Regular readers will remember the Muhamed Besic love-in from the Summer, so this might sound a bit contrived. It’s really not meant to; Besic was excellent at Goodison Park last night and gave the most encouraging performance of his short Everton career.
The Bosnian is not yet a complete player and he does have some mild-yet-visible imperfections. It’s worth remembering, though, that the QPR game was only his seventh Premier League start and occasional errors in positioning are to be expected until he becomes a little more experienced. An international though he may be, Besic has been playing in Hungary for the past two seasons and English football is a substantial adjustment for him.
Ross Barkley walked off with the Man Of The Match award last night and, being English and having scored the goal that he did, that was really inevitable. Barkley did play well and he wasn’t undeserving of individual recognition, but a lot of the freedom that he enjoyed came from the protection that Besic provided. The Bosnian played a the lone anchor in the Everton midfield, acting as both a defensive screen for Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin and the distributional conduit between the back-four and the more advanced players.
What really stood out last - and what also shone at the World Cup - was just how diverse his skill-set is. He’s nominally a defensive-midfielder, but he’s also technically gifted enough to be a factor on the ball and to be more than a destructive player.
As has been mentioned by others, maybe the biggest obstacle to his progression is actually his confidence? Nobody will ever forget the first touch he took in English football - the ludicrous back-heel against Chelsea which allowed Diego Costa to run through on goal - and that seemed to be emblematic of player who allows his self-belief to periodically run-away with itself.
That’s a tolerable negative,though, and it’s really the kind of issue which dissipates with time and experience. Once Besic learns how to slightly temper his exuberance and channel all of his ability in a more team-friendly direction, he’ll be an exceptional player - and we saw the start of that process last night.
His tackling is also a little bit of a concern. In my mind, all ball-winning players should have a bit of an edge to them and Besic is pleasingly aggressive when he contests possession. He does flirt with the line a bit, though, and he needs to ensure that - whilst retaining his menace - he doesn’t give referees an excuse to punish him too often. Right now, there is a collective intake of breath every time he leaves his feet.
Still, the positives from last night was far more significant than any negatives and that was a hugely encouraging performance. If he keeps learning and if he continues to adapt his game to this environment at the same rate, that £4m transfer-fee will look increasingly more ridiculous.
(Graphic via Squawka).
For Squawka: The rise, the fall and the apparent resurgence of Aaron Lennon.