Everton Club Focus – Barkley breathes fresh life into stagnant Toffees

The emergence of Ross Barkley offered rare positivity during a dire defeat to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, as the 17-year-old midfielder stepped into the first team and immediately appeared to belong. Barkley’s prominence may also have ramifications for another home grown Everton midfielder, Jack Rodwell.

Barkley, stationed in an unfamiliar left wing role as part of Everton’s four-man midfield, was arguably the standout performer for David Moyes’ side as they stumbled to defeat. Cutting in from the wing, Barkley was also Everton’s most potent goal threat, testing Rangers goalkeeper Paddy Kenny from distance a number of times without success. Switching to the right for the second-half, after the introduction of Mikel Arteta, Barkley played the full 90 minutes on debut and did more than enough to solidify his place in Moyes’ first team and possibly the starting XI.

It was the kind of commanding performance from Barkley that Rodwell has only rarely entered. Rodwell – a year younger than Barkley when he made his debut, becoming Everton’s youngest ever player to feature in a European game in the process – was fast-tracked into the senior squad for his physical gifts, standing 6”2’, weighing nearly 12 and a half stone and with good pace. But while he does have above average technical ability – witness the 2009 goal against Manchester United as proof – he is not the fluid, head-up player Barkley appears to be. What will not help his cause is that he is often played out of position, not least against QPR, when Moyes pushed Rodwell on to the right of midfield in a repeat of an experiment that has failed every time is has been attempted.

Examples of Barkley’s supreme technique came in spades against QPR. Not only where there a handful of well-struck shots from distance, but a mazy Barkley run also won the free-kick that Leighton Baines smashed against the bar, as well as a couple of delicate cross-field passes to spread the play and bring the Everton right-back, Phil Neville, into the game and into space. Rodwell is capable of similar play, but only when unhurried. Put under pressure and Rodwell appears to lack the quickness of thought to cope, something also seen on Saturday when Rodwell, more than once, got the ball stuck between his feet under pressure. While playing in an unfamiliar position unsuited to his talents did not help, Rodwell was below par, although in this respect he is joined by a number of his more senior teammates.

With Barkley now taking Rodwell’s mantle as Everton’s great young hope the latter may be able to escape the limelight – as much as a Premier League footballer can – and focus on developing his game, smoothing off the rough edges and adding a technical quality to compliment his physicality. Tagged as a future Everton and England captain as he was progressing through the youth ranks, Rodwell has stalled somewhat, but just as Barkley has freshened up a stagnant Everton side, so to might he breathe new life into Rodwell’s career.

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