Gareth Barry has often been treated unfairly by neutral fans, as they question whether he has the ability to play for Manchester City; but, this season the midfielder, on loan at Everton, has earned praise from critics and fans alike after an impressive start at the Merseyside club.
Barry’s role in the side is a somewhat underrated one in football with acclaim normally landing at the feet of the more flamboyant attacking players. Without Barry in the team though, Everton may have had a different start to the season.
The England international joined Everton after 3 draws in the opening 3 matches and the departure of Fellaini to Manchester United after a summer of transfer rumours. Since then the inclusion of Barry has seen 5 victories in 5 Premier League matches – Barry was ineligible in Everton’s only league defeat against Manchester City – and only a substitute appearance against Fulham in the League Cup has seen Barry experience defeat with Everton.
The midfielder has often been criticised for his lack of pace, however, Barry’s positional awareness and ability to read the game makes up for that. The defensive midfielder role that he occupies in front of the Everton defensive line utilises Barry’s strengths perfectly and can be seen in the number of interceptions made (9) and the fact that after 14 tackles Barry still has a 100% success rate. The position also allows other midfielders, such as Ross Barkley and Leon Osman, to have a bigger influence in the attacking third.
That isn’t to say that Barry has no input into Everton’s attacking plan. The ex-Aston Villa midfielder already has a goal to his name coming dubiously against Hull City, equalling his tally in the league for the last two seasons, and has created 8 chances this season with his only assist coming against his former club last weekend.
Barry also contributes to the style of football adopted at Goodison Park since the arrival of Martinez in the summer, contrary to Robbie Savage’s comment that Barry and passing don’t go together on Match of the Day. With an average pass accuracy of 85%, his best passing performance coming against Hull with 89% (looked at last week on the site), and the only players to have completed more passes per match than Barry (73.4) are Carrick (80.2) and Yaya Toure (80.1) as he proves Savage’s claim to be false. The range of passing that Barry offers is also an asset to Everton, with the midfielder able to keep it simple and short whilst being able to play the ball long – something Barry has done successfully 26 times out of 34 long balls played.
The performances on show this season by Barry have raised some questions about whether he should have been allowed to leave Manchester City in the summer. Barry doesn’t fit into the fast paced attacking set up Pellegrini prefers, but the simple and solid style of play Barry does offer has been missing at times for City. Away performances have been where City have struggled this season despite the strong physicality of Yaya Toure. Both Toure and Fernandinho like to get forward compared to Barry, who could sit back and allow the attacking players to thrive with a defensive midfield presence guaranteed.
With talk of Barry appearing at the final international tournament of his career, his early season form will have to continue throughout the season if he is to force his way back into the England squad after a disappointing World Cup in 2010 and not featuring for the national side since Hodgson’s first match in May 2012. Either way, he will play a major part in Everton’s fortunes this season.