The excellent form of Alex Iwobi and the return to fitness of James Rodriguez has created a potential selection dilemma for Carlo Ancelotti. Is there a way for Everton to accommodate both in the team?
With his brilliant Colombian back and both his full-backs fit too, the Everton boss can resume playing the team that he started the season with, more or less.
Rodriguez was superb on Tuesday adding that extra dimension of world-class creative ability the Blues have lacked since he has been out injured.
His return would normally mean dropping Iwobi who has been excellent ever since he came into the team on the right hand side in place of the Colombian. He had another fine game against Wolves on Tuesday night and of course scored the Toffees opener in the first half.
Iwobi has offered something very different from Rodriguez. He doesn’t have his South American team mates technical ability, vision and range of passing, but he is hard-working, willing to track back much more and provides pace, power and direct running with and without the ball.
He has also showed no little skill recently and while his final pass is not always as consistent, it has been better. If he can add regular goals to that mix, he would finally be justifying the big fee Everton paid for him.
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Given their different but I think complimentary skill-sets, ideally you would want to find a way to have both in the team.
So it would be a little harsh on the Nigerian if he was dropped to give Rodriguez his place back in the team. But is there a way for both of them to play together?
If Ancelotti adopts the 4-3-3 formation with which the Blues got off to such a great start to the season, then he could perhaps put Iwobi into a midfield three alongside Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan – when he’s back from injury.
However, returning to that team would also mean dropping the two full-backs in his current back-four; Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey, both of whom have been really solid, especially Godfrey.
I would be inclined to stick with that successful defence, which has only conceded one goal from open play since they came together against Chelsea a month ago.
Although as I’ve said many times before a 4-3-3 is probably the best balanced formation in the modern game, tactical systems aren’t everything in football and it’s more important to be flexible to ensure you have the optimum balance to the team. I think with this defence the Toffees boss has found that balance.
Ancelotti’s formation has often morphed into a sort of 4-5-1 and sticking to that might be the way to get both these players into the side.
Having Rodriguez playing off a centre-forward as he did against Wolves, might enable him to do just that. Ironically, as we saw on Tuesday with Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s injury there is an opportunity to try this sort of line-up and see if and how it works.