90min's Premier League Player of the Month: September - James Rodríguez

Oct 1, 2020, 3:48 PM GMT+1
James Rodríguez has seamlessly adapted to the English top flight
James Rodríguez has seamlessly adapted to the English top flight | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The blockbuster arrival of James Rodríguez to Everton prompted widespread excitement, but also a flurry of questions.

How fit can he be after spending last season on Real Madrid's bench? Will he adapt to the pace of the Premier League? Why hasn't he aged a day since the 2014 World Cup?

In the space of just one month, the man known as King James has answered most of these doubting queries with regal aplomb.

James Rodríguez's Ratings for September's Premier League Matches

Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Everton (13/9): 8/10
Everton 5-2 West Bromwich Albion (19/9): 9/10
Crystal Palace 1-2 Everton (26/9): 8/10
September Average: 8.33/10

Three games, three wins and an 8.33 average rating have seen James deservedly claim the inaugural title of 90min's Premier League player of the month.

Yet, as recently as August, the same elegant playmaker could barely get a game for Real Madrid, let alone claim a Spanish equivalent of this prestigious honour. The 29-year-old started just five league matches throughout the entirety of his final season in the Spanish capital. However, James has rapidly shaken off any fitness concerns after being rested for a mere 19 minutes in his nascent Premier League career.

Given what he can do when he's on the pitch, it's surprising that Carlo Ancelotti has had the discipline to haul the man he aptly described as 'a fantastic player' off the field at all.

James may only have one assist to his name - for now - but the languid Colombian has already created ten chances in the top flight for his grateful teammates - one of only two players to have hit double figures in the opening month.

Starting nominally as the right winger in a 4-3-3, James has licence to roam, constantly drifting in field onto his wondrous left foot and delicately lacerating the opposition backline with a flood of incisive passes each match. Everton, understandably, look for their new number 19 at every given opportunity and - however it comes his way - James rarely wastes a chance to delight in possession.

50 minutes into his debut against Tottenham Hotspur, the ball came fizzing towards James at hip-height. With a blurring flick of his boot, Everton's new creative hub tamed the testing pass, immediately floating the ball onto Richarlison's head only for his fellow South American to mistime his effort on goal.

The sight of James collecting the ball on the right flank, turning inside and spraying a pass to the opposite wing - be it to the feet of left-back Lucas Digne or the more advanced Richarlison - has already become both common and threatening.

No Premier League player has completed more switches of play than James Rodríguez in the opening month of the season (21)
No Premier League player has completed more switches of play than James Rodríguez in the opening month of the season (21) | Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Yet, not every pass James makes is an attempt at unlocking the defence. When Everton met a competitive Crystal Palace side in his last league outing of the month, James recognised the needs of the team. With Roy Hodgson's south Londoners emboldened by their goal, James collected possession deep in his own half, tip-toed away from three red-and-blue-shirted players, and fired the ball into the other side of the park.

In that same game, James pressured the opposition 15 times - more than his combined tally across his first two appearances - providing a defensive presence while boasting a telling contribution to both of Everton's goals in a 2-1 win.

A lack of tracking back has been the only slight blot on James' Premier League copybook to date, but as the talented left-footer gets closer to full fitness with each game, his defensive contribution could very well increase.

Besides, when you're as good going forward as James has emphatically proven himself to be, a casual approach to defending can be easily overlooked.