Someone posted on an Everton forum recently suggesting that he'd never seen Ross Barkley dominate a game, voicing an opinion that had been growing amongst Blues. He wasn't wrong. But against QPR Barkley replied to that criticism in style with an outstanding performance. Despite what Roberto Martinez says publicly you imagine he has been prepping the English youngster for this moment. Strong in the tackle, good vision with short and long passes, and surging positive runs with the ball, this was genuinely as close to Paul Gascoigne in his pomp as English football has since since 1991. Not perfect, the odd loose pass still went astray in worrying positions, but Barkley's determination and hunger for the ball stood.
OK, we've got to talk about this. Yes there's the argument that you pay your money so you can do what you want - within limits, and yes that free kick in the first half was annoying. But booing? Really Goodison? When you're winning 3-1 at home, reasonably comfortable and your centre back passes the ball back to the keeper to ensure possession is kept, you'd not expect the home crowd to break out in a cacophony of booing. But they did. There are times when the overpassing is frustrating, and the tactic of short free kicks every single time can be mildly irritating, but this is what we signed up for. David Moyes was accused of being boring, too pragmatic, now we have Roberto and there is a creeping sense that his passing game is not what's wanted. The frustration at our home record is obvious, and the team should be doing better at the Old Lady, but the atmosphere in the last ten minutes of a routine 3-1 win was as nervous and tetchy as it's ever been. It's strange times at Goodison, strange times indeed.
Besic the destroyer
Another throwback performance in central midfield, this was further back than Gazza in his pomp, this was 1986 and Peter Reid biting into the tackle, moving the ball with purpose, never letting the opposition settle. The Bosnian destroyer has been getting better with each minute on the pitch and just pipped Barkley to the man of the match award. From his bulldog chewing a wasp look to his non-stop running this was a sign of a bright future in centre midfield for the club. James McCarthy has been a massive miss over the last few weeks but due to Gareth Barry's suspension and Leon Osman's injury the youngsters were given a go. They'll be mighty hard to shift.
The supporting three
Fingers are crossed, legs are crossed, and eyes are crossed, all for Kevin Mirallas to have escaped serious injury in the 90th minute. This season the Belgian has gone from frustrating, inconsistent wideman to Everton's key attacking player. He's a man on form and better than ever. Dangerous running with the ball, his free-kicks are deadly, and he isn't afraid to shoot. That shift in mindset that he's previously talked about has made him a different player. An excellent player in fact. Alongside him Steven Naismith showed what the team has been missing over the last couple of weeks, his work rate and tenacity are well talked about but the Scots attacker is given short shrift for his skill on the ball, and off. Whether it's linking play with his fellow frontmen, winning headers, or playing balls in the channels he rarely wastes the ball. And he's the best finisher at the club, better even than Samuel Eto'o. Finally Aiden McGeady, surely the most frustrating of our wider players. He spent most of the evening wasting his final ball, or losing possession halfway inside the QPR half, then he stands up that perfect cross for Naismith to head the second. Consistency Aiden, that's all we ask!
How do you solve a problem like Romelu? If there's a problem to solve in the first place. 23 touches against QPR, and against a central pairing of Richard Dunne and Nedum Onohua the Belgian should be owning the game. He has pace and power, finishing ability, yet he made zero impact against the Hoops. Add to that 2.3 shots per game in total, 1 shot in his last two games, and there is cause for concern. In mitigation the slow build-up play and sometimes ball hogging abilities of Mirallas and McGeady don't help, but Lukaku just isn't involved in games as he should be. The impact of Arouna Kone in his few minutes on the pitch, and against Krasnodar, as well as the impressive awareness and work rate shown by Samuel Eto'o means the number ten must improve his influence over games.