Effervescent Barkley can help Lukaku return to form
It will come as no surprise to Evertonians that the return to full fitness of Ross Barkley coincided with the Toffees’ best league performance and result so far this season.
The midfielder was instrumental in the 3-0 victory over Aston Villa at Goodison Park last Saturday afternoon, and he even announced his return with a deft assist for fellow youngster Romelu Lukaku.
And it is Barkley who could help the Belgian striker find his best form after a below par start to the season for the 21 year old.
It is highly likely that Lukaku has not fully recovered from his exploits for both Everton and Belgium over the last twelve months, particularly his efforts for his country at the World Cup following a Premier League season where he started every match he was available for, a first for Lukaku in his still fledgling career, and for a player who relies on being fully match fit to perform at his best.
However, the Goodison fan favourite has still performed at a level lower than was expected of him after the Blues shelled out £28m for his services in the summer, and before the recent international break he even came in for some stern criticism from Evertonians.
The return of Ross Barkley can, therefore, not only boost the Toffees’ season overall, but also be of massive significance to Everton’s record signing.
The young pair were a force to be reckoned with after Lukaku joined the Blues on loan on transfer deadling day last season, with Lukaku proving to be an effective foil up front to the marauding runs and movement of Barkley. With Barkley’s running style and gait allowing him to glide past opponents with ease, the amount of space created for Lukaku to work in was far greater than it has been with a partner like Steven Naismith occupying similar positions in and around the penalty area, regardless of the Scot’s rich vein of goalscoring form thus far this season.
Barkley’s vision and awareness of those around him will be of benefit to Lukaku also, with the midfielder’s creativity allowing for fellow players like Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas to manouvere into better goal creating positions in a bid to lay on a potential assist for Lukaku, whilst the Belgian himself can hold up play in the opposition’s half knowing full well that Barkley will not be far away to support him further up the field.
Of course, a below par performance from Aston Villa as a whole, an easier-on-the-eye upcoming run of fixtures and Lukaku’s own personal fitness could also be key components towards the Belgian looking more like his old self, but there is no denying that the return of Barkley from injury is of great importance to the striker, and it is this pairing of two young, gifted footballers that could help propel Everton up the table in the coming weeks.
Baines early contender for end of season prize
It is, of course, still too early in the season to even consider any end of season awards, whether it be a club’s own personal awards ceremony or that of the wider footballing world.
The form of Leighton Baines means that it is possible, even at this early stage, to state that the Toffees left back will be in and around any potential candidates list for any such awards.
Only Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea, Dusan Tadic of Southamption and Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea City have laid on more goals for their team mates, at their respective clubs, than Baines has done so far during the 2014/15 season, with the 29 year old notching two of his five assists in the weekend win over Aston Villa.
Much was made of Baines’ ‘lack’ of assists during Roberto Martinez’s maiden season in charge at Everton, but there was certainly no signs of disgruntlement amongst Evertonians, who are, and have been, very much aware of the qualities that the England international brings to Everton’s starting eleven, regardless of whether he lays on the final ball for a goal.
It is pleasing to see Baines receiving widespread praise again, however, and it will be of no surprise to see Everton’s Player of the Season for the 2013/14 season make the shortlists for numerous awards come the season’s end if his form carries on over the course of the current campaign.