Ross Barkley, man of the match. That has been said a few times recently, especially since the turn of the year. The young man has grown into a much more consistent and excellent performer. He can still frustrate in games like Leicester, mainly because you want him to do so well. His failure to get the ball past Schmeichel when he was one-on-one was frustrating, but it’s his overall play that has been the real key to Everton.
In the past it looked as though he could be a player capable of producing the special moment, but not delivering over the course of 90 minutes. At the moment it is looking like the other way round, and while it may not be producing highlight reels, it’s a lot more important to how a team plays.
Barkley can be accused of taking too mnay touches on the ball, and while sometimes that’s true, generally I disagree. Instead of taking an easy, and defensive, option of passing to a defender or defensive midfielder, Barkley will instead take his time to asses the options in front of him. When he has to play it quickly, he does. There has been a few times this season where he has looked out of ideas, only to find the perfect pass to start an attack.
The performance he showed vs Leicester works for 13 of our 19 different opponents over the course of a league season, but it’s against the other six that Barkley needs to improve. The top six. Against Liverpool he and Lukaku were on the end of criticism regarding the team performances, and while it may have been harsh given their current run of form, any frustrations against the enemy are magnified. It also wasn’t just a one of in a run of bad games, it was once again having a bad game vs Liverpool.
As you can tell, even with a near win vs Manchester United and a win against Leicester, the derby pain hasn’t quite rubbed off yet. Barkley’s performance and immediate return to form vs Leicester further goes to show why the frustration can boil over. This season Barkley had to take the step of becoming a much more consistent performer, he’s done that. Surely the next stage is to be able to do that in the biggest games.
To his credit, he was better vs Man United and the Liverpool game did come after international duty. Being selected and not playing a minute must hurt, and the national side once again hindered the development of Barkley, instead of helping.
Everton have a few big games remaining on the season, mainly against Chelsea and Arsenal. Hopefully in those games he can impress and deliver the kind of performances he did against Leicester. He is a man who clearly has a brittle confidence, and maybe believing he’s good enough to dominate the biggest teams is currently a bridge too far. Hopefully with more acclaim and more man of the match trophies, he can finally get the belief that his talents belong on the biggest stage.