Thursday, 30 January 2014

Gareth Barry: A Contender for the England Squad

Roberto Martinez came out to say that he is keen to sign Gareth Barry on a permanent deal following what has been an incredibly successful loan spell so far on Merseyside. Barry has added some much needed experience to Everton’s midfield, his signing offset the loss of Feliani and while that move allowed James McCarthy to come in, it’s Barry who’s been one of Everton’s top performers so far this season.

So far for Everton this season Barry has appeared 18 times. Since making his debut in the hard fought victory against Chelsea, Barry has missed just one game through suspension and has played 90 minutes in each game. This underlines his importance to the Everton side and also casting aside any doubts that there might have been about his fitness.  

He’s scored moregoals (3) so far this season than in each of his 4 seasons at Manchester City, it’s an added bonus for a player who is mainly regarded for his defensive capabilities to be scoring goals for Martinez. Barry has also provided 3 assists so far this season, more than in the last two years at City.

Barry is making 2.8 tackles and clearances (2.7) per game, similar to the levels at the beginning of his Manchester City career. Partly that must be due to the way that City dominate the game so much more than Everton do. A reflection in the differences of the two sides playing styles is that Barry is now playing 5.8 accurate long passes per game, more than he ever did at his time at City. Another sign of Martinez’s style of play coming through is that Barry has played more passes on average (70.9) than when he was at Manchester City, which corresponds to the possession based football Martinez likes his teams to play.

It speaks volumes of Gareth Barry as a professional that he wanted to move away in order to get regular football. It suggests he has a great attitude towards the game, many other layers would have been happy to sit on the bench and pick up hefty wage packets at City.

I was one of many who thought that Gareth Barry would never play for England again. In the 2010 World Cup, the way in which Ozil eased passed him as Germany went on to score again, signified the ageing of Barry and that he was past his best. However, his performances at Everton this season have been of a higher level and suggest he deserves to be going to Brazil.

Barry has experience of international tournaments and has played on the highest stages in world football with both Manchester City and England, he will not shy away under the pressure in Brazil. At Everton he has shown he has the ability to be a leader on the pitch, which is something England could well need.

The issue is where would Barry fit in, presumably as one of the two holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 system, alongside either Gerrard or Carrick.

Barry certainly has the edge over Michael Carrick going forward, Carrick hasn’t scored or provided any assists for Manchester United so far this season. Barry is also making more tackles (2.8) on average per game than Carrick (2.0), but the United midfielder has been making more interception (3.5) than Barry (1.2). Carrick has the advantage when it comes to passing, with an average pass completion of 86.9%.

It’s hard to imagine Gerrard being left out of the England team if he is fit. The England captain has twice as many goals and assists as Barry so far this season, in the same number of starts. The only advantage Barry has over both Carrick and Gerrard is that he has avoided injury this season whereas both of the others have had spells out.

He could be a good asset to have on the bench, to bring on to close out games when needed. He certainly has the composure to do so and is a more accomplished in centre midfield than someone like James Milner who may be used in a similar situation.

It’ll be interesting to see whether or not Hodgson decides to recall Barry. I can imagine public outcry, but based on this season he deserves a second chance for England. Hopefully he’ll at least be considered by Hodgson.

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