Welcome to FPL: James Rodriguez

Everton have officially signed the Colombian maestro, James Rodriguez. In this article, we will explore what this signing means for FPL, and whether he will be a viable option moving forward.

Important note before we begin: I expect you to read every instance of James in this article as Hamez.

Background

James Rodriguez starts for Colombia... s**t!
Source: https://www.dreamteamfc.com/c/2018-world-cup/407889/james-answer-yes/

In 2014, James Rodriguez had the footballing world at his feet. He had lit up the World Cup in Brazil, winning the Golden Boot and scoring the 2014 Puskas award winning goal along the way.

He was named in the team of the tournament and sealed his dream move to Real Madrid for a fee in excess of £60 million.

Fast forward 6 years and he has just signed for Everton, for a fee reported to be around £20 million. Since joining Real Madrid, Everton have secured league finishes of 11, 11, 7, 8, 8 & 12.

Carlo Ancelotti knows him well and this will be the 3rd time they have worked together. The first time was in his first season at Real Madrid, where he achieved 13 goals & 13 assists, and made it into the La Liga team of the season.

So, what has gone wrong for the golden boy of Colombian football? Has he got anything left in the tank, and will he be a viable FPL asset this season?

What position does James traditionally play? How would he slot into the Everton midfield?

Everton are getting a very versatile attacking player who can operate in several positions. He can play in any of the 3 positions behind a striker in a 4-2-3-1, has played CM in a midfield 3, and even as a more orthodox winger in a 4-4-2.

Here are some of his positional stats from Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

Bayern Munich

Credit: https://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/

Real Madrid

Credit: https://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/

Everton

Ancelotti has been at the helm at Everton for 20 league games. In this time, he has played 4-4-2 a total of 15 times. In CM he has tended to favour holding or box to box midfielders. However, he has played Sigurdsson in there a handful of times along side someone with more legs.

Against weaker opposition we could well see James in this CM role, but he could also play RW or LW in the 4-4-2.

At this stage of his career I don’t think either of these are his preferred position. A midfield 2 with him will be light and he does not have the pace or work rate to be an effective traditional winger.

For Bayern Munich he did his best work in a midfield 3, with players that complimented him and allowed him to roam. He is a luxury player after all. Interestingly, Ancelotti adopted a 4-2-3-1 in the last 2 league games of last season.

In both games Richarlison, Siggy and Walcott played behind a front man. If Carlo persists with this then James could replace Walcott wide right or Siggy as the number 10. Both roles will suit him more than anywhere he may play in a 4-4-2.

What type of player is James? How do his stats compare to other top players?

Make no mistake Everton have signed a very talented footballer. He is a cultured midfielder with great vision, technique, passing ability and an eye for a goal. He is a double threat that offers both the ability to score goals and assist others.

He is a clever player who can operate between the lines and ghosts around the pitch making him difficult to pick up. His first touch is great, and he is adept at turning in tight spaces and getting his head up.

Looking at his heat map for 17/18 and 18/19, we can see he does float around the pitch. These days he is at his best picking the ball up centrally, turning and using that sweet left foot of his to progress the attack.

17/18 Season

Credit: https://www.sofascore.com/

18/19 Season

Credit: https://www.sofascore.com/

Let’s look at some of his stats below.

Credit: https://understat.com/

In the last 6 seasons he has 85 attacking returns in 128 games. That is roughly an attacking return every 96 minutes. There is an equal balance of goals and assists illustrating the ‘double threat’ I mentioned above.

What really stands out is his creativity. Key Passes per 90 (KP90) at 3.39 and Expected Assists per 90 (xA90) at 0.42 are elite numbers. For reference, I have listed some other creative players below and their stats over the same 6 seasons.

David Silva: KP90: 2.73 | xA90: 0.32

Mesut Ozil: KP90: 3.39 | xA90: 0.33

Philippe Coutinho: KP90: 2.11 | xA90: 0.24

KDB: KP90: 3.42 | xA90: 0.47

I would have always classed James as a very one footed player and from a shooting point of view he is. Only 3/43 goals have come from his weaker right foot.

However, assists wise he has actually created more goals with the right. 16 right vs 10 left. Whilst defenders will no doubt try to keep him on his right he has shown he is adept at slipping in a team mate with his weaker foot.

He has scored 43 goals from an xG of 25.6. He is a quality finisher but also takes on difficult and speculative chances. However, he has shown that he is good enough to convert plenty of these shots.

As you can see below he does like a speculative shot and will shoot from anywhere. Green represents goals. Importantly for FPL, he may be penalised from a BPS point of view with these wild attempts on goal.

Credit: https://understat.com/

Comparison between James Rodriguez and Gylfi Sigurdsson

Again, I have compared these two players over 6 seasons. It may seem long term, but James has missed a large chunk of football, and therefore pulling from a large sample size is probably the best thing to do.

