Ross Barkley’s stand-out performance against Arsenal in Everton’s 1-1 draw at the Emirates prompted his manager Roberto Martinez to make comparisons with Paul Gascoigne and Michael Ballack in assessing the 20-year-old’s style of play.
Martinez was effusive about Barkley, who played a role in Gerard Deulofeu’s equaliser, passing the ball wide to Bryan Oviedo for the crucial cross. Watched by Roy Hodgson, Barkley was, according to Martinez, ahead of any English player he had worked with in terms of “mentality” and application.
Martinez said: “I’ve got great admiration for Ross, he’s got great potential. We need to give him time, we have to recognise as real English diamond he isn’t ready yet and it will take time but he has everything to mark a real era in our football.
“What we need to do is make sure we give Ross another 50 starts to see his evolution. Any player needs to develop an understanding and learn how to be effective ... in this country we need to be more protective over our youngsters, because in Ross we have someone, if we look after him properly, who can give us something unique.
Asked about Gary Lineker’s tweet comparing Barkley to Paul Gascoigne, Martinez said: “When I see Ross, I see bits of [Michael] Ballack and bits of Gazza. It’s for us to make those comparisons, but I can guarantee you Ross Barkley is quite unique. He has incredible balance with both feet, really strong, really powerful.
“He is developing an increased awareness. He is someone you can compare to any other nation, and I mean the young Brazilians, Dutch, Spanish players. He has a gift and that talent. It is always good when people love the game and they give their opinion. Ross, as long as we give him time and allow him to develop, he will be fine.”
Martinez also praised the contribution of Gareth Barry, on loan from Manchester City. He said: “I’ve never seen such a level headed footballer. He never gets emotional. We don’t have enough specialists in that position in the English game, that No 6’. Michael Carrick is the only other player. We produce box to box midfielders but we don’t produce that tactical player who plays in front of the back four.
Every team spends a fortune on that number six - Fernandinho, Paulinho, Sandro, Lucas. We don’t produce them. Carrick and Barry are the only two. Managers in the Premier League need to take responsibility to develop players that other countries do.”
Despite not winning, Arsenal’s lead at the top of the Premier League is now five points with games against Manchester City away on Saturday and Chelsea at home on 23 December promising to give them a clear indication of where they stand in the title race. Wenger’s team travel to Napoli tomorrow knowing that they will qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League if they avoid a three goal defeat.
Were they serious title contenders now? “It depends what you call serious,” Wenger said. “As long as we are five points ahead, you cannot rule us out even with the best desire. It will be a tough Premier League, the consistency in the end will be rewarded. The consistency of course is down to us for us to keep this attitude until the end of the season.
“It gives us belief. Consistency in results strengthen your belief. You could see just in Everton today, if they lost 5-0 at Old Trafford they would not have played like that. They had just won 1-0 at Old Trafford, came here, nothing to lose, you could see what kind of influence confidence has.”