Two reasons why Everton can cope without Gibson

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Paul Thomas/Getty ImagesMidfielder Darron Gibson may miss the rest of the season for Everton.

Talk about Sod's law. After a prolonged spell in the wilderness, Darron Gibson returned to the Republic of Ireland squad this week. Unfortunately, for all concerned, the return proved short-lived and injury struck with Gibson's international comeback lasting just over two hours.

The anterior cruciate ligament injury is not as bad as first believed, but Gibson will require surgery that sidelines the midfielder for the near future. Roberto Martinez is hopeful, however, that a return to action can materialise before the end of the season.

- Report: Gibson may miss rest of season

Although the news is a small positive, considering the often-severe nature of ligament injuries, it does little to soften the blow of losing a key player. Despite the uncertainty accompanying his arrival, with Alex Ferguson's preference for coaxing Paul Scholes out of retirement setting alarm bells off on Merseyside, Gibson quickly silenced those doubting him.

This analysis of his first year outlines the instant impact that Gibson had on the side. During his first twelve months, Everton won 52.17% of matches with Gibson and just 25% of matches without. As of writing, the league win percentages stand at 48.5% with and 36.7% without.

Acquired for a bargain bucket price of £500,000, Gibson has proven himself worthy of every penny since establishing a first-team place at Goodison. Filling the gaping void created by the departure of Lee Carsley, Gibson boasted an extra weapon in the armoury: his passing range.

Though able to shield the back four, cover ground, and harass opposing players in a fashion akin to Carsley, Gibson also provides the platform for attacking moves and an unerring ability to rapidly switch defence into attack.

Seemingly forever plagued by a wafer-thin squad, there was a time when this injury would leave the supporters with the sobering prospect of a defender shoehorned into a midfield role. Fortunately, though the loss of Gibson is a painful one, the shrewd business of deadline day can help steady any concerns.

Impressing since signing, from Wigan and Manchester City respectively, James McCarthy and Gareth Barry are beginning to form a fruitful partnership at the heart of the midfield. While McCarthy buzzes around with his all-action style, Barry hoovers up loose possession and keeps possession ticking over.

Much like Gibson, doubts followed McCarthy -- mainly question marks over his eye-watering price tag. Slotting seamlessly into the midfield and improving on a weekly basis, however, McCarthy is winning over those who laughed off his big money move.

Making his first two appearances as a second-half substitute, McCarthy has started the last two against Newcastle and Manchester City, with the young midfielder saving his best performance yet for the defeat at the Etihad.

Featuring alongside his fellow last minute purchase, Barry offers much-needed leadership and experience to an occasionally rudderless midfield -- two attributes sorely missed against City.

Sitting in front of the defence, the one-time England midfielder is best suited to filling the Gibson role. Equipped with an assured passing range, Barry is also able to quicken or slow the tempo depending on the situation.

Furthermore, with both players strong in the tackle and composed on the ball -- McCarthy already leads the club statistics on tackling, while Barry regularly tops the passing charts -- the duo can help compensate for the primary attributes added by Gibson.

There is no disputing the fact that Gibson remains a key component within this current squad, especially under the possession-based methods of Martinez, but the burgeoning pairing of Barry and McCarthy ensures Everton have the players to cope in his absence.


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