One. Criticism of Barkley is nothing short of disgusting.
I find it quite unbelievable the level of criticism which has been directed at Ross Barkley following the 1-1 draw with Norwich. Until the last six games, in which Deulofeu and Lukaku have stepped up their performances, Barkley was our standout player and remains a front runner for the player of the season. Yet after one disappointing performance the academy graduate (isn’t it always the case that we turn on our own) has received unnecessary and unfair criticism from thankfully a vocal minority of Evertonians.
Yes Barkley had a quieter first half compared to many, but Everton, apart from some wayward finishing were superb in the opening period and Barkley took on a role for the team that wasn’t ideally suited to his game. His standards dropped in the second half, but I struggled to find an Everton player on the pitch who played to an acceptable level during the final 45 minutes.
In fairness to Barkley he only gave the ball away on four occasions during his 76 minutes on the pitch. 49 successful passes out of 53. Maybe below his own high standards and like many of his teammates looked backwards and sideways too often, especially when Everton should have been looking to kill off Norwich’s hopes. His work rate was excellent, with only Tom Cleverley winning the ball back more than Barkley and as his heat map shows he was employed in more of a deeper midfield role to the benefit of the team, rather than his own personal benefit.
Ross Barkley is a rare diamond, a truly gifted footballer, a down to earth human being who loves playing for Everton. We should be extremely grateful for his talents and he certainly deserves our patience when he has a slight off day. Get off the boys back and treasure one of the best players to come out of Everton’s academy in the last 30 years.
2. Thrilling football not delivering the points return it deserves.
The frustration generated by Everton’s recent failure to win games they have dominated has overshadowed how well Everton have played in recent weeks. Roberto Martinez has built a fantastic football side, full of young exciting footballers who at present appear to lack a little nous which would turn draws into victories. That will come in time and therefore the big challenge for the Everton board in the summer is not a ground move, or a new buyer, but to remain strong and resist all offers for the talented youngsters that form the core of this Everton team. The players will be hurting from results like yesterday and with every draw they will learn the need to kill teams off. We will come back stronger, a good second half to this season should see a European return for the Blues and then next season…a serious assault on the top three or four of the Premier League is certainly possible.
3. Corner weakness a cause for concern.
Another goal conceded and another from a corner kick. That makes it seven set piece goals conceded by Everton in the Premier League this season and the second corner against us in the space of 6 days. Everton must do something to eradicate the mistakes that are costing vital points.
On Monday it was a failure to adequately pick up a runner and on Saturday it was repeated with Bennett getting above the Everton defence to head goalwards.
4. Mirallas has lost his spark.
Roberto Martinez let it be known during the week that Kevin Mirallas was concerned that his absence from the Everton team was harming his chances of a place in the Belgium squad for this summer’s European Championship. Mirallas is therefore left with two options, play well when the opportunity arises for Everton, or move on to another club.
On Saturday he was given opportunity to impress, coming on to replace Deulofeu with a fraction over 20 minutes remaining, however his performance was insipid and lacked any of the sparkle he has often sprinkled on games during his Everton career. He appeared short of confidence and a little defeated, almost accepting his time on Merseyside was drawing to an end. I hoped for the type of display he produced at West Ham in last season’s FA Cup.
Back in January, like now he was finding opportunities hard to come by, but on that occasion he looked determined to win back his place in Martinez’ plans and emerged from the substitutes bench to transform Everton. At Carrow Road on Saturday he struggled to make any impact, and like at Swansea earlier in the campaign, his frustration boiled over, conceding a needless free kick which disrupted the flow of the game when Everton needed to build up their tempo.
It would appear that Mirallas’ time at Everton is almost over. This is an incredible shame for a player who promised so much, but perhaps it demonstrates how far Everton have come in the last two years, that a player who would have been one of the first names on the team sheet, is now struggling to get any action at all.
5. Does Cleverley’s form raise a question mark over McCarthy inclusion?
For the second game running Tom Cleverley was brilliant for Everton. Replacing the injured James McCarthy, Cleverley is operating in a slightly more forward position and that is making Everton look far more penetrative. It also raises a question over McCarthy’s return to the team. For me, and I am sure this is the longer term vision, McCarthy will replace Gareth Barry in a sole holding midfield position. But so far this season Barry has looked refreshed and back to his influential best. The former Manchester City and Aston Villa midfielder is crucial to Everton’s play and Roberto Martinez is a huge fan.
Of course Cleverley could play on the left, as indeed he did at the start of the season before he succumbed to injury against Spurs and with Kone’s impact dwindling in recent weeks it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Martinez make that change. Whatever happens, McCarthy needs to lift his game back to the levels of his first 12 months at Goodison, which in fairness he was approaching before he was injured against Bournemouth.
The fact that there is even a debate is of great credit to Cleverley. He wasn’t the most popular signing in the summer but he has made a fabulous impact and his presence is once again raising the quality and expectations amongst this Everton squad.