4 Everton Players Who Must Step Up in Ross Barkley's Absence
Ross Barkley has had a major impact on Everton's fluent start to the season.
Fully unleashed by Roberto Martinez, the youngster has been used in a freer role as a No. 10, charged with running at defenders and initiating attacks.
Now that he's sidelined with a broken toe, the Toffees must find a replacement—especially with a crucial Merseyside derby approaching.
Here's a look at the candidates suited to his role and the players needing to up their game to cover his absence.
Leon Osman, perhaps surprisingly, is one of only three players to have featured in every one of Everton's Premier League games this season.
His impact has been minimal at best, and he is no longer a guaranteed starter in a full-strength side.
His versatility has seen him deployed in several roles under Martinez, occasionally stepping in for Barkley as the No. 10.
This makes the England international an obvious choice to deputise, given his minutes already played in the position.
Using Osman would be a safe option, but away from home—and in the Merseyside derby, especially—it would take the pace out of Everton's breaks.
If Osman is used, he must locate his best form from early last season and prove he can still make key contributions.
Kevin Mirallas has been his usual self this season—typically peripheral yet explosive enough to turn a number of matches in Everton's favour.
Despite remaining on the fringes, the Belgian has produced a large chunk of end product.
He's created 42 chances—seventh in the Premier League in that area—with five assists and four goals to his name. Without Barkley, this is the time for Mirallas to dominate and become the Toffees' key man.
Many fans want to see him return to a more central berth, which he played at Olympiakos. This is his chance.
He moved over during the recent game with West Brom, filling Barkley's role. While his performance was erratic, he was far more involved than usual.
This is an option for Martinez to carefully consider. Mirallas has the game to replicate Barkley, but his manager will be wary of reducing his wider threats.
It's asking a lot for a player to come in from the cold and contribute, but that is the task facing Aiden McGeady.
Aside from his cameo debut against West Brom, the Irishman has not played a competitive match since November.
Everton possess numerous attacking options with a clean bill of health, but with Barkley, Gerard Deulofeu and Steven Pienaar all missing, McGeady must make an instant impact and compensate for their loss.
He's unlikely to take the No. 10 role, but he has explosive traits to rival Barkley and his signing can boost the Toffees.
With every player fit, McGeady's not an obvious starter. He must use this opportunity to hit the ground running, impress his new employers and earn a prolonged inclusion.
Romelu Lukaku certainly won't drop back into Barkley's role, but he's another player that must find top form to cover the loss.
The Belgium international has endured a difficult few weeks, struggling with his touch and hold-up play.
After his initial burst of eight goals in his first nine Everton appearances, Lukaku has lost his rhythm, scoring just once in the following nine games—his worst run since originally joining Chelsea.
With Everton losing the attacking threat of Barkley, Martinez will be relying on his powerful striker to rediscover his predatory ways.
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