Merseyside has long been the source for many a top footballer; Gerrard, Rooney, and McManaman to name just a few. Now it seems there may be another on the verge of greatness emerging from the Blue side of town. There have been glowing references surrounding this player since he flourished in the Everton academy, making his first team debut at only 17 years young. The Red side of Merseyside are currently facing the reality of witnessing their monumental midfield maestro, and captain, Steven Gerrard approach the latter stages of his career. Talk has reluctantly begun on who could possibly replace the man who has carried the club through recent dark spells, into possible success again as this year could prove. What their fans won’t be too overjoyed at seeing, is the fact it is their city rivals who look to have unveiled the latest star on the block much in the same mould as their hero. 20 year old Ross Barkley, the name on many people’s lips, and talk is starting to stretch further than his home city.
Roberto Martinez has put a lot of confidence into Barkley this term, giving him 12 Premier League starts, scoring 2 goals. Playing at the home of league leaders Arsenal, Barkley found himself in a midfield battle with stars such as Ozil, the second most expensive signing ever from a Premier League club. Ramsey, arguably the best player this season across the league, plus Wilshere, and Arteta. The signs were there for an extreme examination of not only Barkley’s credentials but the whole of Roberto Martinez’s Everton side in general. After a tremendous victory at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening, many were questioning whether Everton may of exhausted themselves ahead of another gruelling visit to one of the ‘Big Boys’.
Much to the surprise of many viewers and pundits, Everton came and dictated large periods of the game, outpassing the Premier League pass masters. As seen in the table above, Everton made a total of 515 passes throughout the match, 434 of which were successful. Few teams visit the Emirates Stadium and enjoy such dominance, this clearly a symbol of the progression made under Martinez since the direct style of David Moyes. Finishing the game with over 10% more possession than the hosts may have been deemed irrelevant had Ozil’s late strike proven to be the winner. The way in which Everton kept their belief, and confidence to strike back to obtain a point their efforts more than merited was superb. No player on the pitch was more deserving of a reward for his performance than Barkley.
Roberto Martinez instructed Ross Barkley to play in behind Lukaku, the no.10 role as it is widely known. With Flamini starting only on the bench for Arsenal, there was a chance for Everton to exploit the gap between Arsenal’s midfield and defence. Arteta was positioned the deepest of midfielders for Arsenal and he is certainly not a natural holding midfielder, although his quality to dictate play allows him to cover there. The dashboard below shows Barkley’s individual stats. He roamed large portions of the field, making many successful passes.
The balance of the Everton team is something which is regularly praised. One system which has remained from the Moyes era is the freedom Everton full-backs are allowed to roam forward and participate in attacking moves. This allows additonal creative freedom for players such as Barkley, and on Sunday he certainly revelled in the responsibility. The way in which he carries the ball is reminiscent of a young Gerrard. The likelihood being, although whisper it at Goodison Park, is Barkley will have grown up learning, and modelling large parts of his game on the Anfield legend. Everton fans may not be too enthusiastic to use such comparisons with one of their rivals gems, however, they are unlikely to dismiss the prospect of having a player in the ilk of Gerrard donning their colours. Every attack Barkley was key, driving into the space, picking out Mirallas’, and Lukaku’s runs. He also tested Szczesny with a strike from the edge of the area in the second half, which had it been inches either side of the keeper it would have certainly been a goal due to the sheer power of the shot. It was in fact another young star who grabbed the equaliser for ‘The Toffees’, scoring a thunderbolt from inside the box. The ball was rifled into the far corner by Deulofeu, on loan from Spanish giants Barcelona.
It hasn’t all been a smooth rise to the first team for Barkley. Everton loaned him out twice to Yorkshire clubs Sheffield Wednesday, and Leeds respectively last season. The first of which proved to be a success at Hillsborough, scoring 4 goals in 12 appearances. On the other hand, Neil Warnock terminated Barkley’s loan deal at Leeds as he deemed him to lack quality, in favour of an ageing Paul Green. The way in which Barkley is commanding midfields in arenas such as the Emirates this season, must surely leave Warnock thinking his decision was ever so misguided. The modern high tempo possession style implemented by Martinez certainly looks to be getting the best out of his whole squad, with only one registered defeat coming at the Etihad, which is generally accepted these days. The excitement of Barkley’s rise to elite level need not be restricted to the walls of Goodison Park. Barkley is the newest England youngster who is about to experience the weight of expectation on his shoulder’s. Not only that, he appears to be by far and away the greatest prospect of succeeding Gerrard and Lampard in the future England midfield role. Martinez now must do what his predecessor Moyes was unable to do with the last prodigy from Everton, Rooney. Martinez must ensure his side keep hold of this talent and aim to build a legacy under him as Liverpool did with Gerrard all those years ago. If Everton keep playing as they are, and sustain their outstanding start to the season why on earth would he want to leave, he may in fact be joined by stars from other clubs wanting to join the Roberto Revolution.