Everton New Midfield Three Should Propel Them to New Heights This Season

James Rodriguez is one of three big signings Everton are set to make this window | Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Only the most stone-hearted of football fans struggle to feel a bit of sympathy for Everton’s plight over the past few seasons.

Toffees fans have continually been promised the world by its ambitious ownership, only to be forced to endure the frighteningly dull football of Sam Allardyce, then the rage-inducing set-piece disasterclass headed up by Marco Silva.

It’s not just in the managerial stakes that Everton misfired. The club also employed a woeful transfer strategy. Expensive arrivals Yannick Bolasie, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott have so far all failed to justify their hefty price tags, but it has been in midfield where the Toffees’ recruitment missteps have been most pointed.

Marco SilvaMarco Silva failed to bring success to Merseyside | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Underwhelming midfielders have passed through a revolving door at Goodison Park with concerning regularity. Morgan Schneiderlin (£20m), Gylfi Sigurdsson (£45m!), Davy Klaassen (£24m), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (£22.5m) and Fabian Delph (£8.5m) have been recruited for a combined £120m over the past three season, yet Everton look no closer to breaking into that illusive top six.

Enter Carlo Ancelotti. AKA: Carlo Magnifico. AKA: Carlo Fantastico.

The legendary Italian manager joined Everton just in time for the club’s Christmas party last year, bringing his wealth of incredible transfer contacts with him. Part of Ancelotti’s remit is restructuring the Toffees’ beleaguered playing squad and after a quiet start he has pulled not one, not two but three rabbits out the hat recently.

The Toffees have already announced the arrival of Napoli stalwart Allan and all things being well, Watford midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure and Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez should also be unveiled soon.

?? | Bem-vindo ao Everton, Allan!#BemVindoAllan pic.twitter.com/ycW4G51RSb

— Everton (@Everton) September 5, 2020

When Ancelotti arrived at the club, this trio of signings is exactly the sort of smart recruitment Everton fans were expecting.

What exactly will the Toffees’ new Big Three bring though?

In Allan, Everton possess one of the most revered ball winners of the past decade. No player made completed more tackles or registered a greater number of successful pressures in Serie A during the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons.

He would have been in a far better position to defend his crown as Italy’s most tenacious central midfielder last campaign, if a string of niggling injuries hadn’t restricted him to just 23 appearances.

Even amid a spate of fitness problems, Allan still racked up just shy of four tackles per 90 minutes during the 2019/20 campaign. The addition of the 29-year-old will add even more bite to a side who completed the fourth most tackles in the league last season.

Abdoulaye Doucoure, Dani CeballosAllan and Doucoure should play well together | Julian Finney/Getty Images

Allan’s skill set will likely complement Doucoure nicely. Like the former Napoli man, Doucoure is an extremely impressive presser. Although Watford struggled badly last season – eventually succumbing to relegation – the Frenchman still performed well, particularly after the arrival of Nigel Pearson.

His 238 successful pressures was the fourth highest in the Premier League, just one place behind the imperious Wilfred Ndidi. Doucoure is also far more comfortable in the advance areas of midfield than Allan.

He racked up 80 shot-creating actions last season, a figure only bested by Gerard Deulofeu in the Hornets’ squad. This also represented an increase on the previous two campaigns, suggesting that the midfielder is becoming more and more accomplished going forward.

It seems then, that in Doucoure and Allan, Ancelotti has assembled a double pivot that should make Everton’s midfield tough to bypass while also possessing enough creative ingenuity to cause the opposition some problems.

Potentially sitting in front of these two tireless ball winning machines could be Rodriguez – by far the most exciting signing Everton have (almost) made since the return of Wayne Rooney in 2017.

Although he has struggled slightly in recent seasons, there was a time when the Colombian was knocking on the door of being the third best player on the planet. Those days are behind him now, but if Ancelotti can get him firing – like he did during his first season at Real Madrid – Toffees fans will be besides themselves with excitement.

That particular campaign was the best of Rodriguez’s career. Coming fresh off a bewildering display at the 2014 World Cup, Los Blancos paid Monaco £63m for the versatile forward and were not disappointed.

During the 2014/2015 season, he registered 35 goal involvements in 46 appearances, playing either as a number ten, winger or even occasionally as a number eight. Since then, the 29-year-old’s output and general performances have dimmed but his decline should not be overstated.

James RodriguezRodriguez with the lat trophy he will win as a Real player | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Rodriguez’s underwhelming 2018/19 season for Bayern Munich was held up by some pundits as evidence of him no longer being an elite player. However, even at his lowest ebb, his 11 goal involvements is still more than Alex Iwobi, Bernard and Theo Walcott has ever managed for the Toffees in a single campaign.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that even in his ‘failed’ spell at Bayern he provided 14 goals and 14 assists in just 43 Bundesliga games, including 11 from the bench. He was man of the match in eight of those games. That’s still elite.

Well, we say that was his lowest ebb. That point probably came last season when he was frozen out by Zinedine Zidane at Real. This should not be too much of a worry though. If anyone can get a tune out of Rodriguez, it’s the Diva Whisperer, Ancelotti.

The Italian deserves credit for brokering deals for all three of his new recruits. Signing just one of these players this window would have been an impressive feat, but securing all three for an outlay of less than £75m? That’s a serious statement of intent.

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