The James Rodriguez Effect

Matthew Parry 29/09/2020 31comments  |  Jump to last

The signing of Colombia’s footballing idol James Rodriguez from Real Madrid has unanimously raised eyebrows and is regarded as one of the signings of the summer. If you take a look at the smattering of articles available on the subject, you’ll typically see the same kinds of negative questions rearing their ugly heads. They mainly concern his fitness, his inability to fulfil his potential at Real Madrid, his commitment to Everton Football Club itself and whether or not he’s as good as people believe he is. While quite a lot of people praised the Everton board for making such a high profile signing, it was clear that they weren’t certain it would work. Why then, I keep asking myself, is that any different from any other signing that the journalists get giddy about?

True, there have been numerous occasions over the years where a lot has been expected of a new Everton signing, only for them to fail miserably or not influence the team how we expected. But this time, it quite clearly feels different. Even before he donned the royal blue jersey for the first time, I haven’t witnessed optimism among our fans over one player for a long while. The media seemed perplexed that one of football’s biggest names would make a move to a team that has underachieved for years, and in a similar fashion to when Carlo Ancelotti joined, they tried to give reason for their scepticism by suggesting they’re no longer at their best level.

That’s not what’s happening here. We are finally starting to see tangible proof of what we were expecting from the Farhad Moshiri spending sprees. First came the undeniably world-class manager, now we’ve made our first world-class signing. We’re showing our desire to move on from solely poaching form-driven players from teams below us alongside top-six rejects, instead pushing for the key players in the teams we aspire to be better than. It’s a much bigger statement of intent than we’ve possibly ever demonstrated and that’s before he even set foot on the pitch.

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From the first 10 or 15 minutes of the opening game at White Hart Lane, it was clear James was keen to get stuck into the Premier League and prove that the doubt surrounding him was unjustified. He completely dominated the midfield for all of that game and has maintained that quality throughout our opening three league fixtures, setting up goals with incisive passes and scoring one of his own. The rustiness and lack of commitment that pundits had suggested James would show are nowhere to be seen. Granted, it’s very early days, but I already suspect he thrives off being Everton’s main man and that position will motivate him to perform at his best every single game.

The Ancelotti-Rodriguez relationship stretches back a long way across three different clubs, so their familiarity with each other will be invaluable for us going forward. We are now able to build around the Colombian, with the introductions of the solid Allan and powerhouse Abdoulaye Doucouré in midfield allowing James to roam freely in front of the opposition back line. This is clearly exactly what the player and the manager want and thus far it has worked a treat. Plus, with a player of his quality and better strength in depth, we can switch things up if we have to.

The best thing about our new signings, though, is that they allow each individual on the pitch to play to their own strengths, not just Rodriguez. While Allan and Doucouré anchor the midfield and plug the gaps as they open up, the full-backs can advance and duo of Rodriguez and Andre Gomes have the freedom to dictate the play further up the field. Richarlison stretches the defence with his energy and dynamic runs, while all of that enables Dominic Calvert-Lewin to follow Ancelotti’s orders and stay in the danger areas. Further back, it’s blatantly obvious that our new midfield additions are easing the burden on the defence. Sixteen goals scored compared to just five against us in all competitions so far epitomise exactly how this new style is benefitting everyone, even with a considerable amount of understanding and confidence left to find.

Marcel Brands has been subject to a lot of criticism from some of our fans during his time at the club, but he deserves total credit for his signings this season. There’s been a dispute over the fees with some articles claiming we’ve signed James for free and others suggesting we paid north of £20 million for him. Either way, acquiring him as well as Abdoulaye Doucouré and Allan for around £60 million seems like an absolute steal. I’m not quite sure how he managed to pull off these deals without getting laughed out of the meeting room, but somehow he did. Add to that the signing of the promising Niels Nkounkou for peanuts and things suddenly look promising in the short and long term. He’s certainly misspent in the past but Brands has really worked his magic this time around.

