As debuts go, the performance from new Everton man Gareth Barry was as good as it gets. On a weekend where stellar names such as Mezut Ozil and Samuel Eto’o entered the Premier League, it was a seasoned pro who turned heads.
When Everton manager Roberto Martinez was asked by Sky Sports about his opinion on his debutants first appearance, he responded with the telling phrase of ‘that was a master-class’. Despite having played no competitive football this season, Barry was thrown in at the deep end against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and he didn’t disappoint. Deployed in a defensive midfield role, Barry was key to Everton gaining a hard fought victory over Mourinho’s effective unit.
Although Everton enjoyed significantly less possession than Chelsea, gaining only 43.5%, Barry was very effective when he did have the ball. Out of the 44 passes he attempted throughout the game, he succeeded with 75% (33 of them). Keeping the passes short, (no long balls played according to Opta Stat) he effectively broke up play for the Everton side and made it count when they did have possession. Although playing in a defensive role, he was positive in his play by putting more of his passes forward (17 of them) than in any other direction. He did create one goal scoring chance during the game, but what was more telling was his passing in other areas , areas that happened to be particularly important in helping Everton advance. The stats showed Barry consistently passed it onto the attacking threats of Leighton Baines (11 times) and Kevin Mirallas (4 times) and Ross Barkley (4 times) throughout the game, helping Everton cause Chelsea trouble.
In arguably the key moment of the match, Barry also made himself an instant hero with the Goodison Park crowd. In front of the iconic Gwladys Street End, Barry showed a remarkable reading of the game to somehow get back and deny Samuel Eto’o from scoring an open goal after goalkeeper Tim Howard has passed himself into danger. The commitment shown by Barry throwing himself into the block to deny the goal scoring opportunity summed up his performance all evening. A showing of football intelligence and hard work made Barry one of the outstanding performers over this Saturdays round of games. Martinez was certainly justified in his ‘master-class’ assessment of Barry and Everton fans alike will be hoping that he can continue with such performances for the rest of the season.