Gareth Barry can’t play against Newcastle. This is probably a good thing.
NOT just because at 34 it’s inevitable he would find it difficult to play so soon after Thursday’s morale-boosting comeback win over Dynamo Kiev.
Barry’s suspension means Roberto Martinez will almost certainly end up playing someone in the Everton engine room who is better suited to the job.
It’s sad to say, but Barry feels like the new Steven Gerrard. A once key player who has cost his side goals this season and is starting to look like a liability.
Ironically Gerrard could be back for Liverpool on Monday. But they’ve won every Premier League game this season in which he hasn’t played.
Their league revival has also coincided with taking him out of a holding midfield role where he was putting his defenders in trouble by failing to do much defending.
Sadly, the same can be said of Barry – and Everton fans can only hope his absence helps the Blues the way Gerrard’s absence seems to have helped their neighbours.
Barry is still a more reliable passer of the ball than McCarthy, Besic or Gibson, which is why Martinez still picks him.
But he looks a spent force. How many times has he put his team in trouble by coughing up the ball under pressure or failing to close down his man?
Since he returned from ankle ligament damage he has just not looked the same player.
Remember Harry Kane making a mug of him at White Hart Lane or the way Hull targeted him when Martinez bizarrely tried to shoehorn him into a makeshift back three?
Barry was outstanding for Everton last season. But enough is enough. He is an accident waiting to happen right now.
Not so long ago he became the most booked player in the Premier League, and his red card at Chelsea could easily have come on several other occasions.
It’s not just his lack of pace any more. It’s his speed of thought as well.
Everton showed against Dynamo (as well as countless other times this season) that they need quick minds and high-tempo passing to succeed.
Hopefully Barry’s absence against Newcastle will help to give them this. The options are certainly there, especially with Leon Osman now back as well.
Nevertheless, it’s almost certain Martinez will find a way to get Barry back in the side once he’s over his ban.
And this is not to say Barry – or Gerrard – will not bounce back with a headline-grabbing moment or two before the season is over.
But let’s just hope the Everton midfielder doesn’t end up having a Demba Ba moment instead – because that could be even more catastrophic for his team than Gerrard’s was.