There is a lot of excitement buzzing around Everton this week. New faces are popping up left and right. But the reviews of the boys already wearing blue must continue. Today, Royal Blue Mersey focuses on midfielder James McCarthy and his injury-plagued 2016/17 season.
As it pertains to this campaign, there aren’t a ton of positives to discuss. The Irishman appeared in just eight games and scored one goal across all competitions with his last Everton match coming way back on March 5 after hurting his hamstring on international duty. This was the final of three lengthy periods during the year that McCarthy missed time due to injury troubles.
When healthy, McCarthy is a solid Premier League ball winner with a nonstop engine and an ability to be just about everywhere on the pitch. Apart from Romelu Lukaku, the central midfielder was possibly the best addition of the Roberto Martinez era.
His greatest trait may be his versatility. During his time with Everton, McCarthy has played everywhere in the midfield, on the wings and all along the defensive line. He is an ideal bench player for a club that hopes to be playing on three or four fronts at one time.
McCarthy is only 27 years old, yet he gets hurt like a player in his mid-30s. This was not a development unique to this season. It seems like he is always recovering from a problem with his groin or hamstring. Whether it is a result of McCarthy’s bone-headedness, his fragility, or the eagerness of his international manager to keep him in the Ireland picture, the midfielder has become an unreliable commodity.
While he is versatile enough to play all over the pitch, he is not exactly an attacking threat. Sure, he will score the random goal or provide an assist here and there, but watching James McCarthy shoot the ball is not something people pay to see.
And even though McCarthy once seemed like a 90-minute player game in and game out with a non-stop engine, that has not been the case under manager Ronald Koeman. Instead, he has become a bench player.
At his strongest, McCarthy can be either a box-to-box midfielder, or a deep-lying defensive midfielder that provides protection to the back line. The positional flexibility means he could pair with just about any other midfielder in the squad and do a nice job.
If he has a healthy offseason, the Irish international would certainly figure into Everton’s plans. He remains talented enough to play and could possibly be higher in the pecking order than some of his teammates.
If there is one thing that Everton have in excess at this point, it is central midfielders. Going forward, Ross Barkley (if he stays) and new boy Davy Klassen hope to be banging in goals. Morgan Schneiderlin, Gareth Barry and Mo Besic can all provide cover for the defense. And both Tom Davies and Idrissa Gueye are happy to go box to box.
McCarthy is surplus to requirements. Of course, he is familiar with more positions than any of the other midfielders mentioned above. And it would seem that Koeman would like to keep him around, if possible.
But rumors are swirling that a handful of Premier League teams are eyeing McCarthy, including Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion. At either spot, he would be a starter. With Everton, he will need to fight for minutes. On top of that, it sounds as if he has a value of around £15 million. Given the depth of the midfield, the Blues could certainly use those funds elsewhere on the pitch.
What is your grade for James McCarthy’s 2016/17 season?
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