Ross Barkley should be in the England team ahead of Dele Alli and the statistics fully support it.
Since his England debut in 2013, the Everton midfielder has had a rough ride when it comes to the Three Lions.
The attacking-midfielder has never been given the chance to establish himself in the side and seems to have picked up the fall guy mantle that has largely been reserved for Wayne Rooney.
Last summer Barkley was part of the group that headed to France for their ill-fated spell at Euro 2016. And although the Toffees man never played a single minute in the tournament, Barkley was somehow not worthy of a place in Sam Allardyce’s only squad following it – several of the people that underperformed managed to get in, though.
Gareth Southgate also named those under-performers in his first squad while electing to continue Barkley’s exile. The scapegoat?
The 23-year-old returned to the group for this international break but it seems the stigma from last summer lingers on. It seemed everyone but Barkley was given minutes in the defeat to Germany.
Ross Barkley has created 64 goalscoring chances in the Premier League this season, more than any other English player. pic.twitter.com/htmS85yvgn
— Everton Blue Army (@EvertonBlueArmy) 26 March 2017
Barkley is in the form of his life, revitalised under Ronald Koeman and yet can’t get in ahead of Jesse Lingard.
The Manchester United man is not the only one that shouldn’t be getting minutes before the Toffees midfielder. Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli, the new darling of English football, is another that shouldn’t be in ahead of him.
This season Barkley has played more successful passes per game, more key passes per game and enjoyed a better passing success than Alli.
That has seen him pick up seven assists so far this season, the sixth highest in the Premier League. Alli has three to his name.
Barkley’s has more than Eden Hazard, Mesut Ozil, David Silva, Philippe Coutinho and Paul Pogba have all managed. Even Cristiano Ronaldo can’t match him.
Barkley has also created more chances per game, enjoyed more take ons per game and even registered slightly more shots per game than Alli.
In total, he’s been better than the Spurs man in six key areas, despite playing 59 fewer minutes than him. He’s also been doing it while playing for a worse side. Why exactly isn’t Barkley in ahead of the former MK Dons starlet?
Most final third passes completed in the Premier League in 2017:
David Silva (181)
Eden Hazard (171)
Ross Barkley (156)
El Mago ? pic.twitter.com/sU6p2XFL9P
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) 24 March 2017
The obvious argument is goals: Alli has 14, the most by any midfielder in the league, while Barkley has four. But the truth is having the Lilywhites man in ahead of Barkley is sacrificing the group for the individual.
For a number of years, England sacrificed the team to fit the current star name into the starting line-up and this is no different.
A look at the games against Germany and Lithuania emphasises that point. In both games the Three Lions had the possession but struggled to create many clear-cut chances.
A creative influence was desperately needed, yet the joint most creative English midfielder this season was left sat on the bench.
For a number of years, England have wanted to have their own David Silva or Mesut Ozil. They have that in the shape of Barkley this season but are refusing to use him. Instead, they’re misusing Dele Alli.
There’s no denying that the Spurs star will be a future England regular but he does not provide the same creative spark that Barkley does.
If England persist with the three at the back they played against Germany, then Barkley should be a starter behind the striker. With two defensive midfielders in Eric Dier and Jake Livermore, the team will need someone with an eye for a pass.
Admittedly, it would be ideal if Southgate could find a way to get Alli and Barkley in the team. That would be a combination for many international sides to fear. It is unlikely to happen, though.
If it comes down to one or the other, as it presumably will, it should be Barkley that wins. It’d be the decision that’s best for the team.