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Everton 1 Stoke City 1: Barkley struggles and Joel stakes his claim

Despite a slow start, the Toffees earned a road point

Stoke City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Ross Barkley struggles to make an impact

Everton’s 23-year-old midfielder had been enjoying his best form of the season in recent weeks, but that progress came to a standstill against Stoke City on Wednesday. Barkley struggled to complete passes into dangerous areas and lacked confidence on the ball, leading him to a mediocre-at-best outing.

Given his progress in recent weeks, Barkley is surely owed a pass for this underwhelming performance, but it does put Ronald Koeman in a bit of an awkward spot heading into this weekend’s match against Bournemouth.

Idrissa Gueye is expected to be available for selection against the Cherries, meaning one of Barkley, Tom Davies, and Morgan Schneiderlin would have to make way for the Senegalese midfielder to return to the starting lineup. Davies remains the most dangerous chance creator in the center of midfield, and Schneiderlin completed 71 of 74 passes in his first start for Everton.

Does that mean that Barkley could once again find himself on the bench this weekend? Not necessarily — but that idea will surely weigh heavily on Koeman between now and then.

Joel Robles: Everton’s clear top keeper

There was some talk during the January window that the Toffees still needed a clear-cut top goalkeeper. Sure, the logic went, Joel and Maarten Stekelenburg have both had their moments, but neither is a true first-choice keeper.

After another strong performance though, even the staunchest Joel critics must concede that the Spaniard is, at the very least, good enough to carry Everton comfortably for the rest of the season. Joel’s quickness off his line prevented multiple Stoke scoring opportunities, the most important of which came right before the halftime whistle. If he had failed to make that save, the Toffees would have faced a much different second half.

Peter Crouch’s goal today, about which Joel could do very little, was the first to beat the 26-year-old in Premier League play since 2016, an impressive feat that has settled Everton’s goalkeeper battle until at least the summer.

One point gained and two points dropped

The common question after a draw, particularly one in which neither team had the clear advantage, is “Was this one point gained or two points dropped?” A look at the Premier League table reveals this was probably a little bit of both for the Toffees.

The draw leaves Everton secure in seventh place, four points clear of West Brom in eighth. For a mid-table team, a draw away at Stoke is a solid result, particularly given the team’s miserable first half. In this sense, the Toffees gained a point.

The draw also leaves Everton five points behind Manchester United, which managed only a draw against league-bottom Hull City at Old Trafford. A win would have taken the Toffees just three points back of Jose Mourinho’s side and sixth place in the table. For a team trying to make up ground on the league’s elite, a draw away to a Stoke side that didn’t exactly excel isn’t quite good enough.

Everton can still secure a place in European competition with a seventh-place finish and some help from other teams in the EFL and FA Cups, but a sixth-place finish would be a major statement of intent heading into next season. For now though, it remains out of reach.