Ross Barkley: the potential is immense, but he needs a role
Last Saturday, we made one of our forays from darkest Rutland up to Goodison Park. It was a very special day: my five-year-old grandson was joining us for his first to a live match at Goodison. This, of course, entailed a visit to the Everton One store where the full kit was bought and the name on the back he chose was Barkley and the number 20.
During the match, I watched Barkley intensely, especially when he didn't have the ball. He didn't have a great game – who did? He seemed to run at players and then stop and look for a sideways pass, a tactic which is obviously worked on at Finch Farm as most of the Everton team did the same thing and the ball went endlessly across the park. Now Barkley had more excuse than most: he's coming back from injury, he's obviously not at peak fitness or match sharpness, but he's also in many ways as gifted as any young player in the country.
I've wondered over the last few days what will be Barkley's role in the Everton team? As a midfielder, will he be an attacking midfielder, like Scholes, Lampard or our own Tim Cahill? They played mainly in their opponent's half and drifted into the box finding space and scoring regularly. But Barkley rarely gets into the box and even at set pieces where his six-foot frame could be very useful, he positions himself outside of the box, waiting to drive in a misplaced clearance.
With his power and size, he could develop into a box-to-box rampaging midfielder, like Robson or Gerrard. Robson's stamina was outstanding and Gerrard always had the energy and the ability to split a defence with a 40-metre pass. Again, I'm not sure if that's Barkley's strength.
He could play deep alongside McCarthy, and run the midfield as Pirlo does, being ever available for a pass and dictating the tempo of a game with a range of passing, long and short.
In the old days, he might have been a second striker playing off or just behind a powerful frontman, like Law, Greaves, Keegan or our own magnificent Roy Vernon... but that role has disappeared, in favour of a player at the head of a diamond, which is really the role Cahill etc play.
Barkley has a marvellous build, he has pace, he's two-footed and has a great shot in both feet. But what will be his role? Has he the footballing intelligence to be the main man in the Everton team? There'll be Coleman, Stones, McCarthy, Mirallas, Lukaku, Barkley, plus the academy players... the potential is immense, but Barkley needs a role and Martinez's job is to utilise his ability and develop this supremely gifted young player, so that he doesn't drift through games showing us just cameos of his ability.
I know Barkley is still young, coming back from injury etc... but I would like to see him making himself the main man in the Everton midfield. Funnily enough, in many ways, he's like that other great talent Yaya Toure who does so well for Man City, except in Europe or games against the big teams when he drifts out of the game. The cricket term is a flat-track bully and I don't want that to be Barkley's fate. He's the best homegrown midfield talent since Colin Harvey and he needs to be as central to Everton's team as Harvey was from the day he forced his way into the team.
Incidentally, my grandson loved his first live Everton game. He looked a little surprised when I told him my first Everton game yielded 12 goals, an 8-4 win over Plymouth Argyle... I did tell him that, almost 500 games later, I've yet to see another 12-goal game!
Reader Comments (60)
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1 Posted 05/11/2014 at 15:05:16
We could be such a fantastic attacking team if Lukaku, Barkley, Mirallas, McGeady and yes McCarthy all played up to their incredible potentials with the right roles in the side and instructions to get themselves and the ball forward with pace to put the opposition defence under some real pressure.
2 Posted 05/11/2014 at 15:18:05
His strengths seem to lie mainly in running with the ball and being able to shoot and pass decently off both. But if he comes up against a crowded defense as against Swansea then there is no room to run into and it's hard to fashion space for a shot.
I think box-to-box is about right and Toure and Gerrard seem the best comparisons to me. Trouble is that at the moment our formation has two defensive central midfielders and one attacking and perhaps Ross does not specialise in either. Might it be that Martinez has to change his favoured formation to get the best out of the boy wonder?
3 Posted 05/11/2014 at 15:50:08
4 Posted 05/11/2014 at 15:48:44
5 Posted 05/11/2014 at 15:55:39
Naismith, Lukaku and Eto'o are all centre-forwards in the traditional sense with Naismith having a high workrate but inferior ball control to Eto'o; Lukaku's strength is running at defenders but poor first touch, especially with back to goal. When Lukaku is playing his game, he looks good alongside Barkley without Naismith and Eto'o.
IMO the problem is they are all crowding the same space and not opening up defenders by running wide; additionally, with so many forwards, the midfield is weaker so Barkley is the only midfield player who is forward and therefore has no-one to link up with except 2 or 3 forwards all in the same space.
That is why we play better with Ossie in the team, even though he may be the weakest link. I would like to see Besic, McCarthy, Barry and Barkley in the same team and then see how Barkley does.
