How Ross Barkley fits into Martinez's Everton

Posted by Martin Laurence, WhoScored

Jamie McDonald/Getty ImagesRoss Barkley scored and was the star performer for Everton against Norwich.

It was two years ago on Tuesday that a 17-year-old Ross Barkley earned his Everton debut on the opening weekend of the 2011/12 Premier League season, starting in a 1-0 home defeat to QPR. While the result went against the Toffees, all eyes were on the teenager, whose confident display was supposed to be the sign of things to come.

He started the following week, but conceded one of two penalties against Blackburn, who missed both, before Mikel Arteta converted a spot kick in the dying minutes to steal the points. That would be Barkley's final start of the season, coming on as a sub a further four times throughout the campaign, and while it's fair to say hope was not lost in the teenager on Merseyside, he became something of a forgotten man (boy) after a number of injury setbacks.

Loan spells with both Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United in the previous campaign - netting four times in 13 appearances for the former - ensured he picked up some playing time but it was clear that David Moyes didn't feel he was ready for the Premier League just yet. If that was the case, then it appears to be something that Roberto Martinez disagrees with. The new manager full of praise for the youngster after his goalscoring display against Norwich this weekend.

Martinez explained: "In every game Ross has played, he has shown that little bit of magic that not everyone has. He is very mature at this present time. Maybe that is because he had to go through difficult experiences with injury, but you can see that he is ready."

Below, WhoScored take the chance to look at the role Barkley could play this season following on from some hugely impressive statistics last weekend.

The teenager was the star man for Everton on the opening day at Carrow Road, with Martinez rightly pointing out that his fabulous long distance strike capped an accomplished all-round display rather than exaggerating a modest performance.

His second half equaliser to Steven Whittaker's opener for the hosts was one of four shots at goal and the youngster was the only player in the league to hit the target from distance more than once. His confidence in chancing his arm from long range has always been there and is also a trait in the player he may be competing with for a place in the team this season - Darron Gibson.

In contrast to Barkley's efficiency from distance at the weekend, however, Gibson's efforts tend to be wayward. Indeed, of the 39 players to attempt at least 20 shots from outside the box last season only defenders Glen Johnson and Maynor Figueroa had an inferior accuracy (19%) and Barkley will hope to continue to better his team-mates meagre figure here.

Ross Barkley stats
Other / WhoScored.comRoss Barkley stats

In terms of his overall ball retention, which is a facet of the game that the new Everton boss notoriously holds dear, the 19-year-old will have impressed his manager even further. Barkley maintained a superb 96.2% pass accuracy, misplacing just two of 53 attempts in total. Said accuracy was only bettered by five players in the entire division - and none of his Everton colleagues - showing just how mature a display it was from the Liverpool-born midfielder.

It's a completion rate that Barkley won't be able to keep up - the best figure in the league in 2012/13 was Ki Sung-Yeung's 92.7% - but the figures of Everton's Leon Osman (85.9%), Gibson (81.7%) and Marouane Fellaini (79.3%) last season are certainly sustainable, and indeed surpassable for the England Under-21 international.

The fact that so many of the prospect's passes on Saturday came in advanced areas will be even more pleasing, with his accuracy nothing to do with the fact that he sat deep in midfield. In fact, a look at Everton's average player positions from the weekend, above, shows that Barkley (number 20) took up the position in behind the lone striker more often than Fellaini (25), who instead dropped back to receive the ball.

Only nine players made more successful final third passes than the Everton-man in the first game week (23), with Barkley's accuracy in that area of the pitch representing the best figure of all Premier League players to attempt at least 20 passes in the attacking third (95.8%). It's clear that the local lad has the ability to suit Martinez's style, which could give him the edge over the aforementioned Gibson, while his physique is already strong.

The midfielder showed that he has the fight without the ball to push for a place in the side too, making three tackles against the Canaries; a tally only bettered by two other players on the pitch (Elliott Bennett and Sylvain Distin - both four). He's certainly a player that has shown on his day that he has all the ingredients to succeed at the top level.

Everton fans will hope that he gets more opportunities this season and with Martinez in charge the teenager may even get the minutes required to claim an outside chance of coming into the England reckoning. It's certainly early days but the consensus at Goodison is that Barkley's future can hold great things if he applies himself in the right way and it's hard to argue with that opinion.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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