Confidence. It’s a valuable commodity to have if you’re a footballer who’s aspiring to play at the highest level.
The world’s best and consistently high achieving stars often possess this trait in abundance, with some players sometimes unfairly labelled as egotistical or arrogant, such is the magnitude of their self belief.
For Kevin Mirallas, however, such labels were justified following Monday night’s match against West Bromwich Albion.
The Belgian international has been one of a few leading lights during a difficult season on Merseyside, with a series of swashbuckling performances and goals, particularly in recent weeks, preventing Everton from tumbling further into the mire at the bottom of the Premier League table.
The winger-cum-forward has always possessed undoubted confidence in his own abilities, and it is this prowess and swagger that has endeared him to the Goodison faithful, and will have other clubs clamouring to sign him, if Mirallas feels that the Blues cannot match his own lofty ambitions come the end of the season.
Mirallas has himself revealed that he will assess his future once the current campaign is over, but it was the arrogant manner in which the tricky wide player asserted his dominance over Monday night’s penalty decision that was the main point of discussion in the ensuing 24 hour period that was discussed at length in the national press and on social media websites, with many describing Mirallas’ actions as insolent and inexcusable.
And they would be right.
Mirallas appeared to defy team instructions when he brazenly took control of the ball just moments after referee Michael Oliver had pointed to the penalty spot, following former Everton defender Joleon Lescott’s handball in the box, but what will rankle more among both fans and players alike will be the gall with which the 27 year old refused the calls and pleas of his team mates to let primary penalty taker Leighton Baines take the resultant spot kick.
Mirallas’ actions clearly struck a nerve with Roberto Martinez, who hauled his star player off at the interval following this act of hubris, despite the Spaniard later attempting to douse the flames on the incident by citing a niggling hamstring strain as the reason the winger was replaced by Bryan Oviedo, and it would not be surprising if a few choice words were exchanged between Mirallas and his team mates during the 15 minute break – despite public reports to the contrary.
Of course, it is possible that Mirallas apologised for his actions, was removed from the field of play with an injury or that his team mates, including Baines, were confident in his ability to give the Blues a deserved half time lead. For a squad built on harmony and togetherness though, it would seem like too much of a coincidence for Mirallas not to return after the interval.
In contrast, Ross Barkley once again struggled to showcase his irrefutable ability in a season where the 21 year old is epitomising everything that is wrong with Everton currently.
Gone is the swagger and almost effortless grace with which Barkley glided across the Goodison turf last season, and in its stead stands an individual who is bearing all the tell tale signs of a lack of self belief.
Monday night’s clash at Goodison Park was not the type of match that Barkley will have thrived in, such was the paucity of space available for the 21 year old to drive into, but the England international’s lack of confidence shone through in his performance. On numerous occasions Barkley would check back inside after receiving the ball into feet, or play a safe sideways pass, or not pull the proverbial trigger when a shot on goal presented itself, and the youngster even drew gasps of exasperation from the home crowd after being brushed off the ball with apparent ease.
Ideally, Barkley would be withdrawn from the limelight and given time to recover his convictions from last season but, such is the dearth in midfield options available to Martinez currently, there has been no choice but to play the prodigious starlet with the hope that, at some point, last season’s form will return.
Both Mirallas and Barkley are defining the opposing ends of the spectrum of confidence. It would be of massive benefit to Everton if the duo could find a middle ground between the ends that they currently occupy.