James McCarthy seems to be firmly back in Everton boss Ronald Koeman’s plans.
After an injury-plagued season, the Irish midfielder put in an impressive performance in Everton’s 2-1 win over Arsenal on Tuesday night. Although it will take more than one game to win the full backing of his manager, Tuesday can certainly allow the Glasweigen to gather some momentum.
Although Seamus Coleman was the man to steal the headlines with a goal-scoring display, it was McCarthy who put in the hard yards in the engine room.
He has struggled for game time this season, mainly owing to injury and the resurgence of Idrissa Gueye in Everton’s midfield. Some had even expected McCarthy to move on in January with Celtic and Aston Villa considered possible destinations for the Scottish-born player.
However, McCarthy seized his chance against Arsenal, proving to be a nuisance to the Gunners’ attack. Although his style of play isn’t pretty it is certainly effective. The ex-Wigan man’s partnership with Gareth Barry since joining in 2013 has been a harmonious one. Barry, himself, is an unflattering player but does provide experience and poise that has gotten the best out of McCarthy. Not only has McCarthy the ability the break up play, when paired with Barry in the past he has been given a licence to make driving runs forward.
Many Irish fans who do not watch Everton regularly may find it hard to come to terms with the idea of McCarthy ‘driving forward’, which is understandable given his modest performances in an Irish shirt. Some may argue that he simply doesn’t give his all for Ireland but others may consider his constant selection alongside Glenn Whelan as quite inhibiting.
Whelan, like McCarthy, is a disrupter but possibly doesn’t have the same positioning intelligence that Barry does to enable McCarthy a bit more room to get forward.
This video demonstrates some examples of how the Ireland international can indeed play on the front foot.
The 26-year-old looked a different player when paired with Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady at the Euros compared to his outings with Whelan.
Harry Arter is another man who McCarthy could benefit from playing alongside. It is not to say that he isn’t world class but it shows that when combined with the correct personnel he can be a serious asset to a starting team. Unfortunately this has been a rarity during his Irish career, which has caused much frustration for Ireland fans. For a player that made his first team debut at 15, many will feel that McCarthy is the epitome of unfulfilled potential.
Thankfully, the midfielder has time on his side and is relatively young at 26. Koeman is a good coach and as a former midfielder himself could be the perfect man to push McCarthy onto the next level. This did not seem the case a few weeks ago, a matter which wasn’t helped by a war of words between the Toffees manager and the Irish management team.
However, after a promising performance following a lengthy injury, McCarthy can demonstrate his qualities at Everton having seemingly won his manager over.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena