Everton boss Roberto Martínez has played the transfer market exactly as he would have wanted, with his midfield options now more fitting with his style of play than they were a month ago. This is despite the fact that the Merseysiders sold arguably their best player to Manchester United in the form of Marouane Fellaini.
The Goodison Park club host Chelsea in the Premier League game of the weekend on Saturday, with their starting midfield line-up sure to be of real interest. The Spaniard has been playing three central midfielders in games so far this season, which will most likely continue, but the personnel looks much improved.
One of the standouts of the fledgling days of the season so far has been Ross Barkley – a young superstar finally back to fitness and form after injuries threatened to derail the early days of his career.
The home-grown star has displayed enough guile, energy and industry to warrant inclusion in the England squad for important World Cup qualifiers, and will continue to progress with the more games that he gets under his belt.
Barkley has had Leon Osman and Fellaini for company in the boiler room so far this campaign, but the transfer deadline day signing of two new central midfielders will give Martínez real options. The experience of Gareth Barry and the promise of James McCarthy will be more than a match for the departing attributes of Manchester United’s new Belgian.
Barkley is set to benefit from Barry’s loan signing from Manchester City, as the 32-year-old will naturally sit in front of the Toffees’ back four and marshal his troops. This more-defensive inclusion will allow Barkley more access to get forward and play a more significant role in Everton’s attacking game.
Barry has a point to prove after seemingly falling out of favour on the national front, with omission from the England sides to face Moldova and Ukraine. There is no doubt that the former Aston Villa box-to-box man is good enough to be on the plane to Brazil (if there is one), and the chance to play week-in, week-out at Goodison Park will be the springboard that he needs.
Although Leon Osman is a consummate professional and a more-than able player at this level, the partnership of Barkley and McCarthy in front of Barry is one that will have Everton fans quite rightly excited. They know Barkley’s abilities well, and will find that in their new Irish signing they have a player every bit as good.
McCarthy has been on Premier League clubs’ radars since breaking into the Hamilton Accies first team at the age of 15, and has progressed significantly since then. The last 18 months to two years at Wigan were the best of his career to date and he has firmly established himself at Premier League level.
A £13 million transfer fee is very rarely handed out by Everton FC and supremely rare for a player that finds himself playing in the Championship. Despite this, it should prove to be a bit of inspired business by the Merseysiders if McCarthy plays to anywhere near his potential.
The Republic of Ireland international maybe lacks the individual skill and attacking threat that Barkley offers, but he makes up for it with his relentless work rate, supreme technical abilities and excellent range of passing. Together these two young stars could well revel in Martínez’s possession football ethos and will surely be a handful for opponents on a weekly basis.
Whether these three start against Chelsea at the weekend remains to be seen, as Osman has done nothing to suggest being overlooked. However, in the longer term Everton have an exciting blend with this trio that can go head-to-head with any central midfield set-up in England and hold its own.