry Kane (16). Whether it is from a set piece, the middle of the pitch or on the wing, his control of the ball and ability to hit almost every type of pass vaults him into elite company. With the Colombian in the lineup and in form, Everton have the ability to challenge for leagueL supremacy. Without him, well, just ask Newcastle.
Everton are tied for first with nine headed goals in the Premier League this season; after watching the cup match against Sheffield Wednesday, it is easy to see why. In the 59th minute, on Everton’s umpteenth corner kick, James delivered an in-swinging cross that found the head of Richarlison like a magnet seeking its opposite. Richarlison managed to power over his defender and send the ball into the back of the net, giving the Toffees a 2–0 lead.
Three minutes later — on an identical play — Yerry Mina smashed home the game’s third goal with a towering header that blazed past goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith. Everton managed to score two headed goals without one of the best players in that department — Michael Keane. The quality of service James provides from set pieces, coupled with Everton’s aerial prowess, makes them one of the most dangerous teams from deal-ball opportunities.
Contributions from Everyone
Sunday’s win, while expected, highlighted Everton’s strengths as a collective unit. There was Robin Olsen, continuing his strong run of form in cup competitions; Seamus Coleman looks to be fully recovered from a hamstring ailment; Dominic Calvert-Lewin returned from injury to score his 15th goal in all competitions; Richarlison netted following several missed games; and then there was the double-debut of 17-year-old Tyler Onyango and Thierry Small, who broke the record for youngest player to start for Everton at 16 years, 176 days.
In a season in which injuries have decimated Premier League sides on a daily basis, Everton have enjoyed recent success — the Toffees are 4–0–1 in their last five — due to contributions from the top players down to academy graduates. And with six games in the next three weeks, that mustn’t change should Everton maintain their positive play.