Ross Barkley made his England debut and Kevin Mirallas got on the score sheet for Belgium against Scotland in a fruitful international break for the Everton pair.
Barkley’s second-half introduction during England’s comfortable 4-0 win over Moldova was something of a landmark, and not just for the teenage midfielder. It was the first time three Everton players have been on the pitch for England at the same time since 1988, when Dave Watson, Gary Stevens and Trevor Steven wore the Three Lions. Leighton Baines and Leon Osman did play together for the national team recently but with Phil Jagielka not involved then, Baines, Jagielka and Barkley set a new record.
And Barkley’s performance is not one likely to go down in the record books only for its statistical value, but rather the beginning of a bright international career. The 19-year-old looked the part. He was lively, eager to get on the ball and unhesitating in driving forward with it. It was strongly reminiscent of his Everton performances so far this season – exciting, if still a little flawed. Decision-making is where Barkley falls down at the moment but that will come with experience. Featuring so early for England can surely only aid Barkley’s development.
Mirallas also had a profitable international experience on Friday, netting as Belgium beat Scotland 2-0. Unlike Barkley, however, Mirallas has not started the season quite so well – the winger can be electric but he has yet to really show it under Roberto Martinez. Indeed, Mirallas has been subbed off in all three Premier League games thus far, suggesting he has been more than a little below par. And Everton have drawn each of those games – it doesn’t feel a leap to suggest that with an on-song Mirallas, Everton would have picked up three points from somewhere.
The winger is a difference maker, capable of producing a moment of magic – a mesmerising dribble most likely – that breaks the deadlock. But it hasn’t happened yet. And while it’s too much to expect Mirallas to do so in every appearance, at least once in his three club games should not be beyond him. To give him the benefit of the doubt Mirallas is still adapting to a new manager and it may take some players longer than others, but Everton cannot wait forever.
Mirallas was effective at times last season, having a spell towards the end of the campaign in particular that was highlighted by solo goals against Stoke and Tottenham, but he was largely inconsistent. It could be excused as his first season in England but now with his first season under Martinez possibly hampering Mirallas, the Belgian needs to dig deep and rise to the challenge. He is one of Everton’s most dangerous players but has to show it.
The goal against Scotland will help, while Barkley’s confidence will have been further boosted by his senior international bow, meaning this international break may have long lasting, positive consequences for the Toffees.
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