With both Liverpool and Everton struggling for chances in the Merseyside derby, Michael Graham looks at the missing creative ingredients in either side.
There was nothing really wrong with Liverpool’s performance at Goodison Park at all, was there? They were generally solid and created chances. For spells, they were downright dominant and they deserved their 1-0 win.
What they did have a little lack of was sparkle. In other words, they missed Philippe Coutinho.
At the start of the season, Liverpool were the team to watch in the Premier League. It was fast, frantic stuff, and impossible to predict. That made them fun to watch.
Without Coutinho, they have still been fast and frantic, and are still capable of quality. However, I wouldn’t say there was the same kind of expectancy of magic you feel when the Brazilian is on the pitch.
Liverpool are a good side, and have clearly been transformed by Jurgen Klopp into a very easy side to like too.
They really can’t get Coutinho back soon enough, though, because he’s that little piece of genius that turns good sides into great ones, and that’s what they are going to need to be this season to reign in Chelsea and win the Premier League title.
If there is a more frustrating player in the Premier League – in fact, if there has ever been a more frustrating player in the Premier League – that Everton’s Ross Barkley, then I must have missed him.
The midfielder’s talent is unquestioned, and the reason he gets games at Everton is because he is very much capable of producing moments of absolute brilliance. He’s a potential match-winner, and there aren’t many like him about.
But good grief is he frustrating!
Part of the problem, I think, is that he knows he is capable of the big moment and he goes looking for them. Some will probably tell you all about how that’s brilliant to see in a young player, how he courage and attitude is to be commended, and all that kind of rubbish. I don’t agree at all.
Barkley seems to have that knack of getting himself in so many good positions. What follows next tends to be the problem, because it usually involves an absolutely terrible decision that tends to result in the abrupt and unsatisfying end of an Everton attack.
Long-range shots are rushed and skewered every which way but in the directed of the opposition goal, often against the backdrop of a team-mate in a far better position glaring skywards in exasperation. Sometimes he just seems to want too many touches on the ball while defenders around him are gratefully taking advantage of the time to get themselves back behind the ball.
This may be a criticism of Barkley but it’s not intended as an attack. If he was a player if neither liked nor rated, it wouldn’t bother me so much when he doesn’t produce.
However, fact is that, in terms of maturity, he hasn’t developed anywhere near quickly enough and he simply won’t do justice to his talent until he recognises it and starts doing something about it.