clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Everton Season Preview: Attacking Midfield

Previewing the central midfield position for the upcoming Premier League campaign.

Laurence Griffiths

Current Players:




2013-2014 Apps



Ross Barkley






Darron Gibson


Northern Ireland




Leon Osman






Key Departures: None

Arrivals: None

Returning Players:

Ross Barkley returns for his second full season with the club after a breakout 2013-2014 campaign where he scored six goals in 34 appearances. The twenty year-old midfielder reaped the benefits of a great season by being names to the England World Cup team and had a chance to play in what should be the first of many important international matches when he came on as a substitute against Italy in the group stage. He was also rewarded by the club in the form of a new four year contract which will pay him £65,000-a-week through 2018. Prior to the new contract, there were rumors that Manchester City were interested in the player.

Barkley has been considered a budding star for a while now and this season should see him continue to grow as a player. He has all of the physical and mental traits required to be a top-flight player and should only continue to get better under manager Roberto Martinez who he has forged a bond with. Martinez recently identified Barkley as an anomaly that "has got the talent of a player who could be born in probably the best development markets around Europe. He has got the power, pace and physicality you need in the Premier League" all while shunning the excesses of life as a Premier League player. With a recently strengthened backfield and reliable partners on the wings, he should be able to continue pushing forward and feeding the ball in at critical scoring opportunities.

Darron Gibson is coming back after only appearing in one match as a substitute last season. In October 2013 while playing against Kazakhstan on international duty for the Republic of Ireland, Gibson suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage which required surgery. He saw his first action since the incident when he came on at the half in last month's friendly against the Tranmere Rovers. After that match Roberto Martinez praised Gibson for looking sharp and stating that he did not appear to be a player who had spent a significant amount of time away from the pitch.

Gibson is still well within his prime and the good thing about his injury was that it was only the ACL; no structural damage was done to the knee. As with any player coming off an extended injury break, the key will be staying fit. Expect the training staff to keep a close eye on the player and the tether attached until they feel that he is fully fit which could still take some time. Instead of working in an offensive midfield role, it's likely that he will move back to defensive midfield where he will have to contend for playing time with Muhamed Besic, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy. There is no doubt as to Gibson's talent but at this point it will be up to him to carve out his role.

Coming into the new season, the ageless Leon Osman is now aged 33. He played in all 38 Premier League matches starting 27 and coming on as a substitute in eleven. In those matches he tallied 3 goals and four assists. This season he may see a diminished role with the emergence of the younger players. However, Osman still has much to contribute by leading (vice-captain) and teaching the youngsters. Considering that his strengths are mostly geared towards scoring such as taking long shots, he will continue to be used at the top of the midfield. One concern is that he may be losing a little bit of his step, if that is the case, we may see him play in a more centralized position instead of an attacking role.


One thing that can be said about Roberto Martinez is that he has proved himself as a superb tactician. His team's style consists of fast, aggressive offensive play predicated on holding the ball. Martinez stresses tactical exercises in training and requires all of his players to understand a variety of roles that he could place them into at any time. The manager demonstrated that he is willing to adjust before and during a match by moving players from the center to the wings and vice versa.

For example, last season Leon Osman started nine matches in attacking center mid, eight matches in attacking left mid, seven matches in defensive center mid, two in true center mid and one at left mid. As a substitute he also played in a variety of those same positions. Osman will likely continue to move from position to position as the game dictates and this could also be where Darron Gibson finds himself as the season progresses.

A strong central midfield is crucial to the success of this system. Ross Barkley will play the most crucial role in the midfield. Look for him to play mid-to deep forward and for the ball to be fed to him often. From there he can move the ball ahead to the forwards or he can create his own scoring opportunities. Expect to see Barkley take on a more prominent, offensive role this season with an increased goal tally and quite a few assists notched.


Going into the off-season there was some concern that the central/attacking midfield would be a problem due to transfer rumors for Ross Barkley, Leon Osman's advancing age and Darron Gibson's ACL injury. However as mentioned, Barkley's services have been secured for the foreseeable future, Osman still has an important role to play and Darron Gibson seems to be progressing well and on his way to full fitness. This position should be considered one of the team's strengths as long as the players stay healthy and Barkley continues to grow and improve.

Looking to the future, Leon Osman will be under contract through 2015 and Darron Gibson through 2016. While there is always the possibility that the club will bring in new players to play important roles, there are several young players that could challenge for playing time in the near future. These players are Francisco Júnior, 22 currently completing a loan spell with Strømsgodset; John Lundstram, 20 currently on loan with Blackpool and Ryan Ledson, 16 with the under 21s. Considering the current depth and talent at the position, these players will likely stay on loan or with their current squads for the duration of the season.