With control of the title on the line for Manchester City, City came out and grabbed the win in a 3-2 thriller. Everton failed to do their neighbours Liverpool a favour and were eliminated from the race for a Champions League spot. Despite his team’s loss, Ross Barkley put in a top draw performance. With Roy Hodgson in the stands, Barkley put in a display that showed he should not only be on the plane to Brazil, but maybe he can even crack the starting XI.
Barkley had more touches than any other player on the pitch (98) and completed more passes(71). He won 11 of his 12 attempted ground duels, and created two chances with one clear cut chance and scored one goal for himself. The Everton youngster completed nine of his 10 attempted dribbles, and 31% of Barkley’s passes came in the final third with 12 final third entries.
With the absence of Gareth Barry, Roberto Martinez adjusted his system. The team sheet listed his team as a 3-4-3, like he played at Wigan. When they were actually out on the pitch, Martinez’s team looked more like a 3-5-2 or a 3-5-1-1. On the team sheet, Barkley was listed to be on the left side of the front three. The potential England squad member dropped centrally as the furthest forward of the middle five and he ran the game for Everton in that attacking midfield position. Barkley was clearly confident coming in and his confidence had to have been sky high after his wonder goal in the 10th minute. Steven Naismith laid the ball off to the 20-year-old, who launched the ball into the far top corner from 34 yards. That confidence gave Barkley all the freedom mentally to do audacious pieces of skill and play crazy passes. On more than one occasion he took on and beat City defenders for fun, completing nine of his 10 attempted dribbles. Barkley’s ability to beat defenders then play a pass helped open up the City defence time and time again.
While this did not win Everton the game, had it not been for a fantastic Joe Hart save, this could have earned Everton a point. Phil Jagielka picked up the ball from a blocked shot and passed it to Ross Barkley just outside Everton’s own penalty area. The Manchester City midfield parted and Barkley just outpaced Javi Garcia around the halfway line, leaving him for dead. This attracted the attention of the City captain, Vincent Kompany. Komapany squared up to the home grown star, looking ready to either take the ball or take the man. Off the ball, Steven Naismith was able to drift around the outside shoulder of Pablo Zabaleta looking for a through ball to put him in one on one. Barkley picked out the pass before the other full back, Gael Clichy, could step up and play Naismith offside. He weighted the ball perfectly for Naismith to receive after getting away from the attentions of Zabaleta. Naismith then went for the far post but Joe Hart made a truly world class save. While this did not end up to be a goal, it was a big moment in the game and showed off Ross Barkley at his best.
Barkley dictated the game against City and was a major reason why Everton played as well as they did despite missing key players like Gareth Barry and Kevin Miralles. The young man has shown this season that he is a special player and today helped cement his case, not only for a plane ticket to Brazil, but maybe even a start in Brazil.