James Rodriguez stole the show against Tottenham Hotspur on Friday night as the Everton midfielder proved to his doubters that he can defend as well as attack.
The Toffees were forced to settle for a point at home to Jose Mourinho’s Spurs after crucial mistakes from Mason Holgate and Michael Keane gifted Harry Kane two opportunities to register a brace.
Kane’s goals came either side of a double from Gylfi Sigurdsson, the Icelandic maestro converting a first half penalty before beautifully placing a delicate weak-foot volley into the far corner of Hugo Lloris’ net.
Referee Michael Oliver wasted no time in pointing to the spot moments after Kane opened the scoring following apparent contact between Spurs left-back Sergio Reguilon and Rodriguez, who had arrived late into the area to meet Sigurdsson’s cutback.
Rodriguez proved to be a prickly thorn for the Tottenham defence to try and put a cap on throughout the match, and he started brightly by sending Richarlison in down the left-hand channel after creating a yard of space.
Lloris was later forced to prevent Rodriguez from putting Everton ahead minutes after Sigurdsson converted from the spot when the Colombian let rip from range, and the Frenchman again had to be well-placed to thwart the £27m-rated playmaker with what should have been his seventh goal of the season.
Chances flowed through Rodriguez throughout the first half with Richarlison again allowed to adventure forward and the pair continued to combine well after the break, while the late introduction of Joshua King added another target for the former Real Madrid star to find.
Ultimately, his creativity would not return an assist or a goal to put Everton back ahead, but Rodriguez ended the night with a joint-game high four key passes with Sigurdsson, per WhoScored.
Rodriguez also matched Sigurdsson’s two successful tackles and made one interception while the former Spurs playmaker did not, and unlike his goalscoring colleague, he even contested a defensive aerial duel, per WhoScored.
The Colombian has averaged only 1.2 successful tackles and offered 0.7 interceptions per Premier League game in 2020/21, while contesting 0.7 aerial duels across both offensive and defensive situations.
Rodriguez is not generally a player known for his defensive contributions but rather his offensive exploits, which has previously raised suggestions that he could become a burden for Ancelotti if he cannot influence games at both ends of the field.
“Ancelotti will have to weigh up whether he’s doing enough offensively with his defensive contribution,” Darren Bent told Football Insider in January. “We know he’s not a defensive player, that’s not what his strength is.
“When you sign players like that, you don’t sign them for their defensive qualities. Defensively, we know he might leave them a little bit short, but they need to overcome that and move forward.
“These sorts of maverick players, they don’t really exist anymore because you can’t afford to be playing with ten men, especially with the energy and intensity of some teams, they’ll just keep on creating overloads all over the place.”
However, Rodriguez’s performance against Tottenham – which earned rave reviews from some Everton supporters – proved to doubters like Bent what he can do from a defensive point of view.
AND in other news, a rarely-seen Everton outcast is wanted in a £10.5m summer transfer…