Player: Ross Barkley #20
Games Played: 36; Games Started: 28; Goals: 2; Assists: 3; Shots: 42; Fouls: 26; Fouls Suffered: 42; Yellow Cards: 2; Red Cards: 0
Second Season Syndrome is a well-documented (albeit completely made-up) phenomenon, and rarely has it been quite so apparent as in the form of Ross Barkley in the 2014/15 campaign. Everton's golden boy seemed ready to set the Premier League alight after slaloming his way into the England World Cup squad on the back of a breakthrough season, but a medial ligament injury sustained on the eve of the opening day clash with Leicester City unfortunately set the tone for a disappointing year.
Much as with the Everton side as a whole, Barkley seemed to regress from the previous season, but more so than with any other player in the squad it was obvious that the midfielder's confidence had taken a huge hit. Still only 21, a free summer and some time to regain some of his youthful fearlessness should help Barkley get back on track when the Premier League recommences later in the year.
What He Did Well
This is a tricky one, as Barkley's game suffered fairly heavily across the board, though he was able to turn in creditable performances in a number of midfield positions, as Roberto Martinez chopped and changed Everton's forward line throughout the season.
Though he was frequently dropped out on the wing, perhaps it's telling that Barkley's best performance of the season came playing in a deeper role against QPR in December. Situated alongside Muhamed Besic at the heart of the midfield, Barkley was more restrained and composed on the ball, but still retained his trademark explosiveness going forward. Despite taking a small but significant deflection, his goal against Rangers (one of only two he scored all season) was emblematic of everything that the young Evertonian can be - pacy, strong and lethal with either foot. It's a shame that we rarely saw all three in concert over the course of the season.
What He Could Have Done Better
Barkley's entire game, both defensively and offensively, suffered last season, but it was going forward where he was particularly disappointing. With only two goals to the previous campaign's seven, he was much less of a threat in and around the penalty area, and his reluctance to take on opposing defenders was painfully evident. Confidence will help, but you get the sense that Barkley needs to find a happy medium between the more cautious player of last season, and the buccaneering dynamo of 2013/14. Hopefully we'll get a glimpse of that player come August.
What do you think of Ross Barkley's season?
In the poll below, give the Everton midfielder a grade from A+ to F, with 'A+' being absolutely remarkable, 'C' being average, and 'F' being completely unacceptable.
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