4 Areas Ross Barkley Must Improve on to Become a World Great
For many, Ross Barkley is already England's great hope for the coming decade.
His explosive style of aggressive running and long-range shooting appeals to the watching public. He's fast, powerful and has the ability to conjure up the unexpected—traits cherished by supporters.
Judging by this season's rapid progress, his first as a Premier League starter, Barkley seems firmly en route to the top of the game.
As with any 20-year-old, however, much of what's been seen so far is purely potential.
Barkley's still developing and would presumably accept there are areas of his game in need of further work. Given the quality he's already producing, it's exciting to consider how far this could eventually take him.
Here's a look at four key aspects Barkley must improve upon if he's to reach an elite status in world football.
Produce a Far Greater Creative Return
Barkley possesses a rare quality of being able to surge past defenders at speed.
He's recorded 65 successful dribbles this season, a total just five Premier League players surpass, while his success rate of 63 percent is the second best among the division's top-10 dribblers.
He can clearly beat a man.
While this will excite spectators, bringing many to the edge of their seat, such a devastating trait is yet to provide Everton with an appropriate amount of end product.
In fact, in 29 Premier League appearances, Barkley is yet to register a single assist this season, putting him behind the likes of Jussi Jaaskelainen, Tim Howard and Artur Boruc in terms of creative production.
That's quite a startling return for a side's No. 10.
He's created just 22 chances which is also an alarmingly low number and nowhere near the tally expected from his role.
Compared to others, the much maligned Mesut Ozil has 63 chances and eight assists from 22 appearances, while Adam Lallana's contributed 60 chances and six assists in 33 games.
At the very least, Barkley needs his ratio of chances to double that of his appearances. To reach the game's summit, he must look to triple this production.
Develop His Awareness
One reason Barkley sometimes struggles to create is due to his habit of looking down when dribbling.
He glides past defenders at ease but is then rarely able to end a run by setting up a team-mate.
To make his ability more beneficial to his team—and not just absorbing for fans—Barkley must advance this part of his game.
While his dribbling will expose and embarrass defenders it also attracts extra bodies towards him which he must capitalise on. At the moment, his runs often end with a shot, with the youngster unable to see the space his work creates.
His wonder goal against Newcastle is a fine example of this. Exceptional as it was, he had several opportunities to play in a completely free team-mate.
Barkley's passing is excellent, especially when he has time to look up, something that may ultimately lead to more of a box-to-box role in future.
When on the run, however, Barkley's radar dips, and he must develop better awareness of when to play through and look for a team-mate.
Better Accuracy in Front of Goal
As mentioned, after dribbling past a defender, Barkley's primary urge is to register a shot.
His statistics support this, with 68 shots coming during his 29 games.
Just 14 Premier League players have fired off more shots this season and—of the division's 20 most persistent shooters—only Philipe Coutinho and Nikica Jelavic have fewer goals than Barkley's five.
At the moment, his chance conversion rate is around 12 percent, which is decent enough and not too dissimilar from some of his team-mates: Leon Osman (10 percent) and Kevin Mirallas (12 percent), Gerard Deulofeu (13 percent).
In terms of reaching a higher level, however, this must increase.
Barkley's accuracy from his boot can also get better. At the moment, just 17 of his 68 shots have tested the goalkeeper—25 have been blocked and 26 have missed the target.
His shooting accuracy of 40 percent is bettered by 11 players at Everton and—referring once again to the Premier League's 20 most persistent shooters—only Coutinho has a poorer shooting accuracy.
For the quantity of shots unleashed, Barkley must test the goalkeeper more.
Finally, Barkley's highlight reel can sometimes flatter his overall contribution.
Such inconsistency is to be expected of a 20-year-old, and especially one with such raw, explosive potential, but this subject is about reaching the very top of the game.
To do that, Barkley must make a more sustained impression.
An example of this is again the recent clash with Newcastle. Barkley's reputation soared due to his wonder goal, yet his overall performance was very subdued.
He recorded just 35 touches, the fewest of any team-mate, yet turned the ball over more than any Everton player. He also produced one of his poorest passing displays of the season, connecting with just 76 percent of his passes—clearly not an ideal return for a No. 10.
The Toffees' lack of coverage meant this was almost completely glossed over with the youngster earning rave reviews for his goal.
This is also an example of why caution must be attached to such lofty expectations, especially with a World Cup on the horizon.
There's little doubt Barkley has an exciting future and can reach the very top of the game. He has as much potential as any English youngster over the past 10 years; however, there's still a fair way to go.
As with any fresh-faced prospect, slip-ups and backward steps will inevitably occur and it's important not to expect too much too soon.
Taking Barkley to Brazil is a must. Starting him and handing him such key responsibility would be premature at this stage.