As a result of the newfound optimism and revitalisation, both in the team and the fanbase, we haven’t dropped a point since the season began. We’ve got Everton songs, an album and the Howard’s Way film to the top of their respective charts, advertisements for the Rodriguez signing were emblazoned across Bogota, Miami and New York, while claims that success is imminent for us actually don’t seem that far-fetched anymore. James is the first player we’ve had for a while that opponents will fear, exploiting the smallest of weaknesses in the blink of an eye and making it look completely routine.

I would love nothing better than seeing James and the rest of the Everton squad drenching themselves with bottles of Echo Falls and singing ‘Spirit of the Blues’ as they lift a trophy. I wouldn’t even care what that trophy was, because at this stage anything is better than nothing for us. I’m reluctant to get too carried away, though, and am prepared to give up instant success if it means we can be more successful in the long term. It’s too early to accurately suggest where we might finish but the league’s big teams are slipping up already, so if we can keep capitalising on our great start, then I could potentially see us reaching the top six. European football is a necessity if we are to retain the key members of the team, so it has to be our target as a minimum.

It would be unfair to give James all the credit as I’d be undermining the efforts of the other players that have been so crucial in our revival. He is, however, the extremely effective catalyst that has made this happen so soon. I’m excited to see him in action for the rest of this season and hopefully long into the future.

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Reader Comments (31)

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Stan Schofield
1 Posted 29/09/2020 at 20:54:51
Matthew, good article. One of the criticisms of Rodriguez in the media prior to him actually joining us, was a supposed drop-off in pace over the last few years, plus injuries. However, it is apparent that Rodriguez has the ability to make the ball do more of the work, and to know what to do with it before he receives it. On that basis, there is every reason to expect him to be able to carry on delivering high-quality goods for some time to come, and hopefully beyond the current contract length.

The new signings actually make the midfield reminiscent, in some respects, to the best midfield we've ever had to date, the Holy Trinity in the late 60s. Not only effective and strong, but also stylish and entertaining.

Andy Crooks
2 Posted 29/09/2020 at 21:23:52
I think, Matthew, that the connection between James and Carlo was shown on Saturday to be special. I thought that the notion that Carlo would attract special players was bollocks. As it turns out, I was talking special bollocks. He has.

Your article is pretty optimistic. I am a pretty much a glass empty type of guy. In fact, I really do not enjoy us being so slick and exciting. It just makes me fret about the disappointment ahead. I guess I am a proper blue. In fact, I am some way from ruling out a relegation battle.
Yes, I know, I was quite a catch for my missus.

Matthew Parry
3 Posted 29/09/2020 at 21:33:40
Andy #2...

I see myself as quite a realist, but I can’t help but feel optimistic about the season based on how well we’ve started. I completely agree that we have take everything with a pinch of salt as an Everton fan, however the things that have happened over the last few days has lit a fire inside a lot of fans I think. This article just kind of summarises all the positive vibes about the club at the moment, which is definitely catalysed by James in my opinion.

Fran Mitchell
4 Posted 29/09/2020 at 21:48:47
The way he has come.in and made an immediate Impression is quite something. It is reminiscent of when the first lot of foreign talents arrived in the PL - when the likes of Zola, Gullit, Klinsmann and other came and just totally transformed everything. The way they played was unlike anything the traditional English game could muster, it was exciting. Then slowly but surely clubs became 80% foreign and the mistique was gone.

But James, he plays unlike any other player in the league. The only comparable player for me is de Bruyne.

In a time of gegenpress, of super fit players who run half a marathon every game, of strength, running, power, speed being the attributes most described - James comes in as the complete opposite. He doesn't run, but when he has the ball, it's as if he's able to slow time. He finds space where no-one sees, his passing is something to behold - you could watch him make 5 yard passes and he'd make it magical. His touch is just marvellous, and yes, he doesn't run, but he doesn't need to.

His style of play has surprised people, because it seemed that a player of his type couldn't compete in the modern game - Ozil is the easy comparison here. But people are amazed, and by most of what I've seen, people are impressed and delighted at seeing James strut his stuff.

How much of a success can he be? Can he last the whole season? Will clubs learn to close him down and cut him out? We don't know yet. But I know that it will be delightful to discover.

Bill Gienapp
5 Posted 29/09/2020 at 21:52:55
"In fact, I am some way from ruling out a relegation battle."

