The former blues striker dedicated his Sunday Times column to the club’s opening of the season, talking about Carlo Ancelotti’s work, why he was always sure Dominic Calvert-Lewin had what it took to become Everton’s No. 9, and gave Jordan Pickford some advice.
Wayne Rooney believes Everton can finish in the top four this season – but says he may need reinforcements in January.
Wayne Rooney on Everton’s flying start, possible deals in January, DCL, Jordan Pickford and more in his Times column
“The first four are doable,” Rooney wrote in the Sunday Times.
Rooney also talks about the “fantastic” James Rodriguez – and why his position on the right wing is crucial – and predicts why Ben Godfrey could have Michael Keane as a partner in the future at the heart of the blues defense.
“But, as we saw against Liverpool, this is an Everton who can handle challenges.
“It’s going to be difficult because seven or eight teams are battling for those places and some big clubs will have to sit out, but given Everton’s start, the first four must be the goal. If they can make it through January and Ancelotti can bring a few more players, they have a great chance.
“Their biggest problem is squad depth. With Gylfi Sigurdsson and Bernard, they have a few players who can come off the bench to do something else, but they need one or two more; players who don’t necessarily have to be world champions, but who can join the team directly with no major loss of quality in case of injury. They need real support for Allan and another batting option for games where the opponent is prepared to face the threat of Calvert-Lewin.
“The transformation comes from the manager,” Rooney wrote.
Ancelotti will be forced to make changes for today’s game against Southampton and has already confirmed that Ben Godfrey will start as right defender in place of the injured Seamus Coleman. Richarlison’s suspension is also expected to bring Alex Iwobi into the first division. However, Ancelotti has so far relied on the same player core during this term.
“Everything that I thought Carlo Ancelotti could bring to Everton, he has brought with him. His work was brilliant. When you look at the very best managers, they may have different systems and styles, but what they have in common is a clear vision of the team they want.
Commenting on the league’s top scorer, Calvert-Lewin, who scored seven league goals in his first five games, Rooney added: “When I returned to Everton, he was just entering his second season with the club. I looked at him in practice and thought ‘he has it all’. He was fast, strong, good in the air.
“The selection is simple and consistent: you have eight or nine players who, when they are fit, always play. This builds their self-confidence and understanding and makes their own job easier from a team management point of view – instead of keeping a squad of 20 players engaged and happy, they only have to take care of the ten or so who don’t get any playing time.
“The leap that Dom is blessed with is incredible. In the gym, when we did box jumps, he jumped a full box over everyone else. What has improved is his timing and the positions he takes in the box.
“His only fall was snapping at chances, but he was already working hard to correct that and Duncan Ferguson deserves a lot of credit because Duncan always stayed with him after practice and gave him final drills. These were there to finish with his feet – the header ability you see is more natural.