Managers are often shaped by their playing careers. Therefore, by nature the defender in David Moyes has a more cautious approach to football than the midfielder in Roberto Martinez.
Martinez is a brave manager and an excellent coach; he will improve a player technically but, more importantly, encourage them to implement their technical superiority in the heat of the game - even at the back.
Barry is a superb player –he has great football intelligence and brings Everton great balance. He is not particularly quick or a good athlete but knows where to be on the field. A lot of clubs looked at McCarthy and baulked at the price but Martinez knew him and the quality he could bring – he has slotted in seamlessly.
While much has been said of Lukaku, Barkley is now getting most of the press and he is quite a talent.
He is way ahead of his age physically but more importantly he has wonderful balance and is two-footed but where he must improve is his decision making – he is good enough to be deciding games. That will come, though. Playing alongside someone like Barry will help but, even more important, are the players who play ahead of him.
Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas are intelligent footballers – international class footballers, who make smart runs. Rather than Barkley finding the pass, as he will have done at youth level, they will find the space and then he will have to react. The more he plays the more he will become attuned to that.
It isn't just Lukaku’s smart running that has improved Everton and Barkley, it his presence at the point of their attack. For the first time in quite some time Everton has a consistent goal threat and that means teams set up differently against them – allowing the midfield and a player like Barkley more time and space.
Barkley marries the physical attributes that are associated with the British game with technical excellence. The word on Barkley has been out on Merseyside for some years now but credit must go to the way Everton have managed him.
As with all of Everton’s success this year, a large proportion of the credit must go to Moyes. He may not have got a lot of game time under Moyes but there will have been a reason for that; people must remember that it is different playing someone out wide - as Moyes has done with Adnan Januzaj at United - to playing them in central midfield.
Games are won and lost in the middle of midfield; you can’t experiment in there – you have to be sure that those players are ready.
Martinez’s coaching ability is exacting another five or 10 per cent out of the players and that’s what we are seeing with Everton at the moment.
The sale of Marouane Fellaini has without a doubt also benefited Barkley – if you play Fellaini in the number 10 role then you have to play in a certain way and that way is direct. You play long diagonal balls up to him and work off that. But Martinez was never going to play like that and it made sense for Everton to sell.
Having said that, statistically speaking, Fellaini was more effective in that role last season than Barkley has been this – at this point last year, and having played only one game more, the Belgian had scored eight and assisted two while Barkley has scored just the two. The number 10 role suits Barkley's talents and aesthetically Barkley is much more appealing on the eye but he must begin to assist and score more.
Gerard Deulofeu is also starting to grab his share of the headlines. He has the end-product that we are looking for from Barkley but will he ever fulfil his potential at Barcelona or will we be looking at him in ten years’ time wondering what could have been? To me, he doesn't look like a ‘Barcelona player’, he wants to do too much with the ball. It wouldn't be a huge surprise if he was available for transfer.
In this country, our dominant midfielder tends to come from deep but Barkley has a fantastic appreciation of space, great technical ability and wonderful poise. The majority of number 10s in the Premier League are foreign but he could be about to break that mould.
He has everything in his locker that the rest of the English midfielders in the Premier League lack – as I have said, he is a unique talent.
- Sports & Recreation
- Gareth Barry
- Romelu Lukaku