Never change, Andy :-)

Mike Gaynes
6 Posted 29/09/2020 at 22:03:26
Andy #2, given your pessimism it must have been quite the glowing future you promised your missus to get her to accept your proposal. And I assume you declined to rent a tux for the wedding because you were certain you'd spill on it, right?
Barry Rathbone
7 Posted 29/09/2020 at 22:06:42
Andy Crooks

I really do not enjoy us being so slick and exciting. It just makes me fret about the disappointment ahead.

My thoughts exactly we're on the crest of a wave just now but the stand out quality of Rodriquez highlights the void in quality in most other positions. Be amazed if such a dependence on one or two players doesn't catch up with us

Dennis Stevens
8 Posted 29/09/2020 at 22:17:05
Mike, the idea that Andy proposed in the first place is quite incredible. Surely, he must have figured that even in the unlikely event that his proposal was accepted, his bride would inevitably fail to turn up for the ceremony!
Andy Crooks
9 Posted 29/09/2020 at 22:17:57
Mike, you would be surprised at what can go wrong with a tux. I assume that you, and most ToffeeWebers own a sensible pair of brogues.
Well, hear me out, do not, under any circumstances allow tuna to be spilt on them. It may be off topic, but it happened to me today and it does affect the tone of one's posts.
The contents of my over filled roll dropped on my shoe and to be honest it has been a fucking nightmare to clean. This stuff puts one in a bad mood and then you log on to the site and just feel negative.
Peter Mills
10 Posted 29/09/2020 at 22:29:25
The signing and initial performances of James are redolent only of the arrival of Alan Ball in my time of watching our team.

Who knows where it will take us? But so far it’s been a blast, and I am looking forward to every occasion we can see him in an Everton shirt.

Andy #2, your father-in-law was a shrewd man!

Andy Crooks
11 Posted 29/09/2020 at 22:48:31
Pete, I agree completely. James has been the best thing I have seen since, well, nearly ever. We should just enjoy every minute.
Regarding my father in law, remind me to tell you next time we meet( hope it will be soon) of the incident when I became trapped in his bathroom with a skirting board attached with liquid nails to my back. My wife had never heard him swear in her life, until that moment.
Will Mabon
12 Posted 29/09/2020 at 22:55:37
It will be brave teams that try to actively close James out. One player won't do it. Two will leave holes. We've already seen him chip a perfect ball out from a circle of three surrounding players. He also manages to see amongst everything else going on, the exact moment players near him take their eye off him, and just glides away into a space or change of position, to be available for the ball.

He's seconds ahead of the play mentally. A very clever footballer. Watching him in the past, he isn't a "Put a shift in" runner but he can (or could) accelerate and cover the first yards very quickly when needed. Hard to know if injuries have affected this. His fitness will improve over the next month, which will make things even worse for opponents.

I'm more concerned about rough stuff than anything else, though he knows which way the wind blows in that department.

Will Mabon
13 Posted 29/09/2020 at 22:58:48
"...of the incident when I became trapped in his bathroom with a skirting board attached with liquid nails to my back."


I think we all need to hear that one.

Santa Krsh
14 Posted 30/09/2020 at 06:00:11
Andy #2, I was always a pessimist big time and that too when it came to Everton, the biggest of all.

But seriously, I am not worried this season simply because we are seeing or having quite a few narky guys in our side who hate to lose and the same is getting rubbed on others which is helping them perform better on the pitch.

Last season anyone could tell to the exception to Holgate, we didnt possibly have anyone narky enough to influence others to perform better.

But this season, u have Allan, Doucoure, James who all seem to have a sense of "narkiness" in them which is actually rubbing off on the likes of Michael Keane ( Anyone noticed his raking Crossfield pass to Seamus), Coleman, Richy or even Siggy (his assuredness on Saturday), which I believe is going to make our season a more meaningful one. For once, I am not worried about injuries and suspension coz, if one guy misses out, the others are going to step up, be narky enough and help the team out.

Best example I could quote is the game were we lost to the Liverpool Kids. Simples, They were way too confident that they were playing for the reds and that narkiness actually won them that game.

