Everton: Under Martinez, Barkley Will Prove He's Better Than Wilshere

Moyes was thought to be overly cautious with youth, but Roberto will take a different tack. With Barkley plus two more bodies, we could be in for a good year...
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Moyes was thought to be overly cautious with youth, but Roberto will take a different tack. With Barkley plus two more bodies, we could be in for a good year...

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Everton controlled the bulk of the game but still lacked invention and penetration in the final third, whilst two goals at the other end were in part down to inattentive defending. Ross Barkley and then Seamus Coleman turned the game on its head after Steven Whittaker had put Norwich in front, only for new Canaries signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel to earn his side a draw.

A lot has been made of Martinez’s passing style and there was evidence of its implementation here, as Everton enjoyed a healthy 60% of possession away from home. Of course, though, all the passing statistics mean precisely sod all without a good final ball, and Everton’s wasn’t particularly incisive.

As has been the case for the past few seasons, we lack a central midfielder with a bit of guile: someone who can spot and execute the right ball for the runs of Nikica Jelavic or Arouna Kone. Last year we deployed the tactic of playing it up to Marouane Fellaini, who would control and then bring others into play, but Martinez seems to prefer the lusciously coiffed one in his original, deeper position.

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Darron Gibson missed today’s game by virtue of his knees being made of glass, and it showed. In his place, Leon Osman had a poor game, losing the ball a few times in dangerous positions and not doing much with it in the right areas. Osman is a decent player, but no more: he’s too often a passenger and – in my opinion, anyway – no longer merits the automatic starting position he’s held for the past few years.

In short, we need another centre midfielder, or two, if Fellaini goes.

Overplaying - or fannying around, as my father would say - is another concern for some Everton supporters. We’re all in favour of playing it around nicely and on the carpet, but not at the risk of defensive mistakes. There were one or two hairy moments yesterday, though, in fairness, it may just be that our defensive players will take a while to adjust to Martinez’s methods and tactics.

There was also a lot to be pleased with, though, not least Ross Barkley’s stunning goal, cannoned into the net from 25 yards and celebrated with assorted flailing limbs in the away end. There are few better sights as a football supporter than one of your own – in this case a Wavertree-born, Everton-supporting teenager who joined the club aged 11 - scoring a goal of such quality.

Yet his performance as a whole was equally, if not even more, impressive than the goal itself. It’s perhaps foolish to build him up too much, but I’m going to do it anyway because this lad is the dog’s proverbials. Still only 19, he has composure to belie his years, and it looked as if the raw talent we’d seen glimpses of previously has been polished and rounded. More confident and assertive than the likes of Jack Rodwell but without the cocksure arrogance of a Wilshere, he far outshone the aforementioned Osman and, well, just about everyone else on the pitch.

He’s got two excellent feet – today’s scorching strike was a product of his ‘weak’ left – and impressive strength on the ball. His passing is varied and accurate, his skill handy in manoeuvring out of tight situations. Two years ago Martin Keown prophesied that Barkley will turn out to be “one of the best players we’ll ever see in this country”, whilst Tim Cahill said that “I have been lucky enough to have played with some great players in my career but I do not think I have ever seen a talent like Ross Barkley”.

There is certainly something a little bit special about our Ross and Evertonians are hoping that the appointment of Martinez will accelerate his development. There was a growing feeling that Moyes was overly cautious in his use of young players, and that any shred of naivety shown by the likes of Barkley often resulted in them being relegated to the stiffs, or shipped out on loan.

Hopefully we’ll see much more of him this season, because the lad really has got the lot.

Whilst Martinez will have been happy not to lose his first game, he’ll have been equally disappointed not to have the three points the performance warranted. There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful, though, so long as we don’t lose Fellaini or Baines in the next fortnight. A couple more additions, and we’re in for a good season.