Ross Barkley hasn’t missed a step
Having torn his knee ligaments in training on the eve of the new season, to see Ross Barkley on a football pitch in mid-October was unexpected.
To see him running at full pelt, driving towards goal and bullying the opposition is nothing short of miraculous.
But that’s what Barkley did. The midfielder didn’t just return against Aston Villa, but he returned to transform his side. There was plenty of positives to take from the game, and plenty of fine performances – but they largely stemmed from the reappearance of Barkley.
Everton had a purpose going forward. Stationed on the left but drifting inside and doing most of his damage in a central position, the Blues had a sharpness in their passing. The ball would be popped to the 20-year-old’s feet; he would then turn and look to move it up the pitch as quickly and usefully as possible.
It made for an energised, reinvigorated attack. Barkley is one of those rare players whose wonder extends simply what he does with the ball, but what he makes others do as well.
Romelu Lukaku was much sharper, his movement quicker; it is no surprise the two combined for the Blues’ second of the afternoon. Steven Naismith had even more space to operate in when moving in from the right, while Leon Osman had time to control in an advanced position.
He created four chances, including the assist for Lukaku, and his presence lifted everyone – team-mates and fans included.
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Defence are best form of attack
The School of Science was back in class on Saturday. Though there isn’t a set formula to it, the dedication to playing total football is evident.
Everybody who wears the blue should be able to play football. That is the philosophy. It shows in how well the Blues defence contribute to attack.
Phil Jagielka scored the opener, set up with a right-footed Leighton Baines cross. Baines then set up the third too with fellow full back Seamus Coleman lurking in the six yard box.
The captain has found his scoring touch for both club and country – whether a well-placed header or 30-yard volley at the Kop end – while Baines and Coleman’s work in both scoring and creating chances is crucial to how Martinez plays.
To see a right back standing, six yards out, and latching on to a cross should be an oddity – but not with Coleman, Martinez or Everton.
Baines made six key passes and now has five assists this season – one more than he managed in the entirety of last season.
All that’s needed now is a few goals from Tim Howard. He does have previous, after all.
Video reaction after Everton 3 Aston Villa 0:
International break proves a blessing
Martinez would have no doubt bemoaned the timing of the most recent international break. A frustrating 2-1 defeat to Manchester United left his side one place outside the relegation zone, and with questions being asked of his squad.
With a fortnight’s break, however, Martinez could welcome back James McCarthy, Coleman and Barkley.
And although the best scenario would have been to have all his squad at Finch Farm working to rectify their poor start, it has allowed time for players to recover and recuperate. There was no international hangover for this side.
All of a sudden, the Blues’ squad looks one of the strongest in the league once more. Martinez had the luxury of bringing on Steven Pienaar, Darron Gibson and Samuel Eto’o – a trio who have a combined international cap count of 203. Those who didn’t get on included Muhamed Besic, who played at the World Cup and the experienced, exciting Aiden McGeady.
This result didn’t remove every question mark hanging over the Blues. They do, after all, remain in 12th after two wins in seven.
But they can give a good go at silencing the critics with a full squad at their disposal. Thank goodness for the international break.
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