It’s no coincidence that Ross Barkley’s return from injury prompted Everton’s second win of the campaign and, with the talented 21-year-old back in the ranks, the Toffees are poised to scale the Premier League table.
The 3-0 slaying of Aston Villa was the first time in which the Goodison Park faithful savoured success in the top-tier this term and with a favourable run of fixtures coming up, this victory may well spark the start of a point-gobbling spell.
This is what makes now the time to back Roberto Martinez’s men at 8/1 to finish in the top-four this season.
Villa represented their first of five very beatable foes, with Burnley, Swansea, Sunderland and West Ham next in the firing line and, with Barkley orchestrating their attacks, maximum points saturation is a distinct possibility.
With Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham all struggling to assert themselves in the current race for fourth, the door is far from closed on Everton, despite their own humdrum start to proceedings and a string of wins will rocket them right back into contention.
Having failed to make an appearance since suffering a medial knee ligament injury in mid-August, Barkley’s impact on the Villa game was massive.
Despite playing just 65 minutes, only Leighton Baines made more key passes than the Wavertree native, while 31 of his 38 attempts to locate a teammate were successful.
Compared to Gareth Barry’s 80, this doesn’t seem overly impressive, but when you consider that Barkley is an advanced player who makes a lot more forward passes and is tasked to furnish colleagues with opportunities to score, as opposed to recycle possession in midfield, it shows what a valuable asset he is.
While it would be unfair to state that, in his absence, the Toffees have lacked this essential component – they scored 13 goals in their first seven matches – but having such a talented creator back in the ranks will unquestionably improve their chances of winning games.