Carlo Ancelotti should ruthlessly axe James Rodriguez from his starting line-up when Everton host Manchester City on Wednesday night, because the Colombian cannot play in the same side as Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Rodriguez and Sigurdsson both started Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at home to Fulham as Ancelotti sought to find a solution for Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s absence – a boat the Italian finds himself in again after ruling the Toffees’ top-scorer out with a hamstring injury.
It was Rodriguez whom Ancelotti turned to in his search for an attacking partner for Richarlison, rather than hand Deadline Day arrival Joshua King his first start in royal blue.
Ancelotti’s decision to field Rodriguez in the front line of his attack initially appeared well conceived when the Colombian found Seamus Coleman, before the right-back’s shot ricocheted off the post.
But the 29-year-old’s creativity would be short-lived, with the former Real Madrid superstar recording each of his two key passes in the 33rd and 34th minutes, via WhoScored, miraculously enough for a joint game-high tally in an Everton side severely lacking imagination.
And as the game wore on, Rodriguez’s impact waned further to see that he was eventually replaced with 20 minutes remaining, having failed to take a single shot on goal against a Fulham side that Sigurdsson tested on three occasions.
No Toffees player struck more efforts on Alphonse Areola’s net than Sigurdsson, who accounted for 42% of his side’s total seven shots, as the Iceland international sought to build on his FA Cup heroics that returned one goal and three assists.
Though it was ultimately not Sigurdsson’s day, either, as he struggled to pull the strings as Fulham took control, partly down to the lack of a designated striker to bounce off in an almost de facto false nine role at points.
The picture was vastly different for Sigurdsson when he had Calvert-Lewin stretching Tottenham Hotspur’s defence in the FA Cup, and with players like Richarlison and later Bernard making incisive runs from the wider roles.
On that night, Sigurdsson could play with his head up and nonchalantly pick out the passes which returned his hat-trick of assists. But that option was not there with Ancelotti tasking Rodriguez with partnering Richarlison in the attack.
Ancelotti unleashing Sigurdsson in the no.10 role against Fulham would also suggest he feels that is where he can get the most out of the 31-year-old, while Rodriguez can be utilised elsewhere.
But against Manchester City on Wednesday night, it may be best to drop Rodriguez to the bench for Sigurdsson to do against Pep Guardiola’s title-chasing side what he could against Spurs.
Rodriguez may well feel aggrieved to fall to the reserves with the £90k-per-week maestro scoring his side’s second in the 3-3 draw with Manchester United earlier this month, but the change in system used against Fulham did not suit the £31.5m-rated star.
And with Ancelotti likely to utilise the system against Manchester City with Calvert-Lewin still nursing an injury, Rodriguez playing a similar role could only serve to hold Everton back.
Both King and Alex Iwobi are alternatives to the Colombian sensation this time around.
AND in other news, Carlo Ancelotti is willing Everton to pay £26.5m for a £176k-p/w gem…