Remodelled Everton star poised to lead top-four charge

Remodelled Everton star poised to lead top-four charge

To unsuspecting punters, one goal and as many assists from eight Premier League starts might suggest Ross Barkley’s 2016/17 is yet to get going.

But scratch below the statistical surface and the figures to be found show how the England international is revising his style under Ronald Koeman.

Domineering surges through midfield with the ball at his feet made for great snippets on Match of the Day but, these brief bursts aside, a common criticism of Barkley throughout previous campaigns was his inability to regularly impact upon games.

Indeed, during Roberto Martinez’s ill-fated final season at the helm, the 22-year-old averaged 3.1-dribbles-per-Premier League outing. Only three players were more frequent ball carriers.

Clearly, Barkley’s remit under the Spaniard was to utilise those powerful runs whenever possible. A total of 16 goals either scored or assisted confirms the method was not without its merits, but this preoccupation with dribbling diluted other facets of his game.

The youngster averaged 1.5 key passes-per-match last time around, a three-year high for the player under Martinez’s tutelage. He posted means of 1.1 and 0.8 in the previous two campaigns.

For a midfielder looking to establish himself as one of the elite number tens in the Premier League and, ergo, the world, it was essential to improve these figures. Enter Koeman with his reprogramming utensils.

In eight league games this season, Barkley’s key pass average has rocketed to 2.6-per-match. By contrast, his dribble figures have plummeted to 0.8-per-match, underlining an obvious shift in his role in the team.

Looking at chances created, the 21 opportunities carved by his boot is bested by only seven peers across the entire division.

Picking out teammates in dangerous positions has evidently taken precedent over receiving a pass and running this season and the passing stats are testament to how Barkley can be brilliant in this role. It’s arguably the profligacy of colleagues at the root of his lack of assists so far.

Elsewhere, superior shooting stats indicate goals aren’t far away too. His shots-per-game average is up from 2.5 to 2.9 this term and over a third of these goal-bound missiles are hitting the target.

Everton are currently navigating a rocky patch after a searing start to the season and Barkley’s return to form would be much welcomed as they look to scale the standings and resume a 10/1-rated top-four push.