COYB Andy.. we are in for a great season

Drew O’Neall
15 Posted 30/09/2020 at 08:12:17
This article would be 100% appropriate if posted at tea-time on 17th October with Everton atop the league but for now I’ll stick with the likes of Roy Keane’s assessments of our progress to save my poor old blue heart for the inevitable disappointments to come.
Christy Ring
16 Posted 30/09/2020 at 08:25:24
Great post Matthew. The three players Carlo brought in are a revelation. We had the poorest midfield in the Premiership last season, and this season, it's early days, but the transition has lifted the whole team. Rodriguez is a magician, you can see why he played for Real and Bayern, mentally his awareness is way ahead of everyone, has a fabulous touch, and his link up play is superb. You can see why Carlo is one of the best managers in the game, the players he brought have all made a difference, we previously bought players, who ended up being round pegs in square holes.
Mal van Schaick
17 Posted 30/09/2020 at 09:13:26
When look at some of the trash we have signed for enormous amounts of money and then we sign proven quality, it makes me angry.

If he stays fit, and we can shift some trash and buy more quality in the next week I will be satisfied that Ancelotti means business.

Tony Everan
18 Posted 30/09/2020 at 10:02:35
Thanks for the article Matthew

We cannot get too carried away after three league games. There is loads of work to be done, we will our need squad players to step up to the mark to maintain any top four hopes. We will need a couple more strategic signings before the deadline too.

We have to put a lid on the premature celebrations. It will only be counterproductive. A winning rhythm has to be found, a system that can be repeated successfully.

The stars have aligned to achieve all this, with our three midfield signings in unison, all fantastic at what they do, and all deployed playing to their strengths. There is no wasted energy, they are told by Carlo Ancelotti, just to go out there and show their quality. They understand their roles and execute to perfection.

The article is about James Rodriguez, he brings two major things, his supreme world class talent which destroys even the most organised defences with one unique pass.
Secondly, a player of James’s standard inspires other players to raise their game.

Our forwards have benefitted as they need to be switched on 100% of the time and constantly move and make runs, because James Rodriguez can find them with a pass at any point in time. He can pick up a ball with his back to goal at the half way line with a couple of midfielders surrounding him. In a flash he can put it on a plate for Richarlison 7 yards out.

To be able to do that is rare and special, it turns us into top four challengers given luck with fitness and a couple of squad strengthening signings.

Mark Andersson
19 Posted 30/09/2020 at 10:33:00
I watched a Ian Wright interview about Evertons new look team.. he sees the positives of our new signings and says he has a soft spot for the blues..
Kevin Molloy
20 Posted 30/09/2020 at 10:55:29
I think what the first few weeks have shown is how crucial it is to get the first goal. Look at newcastle and West Ham. they go a goal down, finito. But score first and they play like brazil. It will be interesting to see what happens with us when we have to chase the game and instigate a strong press against a good team. that may be when we see the weak spot in James game. IT should also be noted that he starts like a train in his last few debuts, and then tends to fall away a little. So we should not be expecting this truly stellar form from him to just continue I don't think. But him being at half pelt is still quite an upgrage on Theo I think we can all agree.
The other d0wn side, is the signings are all for right now. I'm no fan of united, or Leicester, but they've been making signings the last few years, and suddienly have a crop of kids that are only going to improve over the next couple of years. Our signings are great, but they aint gonna get any better.
Paul McCoy
22 Posted 30/09/2020 at 14:27:15
James is without a doubt the most exciting and skilful player I've ever seen in an Everton shirt (I'm 40, btw). I'm sure he'll have a dip in form at some point, but for now I'm enjoying every minute he plays. There was a moment in the Palace game where he was being pressured by 4 or 5 players and still managed to play a ridiculous pass with perfect accuracy. Really looking forward to hopefully seeing him spray balls behind Liverpool's high back line in the derby.

If we can add more signings for next season of similar quality, then I think we'll actually be on to something, but we need to be playing European football to keep the better players we have now. I know we all say this every season, but this one really is the most important season in recent memory!

