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Everton star James Rodriguez has proved Premier League doubters wrong by dominating and dictating play against Liverpool and Tottenham

Mohammed yazidu Abdullahi

Nov. 20, 2020

When veteran Italian Carlo Ancelotti was appointed as Everton boss in December 2019 there was a definite sense that the club was taking a big step forward.
Not only is Ancelotti a three-time Champions League winner, he was also seen as an incredible man manager who would attract talent to the club.
After a slow start to his time at the club the summer transfer window prior to the start of the 2019/20 season saw real improvements in terms of the squad.
The signings of Allan, from Napoli , and Abdoulaye Doucoure, from Watford , shored up a weak midfield unit. While they were functional there was still another addition to come that would add the creative spark that they still lacked.
In September the club announced the signing, on a two-year deal with an option for a third, of James Rodriguez from Real Madrid.
The Colombian had endured a difficult spell with Los Blancos and his path to first-team football was blocked by the sheer depth of talent ahead of him.
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The fact that he chose to move to the Toffees again highlighted the draw Ancelotti has. The Italian had managed James previously during a spells as coach at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and they had enjoyed a good relationship.
The addition of James seems to have sparked something in Everton and his creative ability has unlocked the attacking potential of this side.
Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin , in particular, have enjoyed a strong start to the season and James has immediately developed a near telepathic understanding with Everton’s excellent French full-back Lucas Digne.
The purpose of this tactical analysis is to give an insight into what makes James such an impressive performer ahead of their clash with Fulham, live on talkSPORT 2 on Sunday at 12pm .
Creativity in the final third
We should start with examining the specific role that James plays in this Everton team.
Above is an image showing the average positions of the Everton players in their recent match against West Ham United.
The Toffees, on paper, played a 4-3-3 with Richarlison on the left of the attack, Calvert-Lewin as the 9 and James playing from the right. In truth, however, James drifted into central positions to the extent that this became his default position on the pitch.
From these areas the Colombian can be extremely influential with his ability to receive the ball before then looking to play through balls that break through the last line of the opposition defensive structure.
When James receives the ball in these positions he has the capacity to accept the ball in tight areas when he is under pressure. He has the technical ability to play under extreme pressure and then still find the correct pass.
We see a situation above with James moving in from the right-hand side to receive the ball centrally.
As he does so he allows his teammate to connect a relatively simple vertical pass to space in between the lines of the Liverpool defensive structure.
In these areas, with time and space, James possesses the range of skills that make him a threat in many different ways.
He can drive in possession towards the defensive line in order to force the opposition central defenders to move out from their position to engage the ball. He also has the passing range and vision to access all areas of the field in this area, depending on the positioning of the opposition defenders.
In this example, Calvert-Lewin is leading the line and as James receives possession of the ball the young striker makes an intelligent double movement in order to stay onside and create separation between him and the defensive players.
As he makes this movement he can make the run beyond the defensive line safe in the knowledge that James has the quality to find the run with a perfectly weighted pass.
This time James is positioned even higher and more central than he was in the previous example.
As the Colombian receives the ball from the left-wing the West Ham defensive block is initially poorly positioned.
It is in these moments that we see the value of having a player of James experience and composure in the final third.
As he takes the ball a defensive player immediately moves out to press the ball. In this situation a lot of players would panic and try to force their next action.
Even under pressure James is calm and he waits for Richarlison to make a curved run into the penalty area. The ball is then slipped through the defensive line as the Colombian creates a goalscoring chance.
Range of passing to switch the attack
While James is perhaps at his most dangerous in the final third of the pitch that does not mean that he is not an effective contributor in deeper areas, particularly in moments of attacking transition.
As we discussed earlier, James plays nominally from the right-side of the attack and he drops into this area when Everton are out of possession.
This means that when they win back the ball and look to transition from defence to attack the Colombian receives the ball either in the wide area or in the half-space on that side of the pitch.
In these areas he is extremely dangerous with the ability to carry the ball into space or to look for either a vertical pass or a diagonal pass to take advantage of the spaces that are being left open by the opposition defensive structure.
We see an example of the vision and the range of passing that James possesses in the image above.
As he initially receives the ball, from Doucoure, he spins into a more central area and immediately looks to get the ball onto his left foot.
Even though there are two Liverpool players positioned just ahead of the ball the Colombian international still has the time to pick out the pass that he wants to.
That pass is often a switch to access the opposite side of the field where Digne looks to move high from the left-back position.
In this area of the field, as Richarlison moves inside, the space opens up for Digne to attack into the final third.
A similar situation here in the match against Spurs as James takes possession of the ball in the right half-space.
This time there is less space because the ball is closer to the goal and the defensive shape of Spurs looks good.
Once again, however, the outlet is Digne who is moving forward with a delayed run from the left-back position.
As the Frenchman moves towards the penalty area James has the quality in possession to play a ball with the perfect weight and trajectory to access the space and drop the ball perfectly into the penalty area for Digne.
When James first moved to England there was some doubt as to whether he would adapt to the specific physical and mental requirements of the Premier League.
His relative lack of first-team football over the last two or three seasons led some to believe he did not have the hunger that Everton needed.
It has taken only a matter of weeks for James to put all of that talk to rest.
He has dominated and dictated the play over and over again and has provided the attacking impetus the Toffees need.
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