6 Posted 05/11/2014 at 15:58:50
7 Posted 05/11/2014 at 15:58:26
As for his best position? He should be a simple central midfielder at the end of the day. Playing almost as a second striker is alright as a stop gap but, as he shown often at youth level, he can dictate play from the middle of the pitch when given the chance. There was a snapshot of this ability in the Goodison derby last season when he was moved deeper and took the game by the scruff of the neck and, in my opinion, that's where his long term future should lie.
8 Posted 05/11/2014 at 16:08:14
I wish also we had two players like McCarthy as then we could have one deep and one as a permanent attacker from midfield. I think he could be the ÂÂPeter ReidÂÂ type offensive midfield captain that the team is crying out for. Sadly, Gibson with his injury problems cannot give the team that option and probably RM doesnÂt see it that way anyway.
This season we have seen, Naismith, Mirallas and Osman slot into midfield roles but none of them have the tackling skills necessary to make Everton a powerful team in that department. Mirallas has to be up front more alongside the main target man when he comes back with Barkley just behind.
Oviedo may also come good as the left-sided midfielder if Pienaar is not rated anymore come January Besic has talent but needs to control his tackling and I think he will be a force with the right coaching.
9 Posted 05/11/2014 at 16:28:21
10 Posted 05/11/2014 at 16:35:51
11 Posted 05/11/2014 at 16:40:16
I find it difficult to name our best formation / best eleven at the moment because a) many are under performing and b) It is difficult to see what it is that Roberto wants from his team at least from an attacking perspective.
Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Barry, Garbutt; McGeady, McCarthy, Osman (Gibson), Baines; Barkley (Naismith); Lukaku (Eto'o)
It's not easy this managerial lark!
12 Posted 05/11/2014 at 17:09:20
13 Posted 05/11/2014 at 17:34:07
14 Posted 05/11/2014 at 18:53:09
Moyes used Barkley sparingly because of the games he would disappear from and Moyes preferred consistent performers. Roberto is more willing to accept the average performances from Barkley in the hope that he'll turn it on every now and again.
What we really need is for Barkley to stay free from injury for the rest of the season. Hopefully that will lead to him playing much more football and finally developing into a more consistent player.
15 Posted 05/11/2014 at 18:59:52
To do this, I think Ross is best utilised behind the striker. As has been stated he seems at his best when running with the ball at his feet, yet I wouldn't discount his passing off hand.
As I remember it, It was Ross who set McGeady off for the only move of any note during the Lille away game. It's just a shame that McGeady couldn't find a cross of similar quality to the ball he received from Ross!
16 Posted 05/11/2014 at 18:57:13
It is hard to see him fulfill his promise within our current system.
17 Posted 05/11/2014 at 19:46:08
Maybe there is no such thing as a 'marvellous build'.
18 Posted 05/11/2014 at 20:26:34
I have in other threads suggested to play Barkley as defensive midfielder alongside McCarthy when we need more creativity maybe at home against the middle teams.
In the longer run, when he becomes more mature and disciplined, I think he could develop into a world class central/defensive midfielder. Imagine, 3 years from now, how strong a partnership McCarthy & Barkley could become.
19 Posted 05/11/2014 at 20:28:19
Unfortunately, due to a chequered history of injuries and Â– I think Â– confusion about his role in the team, we have all too rarely seen the best of him.
Early days, I know... and consistency is something which he Â–and many of his team-mates Â– must strive for. Unfortunately, I don't think this direct type of player fits the Martinez mould and he may Â– very regrettably Â– have to move away to fulfill his massive potential.
Then, of course, it will be Kenwright who gets the blame!
20 Posted 05/11/2014 at 20:54:25
Jay Harris's point about too many similar players is spot-on. Like his predecessor, Martinez seems to keep his trust in certain players, leading to an unbalanced team.
The main problem at the moment is whether Lukaku and Barkley are actually fit or not. I think Martinez is happy for Barkley to drift around, he just needs more balance around him. There are too many players who are playing in a not-quite striker, not-quite midfield role.
If it was me, I'd play Barry centre back, a midfield four of Besic, McCarthy, Barkley, Osman for an hour (Mirallas/Oviedo when fit), with Lukaku and Eto'o up front. There's an option there to drop Eto'o behind with one up front, plus 30 mins of McGeady when Osman's knackered after 60. For all those obsessed with wingers, we've got the best attacking full-backs in the country, when they're given the space to penetrate.
What are your thoughts, folks?
21 Posted 05/11/2014 at 20:47:50
He will be a number 8, no doubt for me. In an ideal world I'd parter him with McCarthy and an Alonso type to dominate a midfield, going 3 up top to plunder the goals - oh for a Peter Beardsley. That said, I've been an Evertonian for 30 years so he'll probably be sold in January....
22 Posted 05/11/2014 at 21:12:46
If that is not the case how do you then explain how so much of last Saturday's 67% possession of which he was so proud was made up of 'non-progressive' passes?
