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Ross Barkley's value to Everton shown by Koeman's lacklustre No. 10s

Ross Barkley's value to Everton shown by Koeman's lacklustre No. 10s
From ESPN - October 13, 2017

It has seemed a recipe for regressions. Everton have spent 144 million and gone into the bottom five. They have scored three fewer league goals as a team than the striker they sold, Romelu Lukaku, has mustered on his own for Manchester United.

Yet the forward is not the only man they are missing. Ross Barkley is injured but not gone. Everton replaced him without finding him an alternative employer. And not once, but three times. Change may have been enforced by Barkley's refusal to sign a new contract, but it was also botched by Everton's inability to sell him and their triple-pronged efforts at finding a successor.

Because when manager Ronald Koeman fielded the trio of No. 10s he signed this summer, it looked as if Everton were playing with nine men. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Wayne Rooney and Davy Klaassen all converged in the middle, each trying to occupy his preferred position. Everton lost 3-0 to Tottenham when all three started. They were losing 1-0 to Bournemouth when Koeman took two off. It is already apparent the three imperfect 10s cannot play together. There is scant evidence that two can.

Rooney and Sigurdsson have spent 618 minutes on the pitch together. In that time, they have one goal apiece and the Icelander has an assist, all against either Hajduk Split or Apollon Limassol. In the Premier League, their combined record when paired shows no goals and no assists in 472 minutes. Everton's record signing and their boyhood fan represented their two flagship additions. Koeman demoted Rooney against Burnley while selecting Sigurdsson. It suggested he may be concluding they are incompatible. As for Klaassen, the 23.6 million buy from Ajax has offered so little that Evertonians are bemused precisely where his strengths lie.

Yet each is hampered by the presence of the others. There are teams-- Brazil in 1982, Croatia in 1998-- that had so much talent, a suitable style of play and sufficient understanding that they could accommodate three No. 10s. Everton's class of 2017 are not among them. They illustrate that most sides require the balance different players with different attributes offer. In particular, the three slow or slow-ish No. 10s would benefit from more speed, width and movement on either side and in front of them. Sigurdsson's sole assist, against Apollon, came when winger Nikola Vlasic made a burst into the penalty box.

And it prompts the thought that the No. 10 Everton need most is the one they discarded. Koeman suggested in July that Barkley's Everton career is over. That was before he suffered a hamstring injury that could sideline him until December and before the breakdown of a move to Chelsea, amid a dispute if he attended a medical.

Barkley is less of a classical No. 10 than the newcomers. That may be what Everton need. He is part playmaker, part runner. The Paul Gascoigne comparisons were overblown, but Barkley possesses a similar capacity to beat a man and carry the ball deep into enemy territory, which Rooney used to, but the days when he surged up and down the flanks for Manchester United are very much confined to the past. Now Koeman has a slower trio, each suited to the centre.

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