With the Standard reporting that Tottenham Hotspur could make their first signing of the summer in the form of Everton’s Ross Barkley, fans will be questioning what the English midfielder will be able to offer the Lilywhites in the coming seasons.
While Barkley’s quality has won games single-handedly at times for Everton, the Toffees’ head coach Ronald Koeman has given the 23-year-old a contract ultimatum. It, therefore, appears that the Dutchman would not be too fussed about losing his inconsistent midfielder.
But what would the 23-year-old bring to Tottenham? First and foremost, Barkley would add depth to a squad that is currently lacking. The lack of rotation options for the likes of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli proved problematic last season, and were a key factor in Spurs not being able to compete on several fronts.
Barkley’s attacking output – six goals and nine assists in the 2016/17 season – are not indicative of a first-choice attacking midfielder for a side genuinely competing for the league title. In comparison, Dele Alli contributed 18 goals and seven assists, while leading playmaker Christian Eriksen contributed eight goals and 15 assists. On reflection, his offensive abilities don’t really compete with those in the Spurs starting eleven at this moment in time.
However, with Barkley’s tactical flexibility allowing for him to play wider, which was used to a good degree of success by Koeman when he had first-choice fullback Seamus Coleman fully fit, the Englishman could find himself starting games wider, supported by Kieran Trippier, especially in games where Spurs aren’t reliant on width to break down play.
With Heung Min-Son currently injured, Barkley would provide a stylistically different replacement, but one who could still fulfil the requirements. It would also be likely that, in times of necessity, Barkley could drop deeper into central midfield, acting as cover for the injury-prone Mousa Dembele.
With Dembele’s box-to-box style and physical dominance being very difficult to replace, Barkley could provide something different to Spurs when played in a pivot with Victor Wanyama or Harry Winks (in a 3-4-2-1 formation, which Mauricio Pochettino deployed to great effect last season), or with Eric Dier (in the 4-2-3-1 system used the year before).
Either would be better than the Dier-Wanyama pivot, which proved lacklustre and had very little offensive impact last term.
In return, Mauricio Pochettino could help nurture Barkley into one of England’s best players. At just 23, the midfielder has enormous potential and has shown it in patches. With the emphasis being on a high-pressing, dynamic attack, centring around Harry Kane, Barkley’s movement, quick feet and eye for a pass mean he would be an ideal fit at Tottenham.
Pochettino has, indeed, done more with less in the past. The recently departed Kyle Walker was nothing more than an average right-back with impressive physical attributes before the Argentine arrived, and he is now the most expensive right-back in footballing history. Likewise, on the other flank, many were questioning Danny Rose’s future at Spurs before Pochettino took the realms, and he is now England’s best left-back.
So if Barkley is willing to come to Spurs, he would be working under the tutelage of a fine manager with a fantastic record of developing young talent, and Barkley could well forge a path into a starting place at major international competitions.
Last but not least, the opportunity for Barkley to showcase his talent on the major European stage, at club level in the UEFA Champions League, could be an attraction too difficult to turn down – it is often said that the best players want to play Champions League football.
A move to Hotspur Way would fulfil this ambition in the coming season, with Tottenham qualifying for the premier European competition for the second consecutive campaign. Finally, with Spurs clearly being a team and a club on the up, a transfer could easily be the spark that reinvigorates Barkley’s career, and the one that helps him transform potential into talent.