As Royal Blue Mersey’s Everton season review rolls on, we have reached an obstacle in our journey. We have to talk about Ross Barkley.
There may not be a player in the Blues’ squad who sums up the 2016/17 season quite like the Wavertree-born midfielder. Inconsistent, but occasionally brilliant? Check. Contract controversy? Check. Might get transferred? Check.
How did he really perform, though?
When at the top of his game, Barkley can compete with some of the Premier League’s very best attacking midfielders. He’s a competent dribbler, and displays the ability to pick out an excellent pass, as long as he keeps his head up and makes quick decisions.
The radar below shows us that Ross enjoyed an excellent season passing the ball, and thanks in large part to his big frame and dribbling ability, is extremely difficult to dispossess.
In sum, Barkley possesses all the tools to succeed at a high level for club and country, and it seems like Ronald Koeman has had good luck coaching the Everton product to take fewer shots, particularly the poor ones for which he’d become known.
Despite reining in his shots, Barkley remains, simply, a poor finisher. He finished second on the team in goals with 6 (to go along with 9 assists), but underperformed his expected goal total by nearly two, and struggled getting the ball on frame.
Beyond that, Barkley was overly reliant on Seamus Coleman being in the side. His best runs of form during the season - by far - came with the Irish right back playing behind him. Without Coleman, Barkley looked completely devoid of attacking ideas, and often wandered into midfield with no real purpose.
For a player at this point in his development, the Englishman should be able to display more consistency, no matter who is in the squad.
Everton found their best form this season when Barkley was deployed as a right wing with the ability to cut inside and find Romelu Lukaku. Seamus Coleman makes his way into this report card again, though, because Koeman was less comfortable using Barkley on the flank when his first choice right back was injured.
Despite playing much of the year in a nominal wide area, Barkley created the majority of his chances towards the middle of the field. The problem, though, is that his passes were never quite penetrative enough, particularly when compared to players like Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli.
Where to begin? Despite being one of Goodison Park’s most popular players, Barkley’s future is clear as mud. His contract dispute shows no sign of letting up, but there haven’t been any confirmed bids from other teams, either.
Furthermore, if, as suspected, Everton acquire a true #10 this summer, Barkley’s role would become even more muddled. It’s tough to imagine him sharing the field with Gylfi Sigurdsson, and with Coleman out for the long term, it’s tough to imagine Barkley on the right wing much longer.
Barkley holds a special place in the hearts of Toffees while simultaneously dividing opinions like few others. Where his career goes from here is anyone’s guess, but in 2016-17, he took a step forward under Ronald Koeman.
What is your grade for Ross Barkley’s 2016/17 season?
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