There was a moment, for the smallest seconds, when James Rodriguez sliced open West Brom with a pass that had many screaming for joy and had mouths watering across Merseyside. The angle was so so tight and tough to make that even Lucas Digne, who made the run, didn’t believe it would reach him.
It’s the kind of pass you’d expect a Mesut Ozil, Lionel Messi, Isco Alarcon, Houssem Aouar and so on to not just attempt but pull off regularly. You know, the elite creators that see football in a different time and space with vision like no other. Now, in another day and maybe six odd years ago, James Rodriguez would have been a part of that elite list. Six years on since his sensational World Cup performance, the now 29-year-old walked into Everton as their first summer signing and as a washed up star about to play for supposedly washed up manager.
Then over the last few weeks, a month after what many believed to be his great games for the Toffees, the Colombian has put up an offensive show that tore apart West Brom, Crystal Palace and then Brighton. Coming back to the pass, it was something you’d expect from an elite creator and once upon a time, that was the word used to describe one James Rodriguez. And if the events of his first four games are anything to go by, then it seems that Rodriguez is still an elite creator and one playing football for the sheer fun of it all.
It’s that sentence, “Everton have signed James Rodriguez” and you know, that Merseyside just got a little more exciting. Whether you bear any affinity to either of the Merseyside clubs or not, even Liverpool fans, there’s something about that sentence that will make you turn the Tv on and watch Everton play football again. Now in the near past, it was mostly to watch the chaotic mess that was the Toffees do their bit every weekend and sometimes on the weekdays as a cathartic sense of relief but now, there’s a change in the air.
Not too dissimilar from the change many expected four and a half years ago, when the spending really started, but 500 million, a dozen or so attacking midfielders later and Everton seem to have found their solution. Now, it’s not perfect as the win over West Brom, Brighton and Palace proved but it’s certainly more than the Toffees had say a year ago. They seem to be a lot more confident of themselves, more into the game and are definitely a more intense team than Marco Silva’s boys.
Either way, the fact of the matter is that there is something cooking at Goodison Park and for once they’re not burning their toffee. Instead, they’re gently stirring the pot, reading the ingredients carefully and not throwing in whatever leftovers they find at Arsenal. Whether this is the influence of a manager who has countless Champions League crowns, and is of genuine world-class pedigree playing a part or whether Marcel Brands has finally found his way, by either path, Everton hasn’t done too badly in a transfer window.
First, they signed James Rodriguez and the early signs are that the Colombian is a super-hit and just the playmaker the Premier League needed to see. Then shockingly and despite serious interest from clubs with Champions League pedigree, Everton signed Allan. Again, the early signs are that the Brazilian, even at 29, has the potential to run the club’s midfield for years. He’s perfectly suited to the English game with his tenacity, steely presence and calmness on the ball more than what Fabian Delph could ever produce. Not only that, he already seems to have a modicum of control over the team with him directing traffic from the center of midfield.
Abdoulaye Doucoure is the box-to-box man that Tom Davies never turned out to be and slowly although the former Watford man has shown a capability of becoming an impressive deep lying midfielder. But steadily Everton are building their side and for the first time in a while, they're doing it with a degree of intelligence. Not only that but they’re clicking and while the formation, a 4-3-3, that Don Carlo has picked is a rather weird one, with Rodriguez as a right-winger, things are working out.
It caused Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham and Roy Hodgson's Crystal Palace serious problems, so you know it’s working and working in tip-top shape. But the more interesting part is how easily the midfield has slotted in. Normally with wholesale changes such as this, you’d expect a little layoff while the team gels together. But unlike Chelsea, that hasn’t happened here although expect a drop off rather soon especially with a Merseyside Derby, their first real test of the season, around the corner.
This unbelievable start to the season is simply not sustainable and no matter how historic it is because it is really historic. This is the first time in over a 125 years that Everton have won their first four top flight games and then you add that to the fact that going into the international break, only Everton have won their four games. Liverpool? Ask Aston Villa. Manchester City? Ask Leicester City and the list goes on and on and on.
They're at the top of the table and that is most definitely not where they're finishing, especially when you’ve got a defense marshalled by Yerry Mina and Michael Keane. They’re not the steadiest center-back pairing in the world and until Mason Holegate recovers, the Toffees will need to find a way to protect them more. Which is simply an overly long way to say that this team may look good but they’re far from perfect and that my friends is the truth.
It’s why once this team does lose, and it will happen and it will keep happening and the Toffees' will hit a patch where no matter what they do, everything goes wrong, then that’s when Everton need to stay calm. That’s when Marcel Brands, Fahad Moshiri and co need to calm down and simply let things play out. Take the bad with the good even when the bad is utterly terrible because should they react and sack Carlo Ancelotti the way they got rid of Marco Silva and Ronald Koeman, then it will blow up in their face.
There are some things that just don’t happen. Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona? Nope. Cristiano Ronaldo not scoring goals? Small chance. And Everton signing another top class manager again should they sack Don Carlo? A mere pipe dream. Because that’s the kind of respect and stature that Ancelotti commands in the footballing world which means that he can sign players like James Rodriguez and Allan. Any other manager and Everton would have probably had the same squad playing football, week in and week out, which is well and good but there wouldn't be this modicum of hope that the Toffees have.
It's like a light bursting through the pitch black cave that their last five odd years has led them deep into to help lead them out. But more importantly, in the rare case that the Toffees do let the storm ride out and allow the Italian maestro to create a something, then they’ve got everything they need. They’ve got the basis of a dynasty that will, if not win trophies, help the club achieve their dreams. What dreams? Their dreams of becoming a top six regular. Their dreams of earning the kind of money that a club playing European football earns and the dreams of attracting the players that regular European football gives them the gift of attracting.
Another word for it would be their version of the promise-land, shangri-la, paradise, their arcadia and we could go on and on and on. But that is what this project has the potential to be, that is exactly the reason why Everton appointed someone as good and big as Carlo Ancelotti. Not just to show the world that they can but to show the world that they better be scared of what the Toffees are cooking.