While David Moyes was Everton manager, he was keen to temper the expectations of fans surrounding 20-year-old Ross Barkley. But since the arrival of Roberto Martinez, the ‘diamond’ of English football has established himself as a household Premier League name and a regular feature in Roy Hodgson’s England squads.
When fans dream of the future of English football, Barkley is the first name on many lips. But as the race for seats on the plane to Brazil hots up, Ross Barkley’s time is not quite yet.
Barkley plies his trade at Everton in the ‘number 10’ role. He collects the ball in all areas of the field, distributes 360 degrees and he’s willing to take the game forward at pace in any position. He’s fearless both in possession and in the tackle. Barkley looks absolutely at ease against the top sides, as his man-of-the-match performance away at high-flying Arsenal proved back in December.
But how do his stats reflect his style of play? So far this season Barkley has contributed three league goals and just one assist in 24 appearances. Compare this to those who could challenge Barkley for his seat on the plane. Adam Lallana boasts an impressive seven goals and seven assists in 28 games. Jack Wilshere, three goals and five assists in 23 games. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, two goals and two assists in only eight appearances. Jordan Henderson, three goals and six assists in 28. Tom Cleverley, no I won’t even try to fight that corner.
What I’m trying to say is Barkley’s output isn’t great enough to warrant a place on the plane ahead of the aforementioned players. Up to mid-February, Lallana had created 40 goal-scoring chances, practically double Barkley’s 21. Late-January had seen Barkley succeed in fewer tackles than Wilshere and Henderson, attempting fewer key passes per game and creating just one clear-cut chance to the six of both Henderson and Wilshere. What’s more, the versatility of Henderson and Wilshere make them strong options to sit deeper in midfield alongside Steven Gerrard while Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lallana are used regularly in wide roles for their clubs.
Daniel’s Sturridge’s phenomenal record makes him an absolute shoe-in for his spot in the team. With 18 goals in 20 league appearances, Sturridge is averaging one goal every 88 minutes. His record is right up there with the best in Europe at this moment. Wayne Rooney’s untenable position in the side means he will drop in behind Sturridge as the ‘number 10’.
So where does Barkley fit? Fearlessness aside, Hodgson and England can’t afford to rely on a 20-year-old who has accrued 63 minutes collectively in just three international appearances. And despite all of his unquestionable qualities Barkley isn’t producing enough. The productivity of the names above, coupled with their versatility, give Hodgson more suitable options. In the coming years Barkley will become a staple in the England setup but for now he’ll struggle to force his way into the final 23. Unfortunately for Barkley I fear Brazil may have just come around too early.