At some point this season, the precise time of which is hard to determine, it has become apparent that Ross Barkley is no longer a player who can be spoken of as having ‘potential’.
Instead, we must now accept that the boy has become a man, and that Barkley is now ready to stand up and deliver the sort of performances that must surely see him starting for England come the European Championships next summer. While the midfield and forward positions for the Three Lions have a fair few suitors, there is no doubt in my mind that Barkley has the temperament and talent to succeed in the tournament, and maybe give England the cutting edge they need in order to reach the semi finals – or beyond.
Put simply, Barkley has the ability (which not too many Englishmen in recent years have had), to do pretty much everything a good centre midfielder needs to be able to do. Not since the mid-2000’s have the Three Lions possessed a player who is so comfortable going past opposition players at will, and then able to produce a telling end product that leads to a chance or a goal.
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Steven Gerrard possessed those abilities then, but in the years since he understandably took up a slightly less box to box role, preferring instead to operate mostly from deep, where his raking passes and occasional intelligent forward runs could do the most damage. Barkley can not only pass with an accuracy hard to come by these days, he can also make deep and incisive runs that can throw a well-organised defence clean off balance – potentially a major asset against what is sure to be the massed ranks of defences last summer.
Barkley also possesses the ability to rifle in a venomous long-range shot, and his finishing in general has improved markedly since this time last year, with his five goals for club and country this year evidence of that.
There have been different types of finish in there as well; a long range strike against Watford, an extremely tidy curler for Everton against Southampton, and a header against San Marino after a late arrival into the box (did someone say Paul Scholes?). Add to those a thumping volley against Reading in the League Cup and it is clear that this is one aspect of his game that Barkley has worked on massively in recent times.
Barkley can of course be frustrating, as is the case with so talented and mercurial enigmas through the history of English football. Roberto Martinez seems to be able to get the best out of him by consistently praising him and defending him, meaning the boy from Wavertree feels comfortable, knowing that he’s trusted and loved at Goodison.
Whether Hodgson can afford to give a talented but raw 21-year-old (although he does turn 22 in December) a free hand at an international tournament is another question entirely – Hodgson will understandably place huge emphasis on not losing games first, and then winning them later. While this attitude is perfectly understandable and is simply the way Hodgson is as a coach, it does seem a shame if this means that we do not get to see as much of the precociously-talented Barkley as we might otherwise.
Barkley has his flaws, of course he does, and there are certainly plenty of other options in the centre of England’s midfield. But one gets the feeling that if we don’t start trusting the lad from Liverpool soon, in the Euros, we could regret it much more than if we did and it doesn’t go well.
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— FootballFanCast.com (@FootballFanCast) October 14, 2015