The signing of Fernandinho from Shakhtar Donetsk all but signaled the end of Gareth Barry’s time at Manchester City. The midfielder may have made 31 Premier League appearances for the club last season, 27 of which were starts, but the Brazilian leapfrogged his new teammate upon his arrival and a move away from the Etihad was deemed the best course of action for Barry.
A deal taking him to Everton hinged on the departure of Marouane Fellaini on deadline day, and despite missing the beginning of the season the experienced Englishman took to his new surroundings with relative ease. Settling in alongside fellow summer arrival James McCarthy in the middle of the park, Barry injected experience into the midfield and allowed manager Roberto Martínez to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation.
His performances saw only Bryan Oviedo (7.38) and Seamus Coleman (7.32) end the campaign with a higher WhoScored rating (7.31) for Everton. This highlights how well the 33-year-old performed for the Toffees in their 5th placed finish, with the on-loan midfielder impressively shielding the defence.
Regardless of how well Barry played in an Everton shirt this season, City are unlikely to retain his services and following a commendable campaign, potential suitors are expected to be lining up to secure his signature. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that the Merseysiders fight off competition to keep him at Goodison Park.
Everton had a considerably better win percentage in league games this season with Barry starting (62.5%) than without him (16.7%), hinting at how pivotal a role he played for the team. Furthermore, the team netted more goals per game (1.69) and conceded fewer (0.94) when Barry started compared to when he did not play (1.17 and 1.5, respectively).
Focusing initially on the defensive aspect of his game, the number of goals shipped per match when he starts comes as little shock. Barry has previously been commended for his ability to shield the backline and he exhibited this quality under Martínez.
Only Chelsea (27) and Manchester City (37) shipped fewer Premier League goals than Everton (39) this term, a tally which is their lowest since the 2008/09 season (37). Barry was crucial to this defensive solidity and it’s reasonable to suggest the team would have let in yet fewer had he been available for all 38 games. Much of this was due to his tackling ability - of every Everton player, only McCarthy (3.3), Oviedo (3.2) and Leighton Baines (2.9) averaged more tackles per game this season than Barry (2.7).
Also important, however, was his insistence on sitting deeper, thus allowing McCarthy to flourish. The Republic of Ireland international is able to press further forward and energetically harass the opposition into giving up possession, highlighted in the aforementioned average number of tackles per game.
Yet the Englishman arguably outshone McCarthy, winning possession the most times in the midfield third (131) of every Everton player. Furthermore, only defenders Coleman (123) and Baines (82) did so more times in the defensive third than him (77) at the club.
As a result, Barry was able to exhibit the more offensive side of his game after winning the ball back for his side. Exploiting the talent of the likes of Kevin Mirallas, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku was the ideal way to hurt the opposition and moving the ball from defence to attack as quickly as possible meant a player with good distribution was crucial.
The midfielder stepped up to the task at hand, averaging more forward passes per game (25.2) than any other in England's top tier this season. Moreover, only Yaya Touré (71.5), Michael Carrick (70.7), Mikel Arteta (69.4) and David Silva (69.2) averaged more passes per game than Barry (67.4), showing how central he was to Everton's much-discussed fluidity in the campaign.
With Barry featuring prominently on the left side of the defensive midfield pairing, as his heatmap shows, it’s no wonder Everton developed a statistically calculated style of play of ‘attacking down the left’ when factoring in his involvement in play.
Both defensively and offensively, Barry has proven his worth for Everton. Despite his impressive performances, City are expected to sell him this summer and the Toffees would be wise to sign him permanently once the transfer window re-opens.
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