Having fought tooth and nail to retain the services of Marouane Fellaini, Everton reluctantly agreed to let the Belgian move to Manchester United for £27m on deadline day, £4m more than the price set by his release clause.
Roberto Martinez moved swiftly to replace the 25-year-old, reinvesting part of the Fellaini money on Wigan’s James McCarthy, before securing Gareth Barry on loan from Manchester City.
However, for all of McCarthy’s potential, and despite Barry’s superb performance against Chelsea on Saturday, the midfielder who’s so far caught everybody’s attention at Goodison Park, and in the Premier League, is Ross Barkley.
The 19-year-old was impressive in Everton’s 1-0 win over Jose Mourinho’s troops at the weekend, continuing the fine form he’s shown in the first month of the season during which he netted a superb goal away at Norwich and played with consummate ease.
Barkley, the latest product of Everton’s Academy, had long been touted to have a bright future ahead of him, but had only shown glimpses of his talent under David Moyes following problems with injury.
With the Scotsman and Marouane Fellaini leaving Goodison Park for Old Trafford, the 19-year-old was billed by new Everton boss Roberto Martinez as one of the players to keep an eye on this season and Barkley has so far responded in style.
Deployed just off Nikica Jelavic against Chelsea, Barkley looked perfectly at ease against seasoned Premier League performers like Frank Lampard, Ramires and John Obi Mikel and the youngster has obviously taken to Roberto Martinez’s passing game.
The Toffees have averaged 519 passes per game under Roberto Martinez, a significant increase from the 416 passes per game average last season under David Moyes and, despite his team being restricted to only 287 passes against Chelsea, Barkley was far from a peripheral figure on the pitch.
Opta Stats show the Everton midfielder completed 20 of the 29 passes he attempted and the fact that less than half of the passes Barkley attempted – 12 – came in the final third of the pitch suggests the Everton midfielder’s willingness to get involved in the game brought him deeper in search for the ball.
The Everton midfielder’s physique and surge of pace have also meant he’s been compared to Paul Gascoigne, but while Barkley still has a long way to go to match Gazza’s impact on the pitch – and, hopefully, steer clear of the controversies off it – the 19-year-old clearly has confidence in spades.
Barkley’s powerful and aggressive running caused Chelsea’s back four no end of troubles and the 19-year-old, clearly relished the opportunity of running at the Blues’ defence, successfully completing four take-ons out of five in the final third.
Furthermore, the Everton’s midfielder completed seven of his 12 passes in the final third, a respectable figure considering that Martinez deployed Everton with only Nikica Jelavic up-front, thus reducing the number of options available in the attacking third of the pitch, but his completion rate increased to nine completed passes out of 12 in the middle third.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Barkley has attracted comparisons with fellow Merseyside great Steven Gerrard and the 19-year-old showed he has an industrial side to his game, completing four out of five passes in his own half, where he missed both tackles he attempted.
In an Everton midfield that balances graft – Gareth Barry and Leon Osman – and guile – Steven Pienaar and James McCarthy – everything seems to be in place to allow Barkley to flourish into a top player.
In a couple of months, if Barkley continues his impressive start, Fellaini could be simply a distant memory as the Goodison Park faith begin to worship a more homegrown hero.