Although James Rodriguez didn’t pick up a goal or an assist for Real Madrid against Sevilla, he impressed with an all-action display that included some valuable defensive work.
Real Madrid’s loss to PSG on Wednesday certainly didn’t sit well with the players, coaches, management, or fans. Los Blancos made up for this 3-0 defeat in the Champions League by posting a clean sheet against rivals Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan to move into a tie for first place in La Liga, whereas Sevilla entered Matchday five in first.
At the heart of Real’s win was a strong defensive performance from Casemiro and the back four, but it is important to praise several attacking players for stepping up defensively. And one of those players who did so is fan favorite James Rodriguez.
James is in the midst of a strong return season for Real Madrid, despite the fact that it seemed like Zinedine Zidane would sell him to Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli this summer. Real fans are surely glad that the club decided to hang onto the attacking midfielder, who showed his world-class work as a No. 10 in a 3-2 win over Levante. He assisted Karim Benzema’s goal brilliantly in that game.
While James didn’t come up with a goal or an assist in Real’s 1-0 win over Sevilla, he did come agonizingly close to setting up Dani Carvajal, who was sprung through on goal thanks to the Colombian’s genius through ball. Carvajal should have scored, but Real won (off of Carvajal’s assist) so that is a matter of the past.
But what is important is how that goal came about. Real finally used an aggressive pressing game with their attackers, who are all strong in this regard. Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema, and Toni Kroos are all effective at pressing the opposition into mistakes. They didn’t necessarily capitalize on them on Sunday, but, well, they came close a few times.
Based on the fact that, per WhoScored.com, James recorded three tackles and an interception against Sevilla, it’s safe to say that he, too, can offer something to Real Madrid defensively in midfield. While James is an attacking midfielder through and through, he did look good defensively in this game, working extremely hard and putting his best foot forward for the fans who have come to adore him. His tireless work earned him more plaudits from Real fans, who took notice of the tackles he made.
James’s pressing helped generate opportunities for Real on those ball recoveries, and he does a great job of making incisive passes when Real get on the break. This happened a number of times against Sevilla, including with the chance that Carvajal nearly put away and one for Hazard earlier.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Zidane uses James and how the star man negotiates his offensive and defensive responsibilities. This was a subtly important game in James solidifying his value to Los Blancos, because better pressing and overall defensive work, including more traditional midfield defense from the usual No. 10, will enable him to continue playing as often as possible. And if Real can generate more chances off turnovers, that could lead to more impressive stats for James.