David Pearl
23 Posted 30/09/2020 at 14:34:33
I think far and away the biggest factor in our good solid start was the fact that all the new signings actually arrived fit for a change. They all happen to be the finished article. Let's win the next couple and go into the international break on a high. Plenty of work for Brands to do now in balancing the books.
Rick Tarleton
24 Posted 30/09/2020 at 14:39:24
The thing about Rodriguez is that he has charisma and outlandish skill. Allan in particular, and Doucouré may be better buys and more important to the team in real terms, but Rodriguez excites.

In my late teens Everton had Alex Young, I'm sure Vernon and Collins, Kay and Wilson were better players, but Young is my favourite ever Everton player. Similarly I loved watching Duncan McKenzie a decade or so later. Such players capture the imagination.

For Evertonians, perhaps since Rooney's first graced us, there haven't been such players. Younger supporters have got someone to idolise for the first time in a generation.

I am delighted with what I've seen so far and rank him among these great entertainers though it is early days.

Will Mabon
25 Posted 30/09/2020 at 15:18:06
Agree, Rick. I remember some of the greats from the 60s but the first marquee signing I was old enough to really understand (and when the era of hype and big fees was growing), was Bob Latchford.

A very different kind of ability altogether from James, but did he ever hit the ground running. The excitement was justified 'cos the man simply delivered. Great to have players like this at the time, combined with home-developed players like Gary Jones and Mick Buckley.

For "Watchability" though - McKenzie was fantastic, all magic. They don't come along so often.

Si Cooper
26 Posted 30/09/2020 at 16:50:53
I don’t think only getting 1 or 2 of the three midfielders we brought in would have been enough so I’m not wholly comfortable with singling out James for the ‘effect’ on the pitch.
In terms of his prominence on the world stage and the ‘ego boost’ we all get from having him at our club, then he is the standout recruit. However, that is precisely why his present level of brilliance got questioned and I cannot have a go at any journos who thought he must be very much on the wane because the same thoughts went through my mind.
So far my fears have been baseless, and it seems like a signing akin to us getting Peter Beardsley well before his services should have been dispensed with by the RS, but there is a long way to go yet and I think the general level of competition between the majority of PL teams is higher than ever so we will need an extended period of top performances to have anything to show for it in the end.
Sam Hoare
27 Posted 30/09/2020 at 16:56:29
I was very sceptical about bringing in Rodriguez. I saw him as being too slow, too injury prone and too expensive.

So far his pace (or lack of) has not mattered one jot. He's not been injured and has made a difference every time on the pitch. And he didn't cost anything and even his wages and contract are reasonable!

I hope he continues to prove me wrong and hopefully his influence will only grow as he plays more matches and gets fitter. If he manages to stay fit all season he will make a huge contribution to how high we finish up the table.

Stephen Brown
28 Posted 30/09/2020 at 17:07:03
He appears to have no big ego and appears to have bought into the club!

Same as Carlo

Brian Hennessy
29 Posted 30/09/2020 at 17:20:01
Great article Matthew.

What has really impressed me about James is his strength and ability to hold off opposition players and shield the ball. Countless times I have seen players just back off him after they get turned inside out and get the message that the only way to get the ball off him is to foul.

James is a player I think can play at the top level well into his late 30's. He doesn't rely on pace and his skill won't desert him, a bit like Pirlo in his later years.

Jimmy Hogan
30 Posted 01/10/2020 at 17:04:45
Keane must have learnt that lobbed pass he played last night to DCL from James. I never saw him do anything like that the last few season.s
Stan Schofield
31 Posted 02/10/2020 at 21:43:43
Jimmy, the way he did all that, the easy-looking turn to beat his man, the look up field, then the chip, he looked like Bechenbaur. Then the way DCL controlled it with his left foot, flicked it onto his right side, then nonchalantly half-volleyed it into the net, he looked like Messi. If James has that kind of influence, we're in for one hell of a time.
Mickey Healey
32 Posted 10/10/2020 at 10:41:28
Jimmy Rodriguez he came here from Spain,
No one knew if he could do it again,
Twenty two million is what we spent,
Jimmy Rodriguez he’s heaven sent.

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