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Lack of squad depth at attacking midfield could prove damaging

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Everton season preview: Attacking midfield

MK Dons v Everton - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images

Current players:

Ross Barkley, 22

Tom Cleverley, 26

Kieran Dowell, 18

Key departures:

Leon Osman, 35

Key arrivals:

None

Returning players

Attacking midfield is one of the several positions that Everton need to reinforce before the season starts. Ross Barkley will obviously be the starter when the season kicks off, barring any injuries. The Liverpool native bounced back last season after a disappointing sophomore effort and looks poised to improve even further under new manager Ronald Koeman. Tom Cleverley is currently the only other player with real first team experience who could back up Barkley. Cleverley, who was regulated to the wing under Roberto Martinez is a central midfielder by trade, having played the bulk of his minutes there with Manchester United and Aston Villa.

Youngster Kieran Dowell represents the only other depth outside of Barkley and Cleverley and is definitely lacking the experience needed for a someone who could potentially see real minutes is injury or fitness concerns arise. Everton may be able to get through the first half of the season with their current reinforcements, but they will need to look to the transfer market sooner rather than later. And despite Everton’s new found wealth, it would be prudent to make a deal in the summer instead of the wacky winter transfer window.

Tactics

Possession will be an important aspect of Ronald Koeman’s side, however it will likely not be as obsessive of an idea as it was under Martinez. Koeman seems significantly more flexible than his predecessor and it could be a huge positive for Barkley’s aggressive attacking style. Barkley is best when charging towards the net with a head of steam and he was often stifled by Martinez’s overly rigid tactics. Hopefully Koeman will be more likely to use Cleverley is his natural position. He may not be a starting caliber player, but he can be a capable second unit player, especially when utilized in his correct position.

Koeman’s pressing style should also help Barkley and company in counter attacking opportunities allowing Bakrley’s athletic attacking abilities to shine. Often times last season Everton would mindlessly pass the ball around the midfield, waiting only for the perfect moment to attack. Koeman will likely be more realistic and allow his players to have more freedom in the attacking third.

Summary

Barkley may be the attacking midfielder of the present and future, but Everton will need to bring in better reinforcements if they wish to compete at the top of the table. Cleverley has shown that he can be a solid back up, but cannot be relied upon to be a starter should an injuries occur. The rest of the depth is inexperienced and a few years away from contributing meaningful minutes. The team could probably survive until the winter if need be, but it would be in the best interests of the team and the sanity of the fans to bring in reinforcements soon.