Leighton Baines Must Remain a Key Attacking Threat for Everton

Matt Cheetham@@Matt_CheethamCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15:  Leighton Baines of England in action during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group H match between England and Poland at Wembley Stadium on October 15, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

After several years of routinely exceptional play for Everton, Leighton Baines seems closer than ever to finally making England's No. 3 jersey his own.

Injury to Ashley Cole provided the latest platform for Baines, who started and excelled in England's key World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland.

Who says you need Champions League pedigree to thrive at international level?

His all-action display will be no surprise to Evertonians and, as the Toffees welcome Hull to Goodison Park on Saturday, it will be business as usual for Everton's No. 3.

However, aside from two typically spectacular free-kicks against West Ham, Baines has actually started the season in a relatively quiet manner at club level.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 17:  Steven Whittaker of Norwich City tackles Leighton Baines of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Everton at Carrow Road on August 17, 2013 in Norwich, England. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Get
Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Roberto Martinez has introduced a new style at Everton andwhile it's still relatively early to form too many conclusionsit seems to have curbed elements of Baines' attacking play. 

At this stage last year Baines was already sprinting away as the Premier League's leading creator, yet currently seems more reluctant to press forward, especially during big games.

Leighton Baines Stats After Seven EPL Games
Chances Created1130
Crosses from Open Play3847

After his first seven matches last season, he had already fashioned out 30 chances. At the same seven-game stage this season, he's contributed just 11.

He's surprisingly created only one chance in his past four games and has sent in just 11 crosses from open playboth numbers that dwarf his usual creative production.

Martinez is aiming to make Everton a more balanced, varied offence, complete with multiple threats—something that can only make the Toffees a better side and benefit them in the future.

Relying wholly on Baines can be one-dimensional, as was so often the case last season, but given his elite delivery, it's important his proficiency is still utilised.

As England witnessed first hand on Tuesday, when Baines teed up Wayne Rooney with an exquisite ball, the quality of his end product can often prove decisive.

Martinez will intend on supplying a certain amount of crosses per game, and it's important that Baines is used deliver as many of these as possible.

While he's dependable enough in most facets of his game, his attacking traits are where he strays into elite territory.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30:  Leighton Baines of Everton celebrates after scoring the first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and West Bromwich Albion at Goodison Park on January 30, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by C
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

His ability to provide for others is the primary reason his team-mates voted him Player of the Year in three of the past four seasons, and it's important he is given the platform to maintain this production. Wasting his potential in the attacking third would be criminal and would limit Everton.

Hull City will provide an interesting opposition for Baines this weekend, as—in previous yearsthis would be the type of home game during which he would relentlessly attack.

He created 17 chances in the six games against last year's trio of promoted sides, making the most touches of any Everton player in three of those six matches.

His statistical return from Saturday's game will be a revealing read and will hopefully show more of an attacking return.

There's no reason for him not to be as prominent in the final third against Hull as he was for England against Poland—even if there are times he's used as a decoy, simply to attract attention.

As mentioned, it would be far too hasty to make any judgements on Martinez for Baines' reduced production just yet.

Everton's new manager has introduced a progressive style and players will still be familiarising themselves with their responsibilities, not yet playing with the freedom of a side who know their own roles and those of their team-mates.

Martinez's approach is already improving Everton, but by using Baines more, there seems to be further potential to grow.

Statistics via WhoScored?