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Gareth Barry's Return to Form

Everton benefitting from a rejuvenated Gareth Barry.

Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Despite sitting at 9th on the table, this has been a season full of positive developments at Goodison Park. Gerard Deulofeu starting to realize his potential; Ross Barkley's sparkling return to form; Brendan Galloway's precocious growth; John Stones's...well, the fact that Everton still have John Stones. In a season dominated by the young guns its probably understandable that we overlook the old warhorses, but in case you hadn't noticed, Gareth Barry is having himself a pretty nice little season.

No, I'm not going to argue that this Barry is the one from six or seven years ago. An yes, Barry is a steamboat in the age of nuclear submarines, but he's also been one the Toffees most consistent players. He's scored a seven or higher in WhoScored's metric eight times this campaign. Only Barkley and Lukaku have done that more times for Everton (John Stones also has eight). He's improving as the season goes on as well - four of those performances have come in the last five matches.

What's better is that he's been consistently effective while leading Everton in minutes played. Barry is the only outfield player to play every league minute for the club, 1350 of them (Tim Howard has also done so). In addition, he's played 134 minutes in the Capital One Cup. After Barry's subpar 2014/2015 season there was a some consensus amongst Toffee supporters that he would need to be spotted frequent rest games to keep up his form. But there he is still, chugging right along.

We might be inclined to dismiss Barry's impact, but we've got to remember exactly how much of Everton's offense actually runs through Barry. He averages 62 passes per game. That's good for seventh in Premier League, basically behind most of Arsenal. Controlling possession in midfield, setting up attacks, resetting a possession - that's largely on Barry.

Which bring me to an interesting point that last season never crossed my mind - what happens if Barry goes down? Behind Barry and his defensive midfield mate McCarthy, we have only Muhamed Besic, Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverley; a bunch of imperfect fits for Barry's role. None of those three are as accomplished in the air to match up against a more traditional central striker, something that Barry is frequently tasked with doing. There are questions about both Besic's fitness (and his temper frankly). Cleverley is fine distributor of the ball doesn't match up well physically as a defender against larger attacking players. Gibson (like Cleverley) is a better fit in a more attacking role.

Given Barry's history, its likely we don't have to learn Roberto Martinez's answer to that question, and that's good news for Everton's performance.