Everton pinned down some quality players this past summer in the hope of bettering their commendable performances from last season. The Merseyside club got Romelu Lukaku to sign a permanent deal, Ross Barkley to extended his contract for five years, John Stones committed his future to the club and signed the highly rated Bosnian midfielder, Muhamed Besic. It was a piquant summer transfer window for the Merseyside team and with these new additions, the already formidable Everton side are aiming for the coveted Champions League spot. One of Everton’s stand out performers from last season was Ross Barkley, England’s latest ‘prodigy’. The Englishman has caught the eye of many, with plenty of big clubs monitoring the young lad’s situation at the club.
WHO IS ROSS BARKLEY?
Martinez on Barkley and his new contract: ‘Ross has signed a new contract to reflect his new role and development. When you talk about assembling squads and getting ready for the new season, for us it is as big news as you can get. Ross is still a young man and there is a long way to go in his development but as it stands he is a massive part of our squad. It is a big moment as every Evertonian will tell you Ross Barkley is the sort of player everyone would love to pay to watch him play. He brings back memories of the big legends we’ve had at the club. But saying that he is a young man and his best years are yet to come.’
Ross Barkley joined the youth ranks of Everton as an 11 year old boy and played numerous games for the Everton youth teams. In the 2010 – 2011 season, he was named as a substitute and was close to making his Premier League debut when an unfortunate collision with Liverpool’s Andre Wisdom left him with three fractures in his leg while playing an England U-19 match. Barkley’s formidable attitude helped him make a comeback from injury as he rejoined the team just before the start of the 2011-12 season.
Talent Radar Accolades:
Placed 8th in Talent Radar Midfield Rankings in 2016
Barkley made his Premier League debut in the 2012-13 season in a 1-0 defeat to Queens Park Rangers. He went on to make five more appearances before being loaned out to lower league clubs. In September 2012, Sheffield Wednesday loaned him for a month and on that same day, the youngster made his debut against Brighton. A week later, Barkley managed to score his first goal for Sheffield Wednesday against Bolton. After a month with the South Yorkshire club, Wednesday decided to extended his loan contract and this was readily agreed by the Toffees who believed that first team experience would be beneficial for both, themselves as well as the player. Barkley went on to play 13 games for Wednesday before being recalled by the Merseyside club. In January 2013, Leeds United came knocking and were desperate to get Barkley on loan. A second loan spell (one month), saw Barkley make his debut against Barnsley in a Leeds outfit before returning back to Everton.
2013 – 14 defined a clear-cut breakthrough for Barkley. A marvellous pre-season helped him earn a place in the first eleven at the club. The Englishman played 38 games for the Toffees that season, with 34 of those appearances being in the Premier League managing 6 goals and 2 assists in that time. Consistent performances through out the season saw him earn praise from both the media as well as the manager. Despite his young age, Barkley’s dominant performances earned him the reputation of a top level player. After completing a season long apprenticeship in the 2013-14 campaign, Barkley was ready to shoulder Everton’s challenge for a Champions League spot the following season. A medial ligament damage during training in August dimmed this charge, side-lining him for the first couple of weeks of the season.
The England national team are in a regeneration process with the likes of Gerrard and Lampard announcing their retirement from the national team after an unsuccessful World Cup in Brazil. Barkley will have a vital role in the team alongside Liverpool’s starlet Raheem Sterling and United’s Luke Shaw. The 20 year old, until now, has showcased his talents for all age groups of England’s national teams, playing a total of 43 times and netting 4 goals. Barkley made his debut for England’s senior team at the mere age of 19 and has proceeded to win 9 caps so far, still awaiting his first goal.
STYLE & STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Barkley’s versatility as a player is outstanding: he has the ability to play as a central midfielder, a left winger and an attaching midfielder. He is one of those rare players who has a combination of two vital components to be an outstanding footballer: a powerful physique and excellent technical abilities. While he does possess a decent amount of pace, Barkley lacks in acceleration and this weakness is evident when he starts to dribble with the ball. Often, Barkley requires a few extra seconds to pick up pace but once he is able to get there, he proves to be quite a handful to deal with. The Englishman is a good passer of the ball and has an eye for through balls, both of which are accurate more often than not. He also has the mentality to follow through on his pass and continue his run forward. His accuracy and technique from range are also quite impressive.
Barkley possesses tremendous awareness, his composure and concentration makes him alert of every movement around him, allowing him to have sound decision making, a quality that is rare in young footballers.His biggest strength would be his ability to make strong forward runs with the ball at his feet from the centre of the field. Barkley brings together his pace, control and physicality during these runs which make it very difficult to stop him. He often shows his maturity during these runs by making crucial decisions to make the right pass, through ball or take a shot from range at the right time. This was quite frequently seen last season with his quality link up play with Romelu Lukaku; the strong Belgian often used as a target man, proving an symbiotic outlet for Barkley to work his magic. For his age, the Englishman possesses incredible composure and the ability to produce quality finishes inside the box.
In 2013 – 14, he had an 85 percent pass accuracy which tells only half the tale. While one could argue that this stat could be far better, you tend to be more understanding when you realise that Barkley’s average pass distance is 18 meters, which is by no means short. Often, Barkley refuses to play simple passes, always trying to make things click on the pitch. With 56.1% of all his passes received by forwards, it speaks volumes of his attacking mindset. All signs point to the right direction for Barkley, his average pass length was better than Philippe Coutinho, Yaya Toure and Raheem Sterling last season. His total duels won were better than the aforementioned trio with 57.74%, a good 5% ahead of the second placed Yaya Tore with 52.66%. Considering how physically dominating Yaya Toure is in his games, it really does put Barkley’s stats into perspective.
While his work rate and defensive contribution are fairly decent, his participation and contribution in a zonal defence can be a bit artificial at times. Though still young and plenty of time to work on his defensive issues, his current contribution in zonal defence is limited. Although it’s hard to establish one main weakness in his game, one must say that it would be extremely hard to deal with if his injury repeatedly surfaced in the future.
Barkley definitely has the potential to be a top player; that being said he must make sure to stay fit and play consistently. Another big elephant in the room that one has to consider in Barkley’s future is if he will be able to deal with the pressure. Given that the lad had already been recognised with potential and playing in the Premier League- a league which poses immense challenges in order to do make it to the top, cherry topped with the fact that he is English, Barkley has already drawn a significant amount of pressure for him to deal with. The youngster needs to be mentally strong, the challenges he will face are clearly evident.
Written by Mert Conker
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