Saturday 16 December 2017

Roberto Martinez wowed by Gareth Barry's endurance

Gareth Barry has been a driving force in Everton's midfield this year
Gareth Barry has been a driving force in Everton's midfield this year

Roberto Martinez knew Everton would miss Gareth Barry's presence against Arsenal this weekend, but even he was surprised by just how influential he has been in the Toffees' engine room.

The 35-year-old midfielder will sit out both the Gunners' visit to Goodison Park on Saturday lunchtime and the trip to Manchester United after the international break having been dismissed for the second time this season against Chelsea in the FA Cup.

Martinez has started Barry in each league fixture so far and, in his absence, his Everton colleagues may find their stamina tested against Arsene Wenger's side.

Only Bournemouth's Andrew Surman has covered more distance in the top flight than Barry and Martinez admitted such an achievement was impressive given his player's age.

"It's a very interesting stat," he said. "I don't think many people, when you watch Gareth play, would come up with that stat.

"Gareth covers the ground, not just the amount of running that he does, it's how clever he is with his tactical position and the way he covers other players and reads the game. At the age of 35, to be able to have the physicality to do that is impressive.

"Of course we are going to miss him. We've only got two players who have been ever-present in the Premier League and he is one of those.

"But, in the same way, with an international break in the middle, we are going to use it to regenerate him and give him a proper break to make sure he's as strong as he can be for the final part of the campaign. We're going to get the rewards of that."

While that statistic made for a pleasant surprise, the fact the Toffees have won only one of their previous 18 fixtures against Arsenal makes for grim reading for Evertonians.

Martinez was at the helm for that solitary success in April 2014 and would have followed that up with another home triumph four months on had his side not conceded twice in the final seven minutes to draw 2-2.

"I don't think there's any secret - Arsenal are a very, very good team," Martinez added.

"They've shown over the years since Arsene Wenger has been there the way they are as a team. They are a very technical side and based in possession. They are a side that are built to win titles.

"I don't think it's a statistic that would surprise you. I'm looking at the last four, five games that we've played and we've been in every single game. We've created two or three very good performances at Goodison.

"We had a two-goal lead at Goodison and couldn't hold on and we concede in the last minute, before that we had a strong win, we kept a clean sheet and were very superior. At the same time, the only defeat that we've had this season away from home has been at The Emirates.

"You're going to see a game played in a very similar manner and the margins are going to be small. Both teams have a very strong technical approach and I expect a very close game. I don't think that stat's going to have much significance at the weekend."

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