Just last week, Everton manager Ronald Koeman confirmed that Ross Barkley would “100%” be leaving Goodison Park this summer. With just a year left on his contract, Everton have been forced to sell him this transfer window or risk losing him on a free next year given his refusal to sign a new deal.
As a result, strong links with a transfer to North London and Tottenham Hotspur have ensued, but would the English international be a good fit for Spurs?
The perfect rotation option
In terms of the starting XI, it’s hard to see where Spurs could realistically improve, apart from right back now Kyle Walker has left for Manchester City. Given the difficulties of finding top quality players to play backup, Spurs, consequently, are the only club in the top four tiers of English football yet to sign a player this window.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino said just yesterday how it’s hard to find players who are willing to come and be backup initially, and try to force their way into his plans. The Argentine noted that new Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, once a Spurs target, turned down the chance to move to North London as he didn’t want to compete with Harry Kane.
“‘Why do you want me if you have Harry Kane?’ You know, if you go to try to sign a striker, they will say: ‘Eh, gaffer, you want me for what? To be on the bench?” -Pochettino on trying to sign Morata.
These are the difficulties Spurs face in the transfer market. In light of these comments, Barkley would definitely be considered excellent backup. He’s young, determined and willing to fight for his place. He has no expectation of guaranteed starts.
Often considered the downfall of last year’s title challenge, Spurs lacked squad depth, struggled with injuries and lacked suitable backups for the attacking talents of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. Barkley would instantly solve this problem. As a squad option, it is also highly unlikely Spurs could sign someone with more talent than Barkley.
The Englishman has quality, of that there is no doubt. He is superb technically and has wonderful physical attributes.
His exquisite first touch, control and power sees him drive past players with ease. For instance, the 23-year-old had a 66% take-on success rate, completing 67 of 102 attempted.
Barkley can put a ball on a six pence with his passing, accurate 83% of the time, and delivery and his excellent technique has seen him score wonderful goals in the past.
Last season, Barkley assisted eight goals and created 82 chances, nearly double that of the next best in Leighton Baines (47).
Can Pochettino improve his decision-making?
However, his career is yet to truly take off. This can be attributed to several reasons, but Barkley lacks intelligence and the capability to consistently make the right decision.
No player in world football can reach the top level without having intelligence as an attribute and this is what’s stoping Barkley. Moves will often break down due to the midfielder’s indecision on the ball, or for making the wrong choice.
This is arguably the hardest attribute to coach in football and at 23-years-old, there is a strong argument Barkley has already reached his decision making threshold.
If the playmaker were to join Spurs, though, he would then be playing under a manager who has a history of improving young, raw and even English players. Pochettino has improved the likes of Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert when he was at Southampton, all of whom become England internationals.
At Spurs he has developed the likes of Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, two players whose decision-making and intelligence was largely in question before the Argentine joined the club.
There would certainly be a real hope that Pochettino could have the same effect on Barkley. If he could, Spurs would have a potentially world class player on their books.
Long-term successor to Dembele
Not only that, there is talk that Pochettino sees him as a possible future replacement for an ageing and injury prone Mousa Dembele in the heart of the Spurs midfield.
Barkley has a lot of the raw principals and attributes that Dembele once had, and again, if he can mature and improve, much like the Belgian has under Pochettino, Spurs could have a top level deep-lying playmaker/box-to-box midfielder to work behind the front line.
Of course, there are huge doubts as to whether or not Barkley has the capabilities to finally reach his potential. However, if he can, he would go a long way to solving many of the issues the Spurs squad depth suffered from last season.
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