Mar 012015

Ross Barkley needs to be central

The groans could be heard across the Twittersphere when the Everton teamsheet landed at around 1 o’clock.

Barkley on the wing?

It is not a sight that Blues fans like, and understandably so. If the 21-year-old is to rediscover his best form, it surely won’t be out wide.

Thankfully, Roberto Martinez had a subtle change up his sleeve on this occasion.

Barkley and Kevin Mirallas were the two men tasked with supporting lone frontman Romelu Lukaku, but at times they played more like old-fashioned inside forwards than orthodox wide players.

And though Barkley was not necessarily back to his best, there were flashes of the good things in the England man’s game; his eye for a pass created a chance for Lukaku, while his powerful central runs allowed Everton to retain a threat on the counter attack.

There is a long way to go if Barkley is to scale the heights of last season again. But one thing’s for certain – if he is to do so, he needs to be in the centre of the field.

Stoke away is suddenly a very, very big game for the Blues

If there is still, generally, a sense that Everton are too good to be drawn into a relegation battle, then a quick glance at the league table should provide a sobering reality check.

Results on Saturday saw the Blues fall to 14th in the Premier League table, and in all honesty they rarely looked like improving their position here. They weren’t terrible, they just got beat. It’s been an all-too-common theme this season.

Suddenly, those glances over the shoulder are becoming more nervous. Everton are comfortably, on paper at least, the best team in the bottom half of the table, but they are simply not showing it.

Now, having won just one of their last 11 league games, they are just six points above the drop zone. Wins for Aston Villa and Hull on Tuesday night could make that position even more precarious by the time they kick off at Stoke the following night.

A trip to the Britannia is a daunting one at the best of times. Right now, it looks absolutely huge.

Everton failed to take advantage of Arsenal’s edgy crowd

They’re used to playing in front of nervous supporters, Everton. And with Arsenal having seen their Champions League hopes go up in smoke in midweek, the chance was there for the Blues to capitalise on the sense of unease around the Emirates.

They missed the opportunity.

They tried to keep the Gunners quiet by farming possession in the first half, and managed it to a point. But with no real threat being offered – save for one Lukaku half-chance that David Ospina did well to snuff out – the home side were able to feel their way into the game, without really feeling the wrath of their supporters.

Martinez, who knows how quickly an atmosphere can turn, will reflect on a chance missed, surely?

Everton’s Seamus Coleman during the Barclays Premier League match at the Emirates -Tony Marshall/PA Wire

Seamus Coleman is so much better when he’s on the front foot

Of all the impressive things about Everton’s form last season, the performances of Seamus Coleman caught the eye perhaps more than any other.

Seven goals is no mean feat for a full-back, but it was about more than just statistics. Coleman’s play drove Everton forward, it gave them a constant, reliable outlet, and it set the tone for their play. Martinez wants them to play with a swagger and a fearlessness, and the Irishman epitomised that.

This season, something has been missing. Injuries have played their part, as has the Blues’ collective loss of form, but Coleman has not been the same.

At his best, he is among the finest in the league. There are signs, just signs, of late that that best is returning. Everton need it to.

Penetration trumps possession, every day of the week

There’s an overused phrase in football, which refers to “playing the right way.”

It’s a reference to passing football, to keeping possession, and to moving the ball on then floor, and it’s a phrase that managers and pundits (and journalists, let’s be honest) love to slip in as often as they can.

Here, especially in the first half, we saw two teams who would describe themselves as “playing the right way.” It made for a poor spectacle, with few risks taken, and little by way of penetration. In fact, there were just five efforts on target in the entire 90 minutes – and one of those was deflected.

It is admirable that managers like Martinez and Wenger are so committed to their footballing principles. But don’t let anyone kid you that possession football = pretty football. It’s just not true.

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 Posted by at 4:51 pm

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