As Roy Hodgson shuffled his England pack against Chile and Germany in the recent friendly internationals, was he guilty of ignoring arguably the most consistent and influential England midfield player in the Premier League this season – Everton’s loan-star Garth Barry?
Roberto Martinez’s eleventh hour recruitment of the Manchester City midfielder was one of the most astute pieces of business in the summer transfer window. City’s decision to let him go out on loan saw many write him off. But so pivotal has he become to Martinez’s impressive start at Goodison, that many are having to reassess his worth.
Certainly Brendan Rodgers was aware of the former England man’s importance to the Toffees in the recent Merseyside Derby. The most notable tactical change from the Liverpool manager that weekend saw him deploy Steven Gerrard in a more advanced position than had been the norm this season. And while this was partly an attacking ploy, the Liverpool captain was under clear instruction to marshal Barry – who so often directs Everton affairs from just in front of his back four. We are likely to see other sides take a similar action to limit Barry’s influence – detailing a midfield player to push on to him, or using a striking asset to drop off and press him.
Barry fulfils multiple roles for Martinez, not only offering an excellent defensive screen for the Blues, but also initiating much of Everton’s attacking play with his unfussy, measured and accurate passing from deep. Moreover, his willingness to drop in between his centre halves to take command of the ball is a key feature of Everton’s play and influence on their shape, allowing Jagielka and Distin to spread and take wider positions and giving licence to full backs Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines (currently Bryan Ovideo) push on.
Barry, in just four short months, has become the bedrock of this Everton team. His positional sense and experience allow him to cover and protect his defence while providing the kind of rock solid platform required to allow the likes of James McCarthy, Ross Barkley and Leon Osman get forward and support the front men.
And it’s a role Barry could surely reprise for England. He’s certainly much better suited to the job than the current incumbent – Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool skipper has never excelled in a such a deep position and offers so much more to England when allowed play a more attacking role. Bringing Barry back would allow Gerrard do what he does best. And with the centre of England’s defence a cause for concern ahead of the World Cup, the Everton man’s defensive midfield nous could also help alleviate a number of worries on that score.