F365’s early winner: James ‘better signing than Deeney’ Rodriguez

Joe Williams
James Rodriguez Everton

Few would’ve predicted such a smooth transition to English football from James Rodriguez but three games into the new season and the new Everton man looks every bit a Premier League superstar.

The Toffees recorded their third win of the season at Crystal Palace – who had also made a 100 per cent start to the campaign – to stay perfect with Rodriguez pulling the strings in Carlo Ancelotti’s new-look forward line.

Everton’s high-profile capture arrived earlier this month from Real Madrid to be reunited with manager Ancelotti for a third time, having previously worked with him at the Bernabeu and Bayern Munich. He arrived with huge expectations on his shoulders, while Everton supporters were rightly excited about his arrival -especially if they witnessed his performances at the 2014 World Cup – but there has also been a feeling of caution among many pundits.

The 29-year-old has struggled to hit the heady heights he experienced in Brazil six years ago, where he scored six goals, scooping the World Cup Golden Boot award. His subsequent move to Real Madrid from Monaco saw him produce lovely numbers in his first season under Ancelotti – with 13 goals and 13 assists in LaLiga – but as soon as the Italian left in 2015 he started to drop out of the picture at the Bernabeu.

He did quite well in a two-year loan spell at Bayern, again playing some of his best football under Ancelotti, before finally leaving Madrid for pastures new this summer. Convinced by the project at Goodison Park, with big-money arrivals Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan also coming through the door, Rodriguez thinks “trophies are more than a possibility” at Everton.

Not everyone was convinced, though, with former Sky Sports broadcaster Richard Keys writing in his blog before the start of the season: “Everton? Anything other than a top half finish would be a total failure. Having appointed Ancelotti they had to back him, but I’m not convinced by James Rodriguez. If he was top drawer he wouldn’t be signing for Everton, whoever was in charge.

“I wouldn’t fancy him at Stoke on a wet Tuesday evening in November, but he’ll look great when the Toffees are 2-up at home. For Everton to make an impact, he’s GOT to dominate games. If I was Ancelotti I’d be going after Troy Deeney. That’s what Everton need – Reid and Gray again. Deeney would be fantastic around the club. Like Jagielka, he’s a ‘proper’ bloke.”

Well, Rodriguez may or may not be a “‘proper’ bloke” – whatever that is – but he can certainly play football. There is no doubt Deeney did a great job for Watford too – scoring 47 Premier League goals in five seasons – but early indications are that Rodriguez is just what Everton need, not Deeney. Sorry, Richard.

The Colombia international was always available against Crystal Palace, keeping hold of the ball and effortlessly playing it off to team-mates, while showing his incisiveness in the build-up to the first goal. Calvert-Lewin bagged his fifth strike of the season by capping off a stunning move from Ancelotti’s men. Abdoulaye Doucoure fed Rodriguez, who sliced Palace open with a delightful reverse through ball to Seamus Coleman, and the Irishman’s ball across the box was hammered home by Calvert-Lewin.

Palace equalised on 26 minutes when Andros Townsend’s delightful delivery from a corner was turned into the net by Cheikhou Kouyate’s powerful header. Before the ball struck Joel Ward on the hand inside the area six minutes before half-time with referee Kevin Friend awarding a penalty after VAR advised him to take a look at the pitchside monitor. In-form Richarlison took the penalty and dispatched it confidently after a stuttering run up.

Rodriguez was a pleasure to watch once again  – along with rest of Everton’s front three – with his sublime touch and sexy forward-thinking play. There is a new consistency to the Toffees’ pattern of play this season with the players all buying into Ancelotti’s plans. It’s only three matches in, but if that’s a snapshot of what the former Galactico – and Everton – are ready to offer up this season then Everton should be aiming for beyond the top six.

Joe Williams