Their actual returns are similar with Gylfi scoring 46 goals and 38 assists to James’ 43 goals and 42 assists. However, James has done this in half as many minutes. Importantly, he has done this in much better teams and surrounded by superstars – but it is still impressive.

Credit: https://understat.com/

As you can see above James is head and shoulders clear. Creatively he is streets ahead, and Gylfi is no Glen Whelan! Stats are closer from a shooting point of view but James is a much more clinical goal scorer.

Injury record – is James’ injury record a worry for FPL managers?

So far I have painted the picture of an accomplished, highly desirable FPL asset. However, there must be a downside or he wouldn’t be at Everton at the peak of his career, right?

James is quite injury prone. Since his 2014 move to Real he has been riddled with injuries. Some unlucky knocks but other recurring muscular problems. Below shows how many league games he has missed through injury per season.

SeasonMissed
19/2011
18/1910
17/186
16/175
15/168
14/158

A big part of why he has not fulfilled his potential is these injury problems. Worryingly for Everton, this has gotten worse over the last 2 seasons and he only made 8 league appearances for Madrid last season.

Pulling this together: Is James Rodriguez a viable FPL option?

Colombia 2 Uruguay 0: James Rodriguez scores goal of the tournament to send  Colombia through | South China Morning Post
Photo Credit: https://cdn1.i-scmp.com/sites/default/files/styles/1200×800/public/2014/06/29/topshots-fbl-wc-2014-match50-col-uru_ppb868.jpg?itok=a-cG0Gk9

Estimated price £7.0m – £7.5m

Gylfi Sigurdsson is Everton’s most expensive midfielder at £7.0m. Kai Havertz is one of the most highly rated players in Europe, is coming off the back of 2 successful seasons and is £8.5m. I can’t see him being cheaper than Siggy, and surely he should be at least £1.0m cheaper than Kai.

If they take into account his marquee name and past form he could even hit £8.0m, but this would be excessive in my personal opinion. He played 8 games last season and is joining an Everton team who finished 12th.

Taking this into account, £7.0m-£7.5m seems a fair valuation.

Where will he fit in?

As outlined above, James can play several positions. Whether it is CM, CAM or one of the wide positions remains to be seen. However, Everton could do with his spark in any of those areas.

In the wide areas he will be competing with Bernard, Walcott, Iwobi and at times Richarlison. The Brazilian seems nailed, but I could see James playing as an inverted wide right player.

Gylfi is coming off one of his most underwhelming seasons in the premier league and could have no complaints if James replaces him centrally.

James is a more mobile, dynamic and unpredictable player and would offer Everton an extra dimension as the 10. He could even drop in as a 2nd striker at times if Carlo plays his favoured 4-4-2.

While we have discussed his creativity, his attacking team mates would need to get their act together to see him at his best. Everton only scored 44 goals last season and their conversion rate of 9.5% was one of the worst in the division.

Their number 9 Calvert Lewin has become synonymous with missing big chances. Perhaps James will be the catalyst to improve their attacking output next season. Or will we be left frustrated by his goal shy team mates?

He also may take some set pieces which may lessen the appeal of Lucas Digne. With the likes of DCL and his compatriot Mina, there are targets in the Everton team.

Fixtures

Everton’s opening 10 games are not bad at all. They play all 3 promoted teams as well as Brighton, Palace and Newcastle. Between 2-4 they play WBA, Palace and Brighton. A nice run to help new signings such as James, Allan and Doucoure find their feet.

Conclusion

Wait and see.

James has shown he retains serious ability in his last 2 seasons with Bayern. He netted 29 attacking returns in 43 games for the new European champions including a hatrick as recently as 2019.

He has played very little football over the last year and will need to be eased in. He will need to get used to the pace and physicality of the league, whilst praying that his body holds up.

I can overlook a bad injury or a bad season, but when a player is injured consistently for 8+ games a season, I am wary. A nice run of fixtures early will allow Ancelotti to ease him in and I look forward to scouting him then. For me, there is no mad rush to get him in.

Given the fixtures and Everton’s other new signings, I will consider DCL (£7.0m) more now. James vision, passing and crossing ability will make him a more enticing prospect than a few weeks ago.

If he is priced at £7.0m-£7.5m he will be competing against known quantities like Greenwood, Barnes, Grealish, Zaha, Mount and Maddison. Most of these have question marks of their own so there could come a time to look at James.

On the bright side, if he can keep himself fit the Toffees may have themselves a new hero who lights up Goodison.

While I cant help but worry about his injury problems, I do hope we see the footballer with the bright smile and wand of a left foot, who made us all Colombian fans back in 2014.

Stats taken from

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