With the departures of Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell, midfielder Ross Barkley – one of the many exciting young English talents in the Premier League this season – now has the chance to forge himself a regular starting spot at Everton.
The sale of Cahill was hardly surprising – the Aussie was clearly on the wane last season – and the Jack Rodwell deal is typical of David Moyes: Rodwell is an exciting midfielder who is still yet to reach his potential but, reminiscent of Rooney, Lescott and Arteta in the past, Moyes will use the money from Manchester City – rumoured to be around the £15 million mark – to improve the squad.
The fact that the move was done under the radar, as Moyes has pointed out, means they can identify targets and get deals in place before clubs know Everton have £15 million to spend. As Moyes continues to hunt for bargains in a market that on the whole lacks value, Everton will likely bring in two or three players before the end of August.
It would be hugely disappointing if that money was used to bring in a player who would disrupt the development of Everton’s latest prodigy. Barkley, 19 in December, made his debut last season in a disappointing 1-0 defeat to QPR but the midfielder – who has featured prominently for England at youth level – impressed massively.
Everton have plenty of cover in central midfield anyway, with Darron Gibson, Marouane Fellaini, Francisco Junior – who has impressed in pre-season – and John Heitinga all able to play the more defensive role that Rodwell could excel at in the future; they’d perhaps be better off looking at out-and-out wingers or more cover in defence, just to give the squad another dimension.
At 6 ft. 2in Barkley’s able to dominate in midfield but his pace and confidence on the ball allows him to push forward with great authority. And, for all the talk of his power and presence, he’s also a player with genuine class too.
He needs to perform to a more consistent level, though, and a dip in form last season – as well as Moyes wanting him to get more games for the youth and reserve teams – saw him removed from the first team, as Moyes attempted to integrate him in to the Premier League to better effect.
Barkley was setting tongues wagging before his horrific triple leg break in October 2010, which led to a year and a half out of the game; Moyes didn’t want to rush him back, especially in such a dour situation that Everton were in at that time (they won five of their first 14 League games).
He comes into the season well-prepared after superb performances for England Under-19s this summer, where the Three Lions were knocked out by Greece in the semi-finals of the Euros.
The competition for Everton’s central midfield will be tough but shouldn’t be too daunting for Barkley; a midfield pivot of Fellaini and the 18-year-old would be as physically terrifying as it would be technically efficient, although Barkley is perhaps the most natural replacement for Cahill just behind the striker. With a finisher like Nikica Jelavic in front of him, too, Barkley will have a superb outlet with which to supply. The movement of Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman around him will also help in that respect.
Whether he’s used in a midfield two or plays further forward and then drops deep to help out in midfield, Barkley will surely get extensive game time this season and, with Fellaini and Gibson apparently out of the season opener, Barkley could be the main man against Manchester United.