Ross Barkley is once again being linked with a move to White Hart Lane. The Everton midfielder is believed to be a long-term target of Mauricio Pochettino’s, and according to recent reports, a deal could be in the pipeline.
The 23-year-old has just a year left on his current deal yet despite this the Toffees initially slapped a £50million price tag on the midfielders head. Spurs decided to sit off and bide their time in the hope their stance would soften – and it’s paid off.
The Independent claim Everton will compromise on their valuation of the player with Ronald Koeman eager to continue his summer spending by bringing former Spurs man Gylfi Sigurdsson to Goodinson Park.
It would leave Barkley surplus to requirements and this would be Everton’s last opportunity to get big money for the versatile midfielder.
It could be a shrewd signing and would go a long way to cement Daniel Levy’s status as the master of the transfer market.
Often accused of being inconsistent, Barkley has still managed to be involved in 13 goals this term, coming in the form of five goals and eight assists.
He’s influential in the Everton attack, making 2.3 key passes and completing 1.6 dribbles per 90 minutes. His pass success rate currently stands at 83 per cent and he attempts, on average, 45.9 per game.
In terms of key passes the closest player to the versatile midfielder is Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian completes 1.3 of them. Likewise with dribbles, only the new Manchester United striker and Yannick Bolasie – who was injured for the majority of the season – complete more than the Everton number eight.
When comparing Barkley to those already at Spurs, only Christian Eriksen (3.1) completes more key passes per game with Mousa Dembele (3.1) and Heung-Min Son (1.7) being the only two to make more successful dribbles.
Goal involvement sees four Spurs players – Harry Kane, Son. Eriksen, and Alli – surpass Barkley’s 10 last term. He’s held his own against superior opposition and, on paper, if he’s playing alongside better players his output should swell.
The Dele Alli Conundrum
Alli has been one of the most productive midfielders in Europe over the past 18 months. He’s been involved in 43 league goals since the start of 2015/16 and has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water.
He’s developed into one of the best attacking midfielders and he’s appears to had mastered the art of arriving late into the penalty area to finish off team moves and support the prolific Kane.
There’s a train of thought to suggest that anything that could derail his evolution and progression at the club should be ignored. He’s another £90million player if he fulfils his clear potential.
There are people, especially in the media, who believe Alli and Barkley are this generations Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. It’s near impossible to have them in the same starting eleven. To balance a team including two attack minded midfielders who both shirk their defensive responsibilities in favour of their instincts would be a detriment to both of the players.
It never worked for Lampard and Gerrard for England and both couldn’t replicate their club form on the international stage.
However, history doesn’t have to be repeated. Both players would be training together on a regular basis, learning to play alongside one another and both would be under the guidance of a tactically astute manager in Pochettino. He’s not going to expose his team.
Spurs, and their fans, should back the former Southampton manager and trust that if he’s interested in Barkley, then he has a plan for him. After all, he could take Spurs to the next level.
According to Whoscored.com, Pochettino has used that the 4-2-3-1 formation on 21 occasions last season. The system suits the likes of Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose who like to bomb forward and own the flanks.
Barkley could play on the left of the three behind the attacker. He would undoubtedly need to cut in onto his favoured right foot but it would be beneficial to Rose who would be given the freedom of the left hand side. It would also allow Alli and Barkley to rotate throughout the match and would, in theory, keep the opposition guessing.
It’s a tactic which has worked for Liverpool this season as their attack is made up of players who all congregate in central areas. It transforms a one-man attack into a four-man attack. It would give the team an added dimension going with Barkley, Alli and Eriksen all drifting in-field to support Kane, get beyond him and act as another goal threat.
Alternatively, Spurs could operate in a narrow 4-3-3 of sorts. Eriksen would play as the link-man between midfield and attack as the team could use his vision and ability on the ball to create chances for what could be quite the fluid and formidable attacking trio.
The Dane is clearly the creative force in the Spurs team, as shown by the aforementioned key passes per 90, so why not put him in an area of the pitch he could pull the strings. With Kane, Alli and Barkley ahead of him he’s playing the ball to attack minded players in positions they can do the most damage.
While Barkley is good at dropping deep and picking the ball up you ideally want him in the final third. Having Eriksen be the playmaker keeps Barkley in the attacking half of the pitch.
These are both theoretical examples, but both are ways in which Spurs could bring Barkley to the club without having a negative impact on Alli and his development.
He could turn the terrible twosome – Kane and Alli – into a terrific trio.