Another Merseyside derby, another loss for Everton, as Sadio Mane came back to haunt Ronald Koeman with a 94th minute winner to condemn the Toffees to an unwanted record of only one solitary victory in their last 20 matches against their bitter rivals.
After another disappointing evening for Everton, focus turned once again to 23-year-old midfielder Ross Barkley who has been at the forefront of transfer speculation as his contract enters its final 18 months at Goodison Park.
In another big game where the youngster could have made his mark Barkley remained anonymous throughout, creating very little and leaving Romelu Lukaku completely isolated up front.
His performance was much in line with the rest of his season so far, where he has failed to reach the heights of his early Everton days.
In a match where the Everton midfielder had struggled to make an impact despite his best efforts, he was extremely lucky to remain on the pitch after he lunged into Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson’s ankle. If anything, Henderson was fortunate that he could get back up after the tackle.
Barkley’s horrific match was summed up perfectly in the final minutes, when he planted a free-kick into the crowd from a promising position, causing manager Koeman to react furiously.
It’s worrying times in front of goal for Everton this season, with only 21 goals scored in their 17 league games – less than bottom three side Swansea and almost half of the amount of goals their Merseyside rivals have scored across the same number of games.
In the top half of the table only Southampton have scored less than the Toffees, so if Everton are to maintain their hopes of finishing in and around the European places then Barkley needs to find some form and, more importantly, find some goals.
It’s only becoming more obvious now that Koeman needs to invest in his midfield over the January transfer window; with summer signing Yannick Bolasie out through injury, and Lukaku getting very little to feed off in front of goal, Everton can’t just rely on an under-performing Barkley to be the main talisman in midfield anymore.
Since the opening day of the season against Tottenham, the 23-year-old has only scored once. This number is one less than defensive midfielder Gareth Barry and two less than right-back Seamus Coleman, just highlighting how much he has been misfiring since August.
Once an indispensable part of Everton’s starting line-up, Barkley’s career is sitting in a serious lull at the moment; three years ago he was almost certain to play a huge part in the England national team for years to come, but now he rarely gets any time in an England shirt.
It’s a testing time for the 23-year-old, and if he continues to perform like he did last night against Liverpool then it could be interesting to see what Koeman does with him in January.
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