It’s still early days, but the breakthrough player of the Premier League season so far has been Ross Barkley. The 19-year-old has been handed a starting place by Everton coach, Roberto Martinez, who has publicly declared his faith and excitement in the Englishman’s potential.
Martinez was full of praise for the England under 21 international following an impressive goal-capped performance against Norwich City on the opening day of the season. Barkley followed this up with a solid display against West Bromwich Albion second time out. The season has only begun but it’s already clear that Martinez believes the teenager can be the driving force in the Everton engine room this season.
And why not? A product of the Everton youth system, Barkley is a powerful midfielder with exquisite technique and a tenacious work ethic to match. In many ways he is an energetic box-to-box player in the same vein as Steven Gerrard, but his technical abilities are reminiscent of the likes of Juan Román Riquelme. Those are big names to attach to a youngster, but it’s hard not to become excitable at such obvious potential.
Some statistics from WhoScored.com shed some light on what exactly Barkley brings to Everton. His passing accuracy reached an exceptional 96.2% in the game against Norwich, and an impressive amount of those passes were in threatening areas, which highlights his willingness to venture into the support role behind the striker. But it’s not just in attack that Barkley showed promise. The only Everton player who made more tackles in that game was centre-half Sylvain Distin.
‘Any youngster could be very, very proud of what he did,’ said Martinez, and he went on to suggest that Barkley has the maturity and experience to turn his talents into consistent form.
Despite his youth, Barkley has come back from a triple leg break two years ago when he was on the brink of breaking into the Everton first team at just 17 years old, he has patiently endured two loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United, and he has come out the other side of it all a more complete player with a hunger to reach the top level.
‘I would say he is a lot older than his age reflects,’ said Martinez, who believes the youngster is shrewd enough to keep his head firmly on his shoulders as the media sings his praises.
With speculation mounting about Fellaini’s future, Barkley is proving that he’s more than ready to step up to the plate, and he’ll surely have next summer’s world cup in mind as he looks to prove that he can produce that kind of form consistently.