Amidst the Spanish influence exerted on Everton by Roberto Martinez there comes inspiration from much closer to home. In Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy and now Aiden McGeady, the Blues have a distinct Irish flavour.
Links between the Republic and the city of Liverpool have long been established, to the point that the city has been referred to as the real capital of Ireland. The Guardian estimate three-quarters of the city’s population can trace their roots back across the Irish Sea.
Everton’s Irish contingent isn’t quite that numerous yet but two of the team’s most impressive players of the season so far – Coleman and McCarthy – represent the Boys In Green. There’s also excitement over the arrival of another international, McGeady, while Darron Gibson would likely have featured regularly under Martinez if not for the serious injury suffered in August.
McCarthy, born and raised in Glasgow but Irish on the basis of his family background was a signing that was greeted with trepidation by Evertonians. A fee of £13m for a midfielder relegated under Martinez at Wigan, the fourth former Latic to follow the boss to Goodison Park, and signed on the same evening Marouane Fellaini left for Manchester United combined to raise doubts.
It’s safe to say, five months into his Everton career, that McCarthy has quashed them emphatically. Already Everton look a poorer side without the 23-year-old; his tenacious ball-winning and head-down drives forward take the Toffees from a sedentary possession-based team into one capable of turning defence into attack in an instant.
With Gareth Barry, McCarthy has allowed Everton to exert dominance over opposing midfields. He’s tidy in possession, snappy in the tackle and has the defensive nous to cover in the back line when one of his centre-backs forays up-field, which happens regularly under Martinez.
If the centre-backs tend to push on, then Coleman spends more time as a winger than a defender. It’s not unusual to see Coleman as the furthest player forward bar the lone striker, safe in the knowledge that McCarthy and Barry will shuttle the ball forward – or cover defensively if the attack breaks down before he can regain his nominal position.
Signed for £60,000 in 2009, Coleman later exploded into the first team, catching the eye with storming runs forward. He was the most instinctive player Everton had at the time and could change a game with one dribble – as he did on his Premier League debut against Tottenham, creating both Everton goals in a 2-2 draw.
There were occasionally questions over his defending; not any more. It’s tempting to say Coleman is the most rounded right-back in the division but that might not be accurate – he’s more than solid defensively but such a potent attacking weapon it eclipses his work at the back. Six goals so far this season points to that, much as he and McCarthy are pointing the way for Martinez.
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