James Rodriguez is getting close to a return to the Everton first team so could his return inspire the Toffees to secure European qualification?
The regular absences through injury of the Colombian star forward has been a feature of his first season at Everton.
It’s not surprising because Rodriguez has been struggling with injuries for several years now and injuries blighted his later years at Real Madrid and his loan at Bayern Munich.
These spells out of the team have blunted the effectivness of his contribution to the Blues team this season and has arguably adversly effected the team’s campaign.
At the start of the season he was playing a very signifcant part in a revitalised Everton attack. The Toffees began the season playing some great attacking football with the summer signing at the heart of much of this free-flowing football.
James technical skill, creativity and the range of his passing added a new dimension to the Toffees attacking play.
He had scored three goals and it looked as though the Blues had finally found a really effective attack as Dominic Calvert-Lewin was also in blistering form thriving on the service coming from the Colombian star.
Then came the first international break and Rodriguez returned a little jaded and his performances were less influential.
Ever since then the Colombian has had a diminshing impact. Eventually while he was again out following other international breaks, Carlo Ancelotti decided to go to with a more defensive counter-attacking approach. This proved effective in stabalising a season that was wobbling badly.
The success of this new-look team has raised questions about whether the team is better with or without the ex-Real Madrid player.
When Rodriguez was in the team Ancelotti played a 4-3-3 with his playmaker operating on the right of the front three.
While he was often hugely creative, sometimes teams could and did exploit the space and gaps behind him and whoever was playing right-back, (usually Seamus Coleman), and they were able to take advantage of it.
I felt that setting aside tactical questions, Rodriguez needed some time to recover from all his little knocks and injuries that were building up in a unique season with so many matches compressed back-to-back.
Well he’s had some time out now and is ready to return to action when Everton resume their Premier League season against Crystal Palace on the 5th April. After the FA cup exit to Manchester City qualification for Europe is now the only thing the Toffees can get from this season.
I think there are some interesting long-term questions about how the Blues can most effectively combine the improved defensive resiliance with improved attacking threat.
But hopefully Rodriguez can contribute some additional level of creativity and help provide the chances to push Everton to a European qualification.