23 Posted 05/11/2014 at 21:39:40
24 Posted 05/11/2014 at 21:40:21
25 Posted 05/11/2014 at 21:48:34
When we are playing teams that like to defend deep, like Swansea did, I would play Barkley as a central midfielder with licence to get forward. At least then he can move forward at pace, committing players and he won't always have a defender up his arse waiting to tackle him as soon as he receives the ball.
He's also wasted out wide. We need wide players on the wing who are able to stretch the opposition and get crosses in. When central midfielders are played out wide, they too often come inside further congesting the centre of the park.
Talk of him being turned into a defensive midfielder is ludicrous. Maybe when he's 33. His strength is his pace, two footed ability, shooting and stamina. Why would you lose all of that by asking him to sit in front of the back 4, spray passes and break up the opposition attacks?
However, that all said there are a few things to bear in mind when considering his performances thus far this season:
1) The team is generally not playing well;
2) Key players are still out injured or have been playing with injuries (eg, Lukaku);
3) We lack quality and pace in wide areas;
4) Barkley himself hasn't played a lot of football this season and is probably still getting himself fully match sharp.
26 Posted 05/11/2014 at 22:12:04
Ross is still very green, and he needs a good run in the side, without injuries hampering his progress. The trouble with young talent like Ross (and it seems Lukaku) is that Â– if they aren't winning games single handedly, or scoring wonder goals every week Â– they are labelled as 'average' or even slated by some.
A poorly timed original post, in my opinion, it will take the lad at least 4-6 weeks to get back up to full speed, and we aren't playing particularly well at this point either.
Both Barkley, and Lukaku will be a superb partnership in the coming weeks but, as always, the children amongst us will be whinging if they don't score a brace each in the next game.
27 Posted 05/11/2014 at 22:36:19
How much of last Saturday's possession was non-progressive?
What is your source? and how do you define non-progressive?
28 Posted 05/11/2014 at 22:57:07
His best position would be driving deep from midfield dictating play and tempo.
29 Posted 05/11/2014 at 23:25:40
Barkley’s a very similar build to Michael Ballack.
30 Posted 05/11/2014 at 23:28:17
In the '80s we would have four or even five players in double figures at the season's end. Mountfield scored 14 from centre-half.
Barkley and other midfielders need to shoot more often. The game is about goals and the best forward players score and that includes Barkley, Osman, Pienaar, Naismith and McGeady. We are missing Mirallas big time.
31 Posted 05/11/2014 at 23:38:01
32 Posted 06/11/2014 at 00:14:57
33 Posted 06/11/2014 at 01:01:53
34 Posted 06/11/2014 at 04:55:15
Memory playing tricks on you in your old age, Trevor. Four happened only once Â— in our best ever season: 1984-85.
Multiple players getting into double figures for league goals in a season is pretty much a rarity for Everton Â– at best it's usually just one: check out Everton Top Scorers by season.
35 Posted 06/11/2014 at 07:44:42
Where I agree with your constant cynicism is that it looks great on paper until no one takes the responsibility to make something happen. All too often, we take the 'easy' option to pass sideways.
There's nothing wrong with keeping the ball, all the best sides do it. Martinez has to get them taking more risks, though if he did, I'd look forward to seeing you on here criticising the team for giving the ball away.
36 Posted 06/11/2014 at 08:21:36
All the talk after the game from their delusional fans was how they have to go after Ross in January!!! That they need a young, passionate attacking midfielder who can run at the opposition and take players on as well as someone who gives 110%. (Unlike most of their Foreign players last night who seem not to give a shite.)
Made me think how proud I was to have someone like that at our club Â– and he is one of our own!!
37 Posted 06/11/2014 at 08:48:37
I think Guardiola talked of close passing to lure opponents to one area of the pitch and then, with an incisive pass, switch play elsewhere. Perhaps too academic for me but I do think Martinez has not yet got over the message of when his players should 'make the switch'.
But do you not agree that 'our man' seems to give too much credence to possession stats as though they were an end in themselves? Or are the players he has to work with incapable of applying the incisive switch pass the other Spaniard referred to?
38 Posted 06/11/2014 at 09:13:42
My point actually is the dearth of goals coming from Pienaar, Osman, Barkley and others including McCarthy and Barry. If players do not shoot then they cannot score and the players mentioned are hardly ever shooting.
If Barkley is to fully reach his potential then the lad must do what he is supposedly doing in training, banging a few in. Last season we were having plenty of attempts on goal but just lately we are hardly troubling the opposing goal keepers. This is certainly not all down to Lukaku and EtoÂo.
39 Posted 06/11/2014 at 18:18:15
Your second point is really interesting. The players clearly are capable of 'making the switch', but can they do it consistently? Or is Martinez consistently able to get the message across?
Plenty of sides other than Barcelona keep the ball well, create and score chances. There's no reason why this squad can't. Martinez has to get on them to be bold, shoot or just be more direct in the final third. It's frustrating watching us hold back from the only statistics that matter.
40 Posted 06/11/2014 at 19:42:39
This has been the problem with scouting for years looking for big strong athletic players while the real talented footballers who are on the small side are written off. That's okay if you want to play like Stoke but most of the best players in history have been small or flimsy looking like the players I listed. Ballack was hardly one of the best players in history, was he?
41 Posted 06/11/2014 at 19:51:54
42 Posted 07/11/2014 at 14:01:52
I got few takers which tends to bear out my view that it depends which Barkley turns out and that it's just to soon to answer the question.
43 Posted 07/11/2014 at 18:10:46
Anybody got the figures to hand ?
44 Posted 07/11/2014 at 18:27:53
I didn't record any specific stats because there wasn't I wasn't seeing a hypothesis you could form based on his availability.
45 Posted 07/11/2014 at 18:50:24
46 Posted 07/11/2014 at 19:34:15
Time will tell.
47 Posted 07/11/2014 at 20:47:57
Width was basically passing to one of ours along the line, but depth was a pass through that took a layer of defence out. basically Everton (and Arsenal, Liverpool, Swansea et alia) do the width, but don't do the depth. Barkley ought to be the kind of player, with his immense talent, to run this midfield and make depth happen. Because I'm ancient, it isn't Gascoigne (he's better than him) I compare him with, but Charlton (Bobby, not Jack) who could run at defences, shoot with either foot, and deliver a defence-splitting pass.
Barkley ought to be that good with his gifts and talent but, as most people have commented, it's simply not happening. I think Barkley's that good, but he looks lost in the Everton set-up, for whatever reason. I posted this to see if my view was a minority, that basically, he's not so far delivered at all on his potential.
48 Posted 07/11/2014 at 21:02:09
By the way. Barkley & Ballack are the same height.
Barkley is still filling out and is well built anyway, clearly spent time in the gym.
You’re the one talking bollocks, lad.
49 Posted 07/11/2014 at 21:11:55
The top players do it consistently; so far he hasn't done that. Martinez shouldn't play him because we think/wish he's going to be special, he should play him when he earns his place. I'm also wondering whether he's 'managing' Ross's fitness.
If he's as good as we hope he is, he should be shining whatever the shape of the team. I think he could be the one that threads our team together, but he has to deliver consistently.
Better to judge him on what he does this Sunday, rather than his absence in a 3-0 win.
50 Posted 07/11/2014 at 21:29:19
I agree he needs to nail down a place/position in the team or he could end up being a jack of all trades like Rooney. I just hope Roberto identifies that position before he goes the way of so many talented young players who have failed to live up to their potential.
51 Posted 07/11/2014 at 21:29:07
ÂFantastic insightÂ on your part methinks. Just a bit of word fun actually Â– but IÂll take your word for it that they are exactly the same size.
52 Posted 07/11/2014 at 22:13:30
He needs to develop mentally because he missed a lot of football through injury at the stage of his career when this usually happens naturally. I think he knows how good he his but generally gets excited instead of just doing things naturally and then dwells on it when he knows he should have done better.
Like a kid who tries too hard to show you how good he is, Barkley will get it right in the end and then we can all enjoy "one of our own" help making the Blues great again!
53 Posted 08/11/2014 at 01:00:04
Mainly because of development marred by injury, he is behind Oxlaid-Chamberlain, Walcott and Wilshere although, to me, more talented.
I fear that, for all the flashes of brilliance, he must establish himself this season or follow the Rodwell trail.
55 Posted 08/11/2014 at 02:55:49
Phil 54 Â– Why 'must' he establish himself this season? What will happen if he doesn't? Perhaps he'll turn into a pumpkin... How are you defining 'establish'?
Where do the Rodwell comparisons come in? I assume because of injuries but, given the very different nature of the injuries, surely it can't be that.
Can you help me with this paragraph because, at first glance it seems to be one of the most ridiculous ever on this engaging but variable site.
56 Posted 08/11/2014 at 07:08:56
I already think Barkley is established and it is clear to me that, for Everton to push on to the next level, then this kid is going to be central to the plan. You have already mentioned consistency and this will hopefully come with games, and not just to Ross by the way, but the whole squad in general.
Third game back from injury and already playing slightly out of position on the wing; Barkley has got to play central to realise his full potential. I still think your mate Roberto has got us on a leash at the minute, but it's surprising what a win at the bookies and a few whiskeys can do for some people!!!!!
57 Posted 08/11/2014 at 13:44:18
58 Posted 08/11/2014 at 16:50:51
60 Posted 09/11/2014 at 10:43:06
Returning to Barkley, I see his situation as having 'Rodwell' written all over it !
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