June 6, 2009

Gareth Barry

Gareth Barry is a very overrated footballer. He’s a good player, no doubt about that. He’s not, however, one of the best midfielders in England, although yes, he probably is one of the best English midfielders. His transfer to Manchester City this week has got me thinking on two levels:

  1. The transfer in general.
  2. Spurs missing out on him.

The transfer in general

Initially, reading Barry’s letter to Villa fans you can’t help but think “fair play to the guy”. He’s spent a lot of time at Villa and won nothing. He’s brought them in a decent transfer fee (although only about half of what they could’ve got this time last year), which will allow them to bolster a few other areas of their squad (which certainly needs to be done). He’s been made a big offer from City that was too good for him to turn down.

Then you start thinking about this from the point of view of a Villa fan – their club captain, fan favourite, longest-serving player. He gets his break in the England team and starts to make a name for himself. Great for the club, who are already doing the best they’ve done for some time (certainly the best whilst he has been there), to be getting some recognition. However, he decides he needs to move on to win things, and to play Champions League football. After the protracted move to Liverpool, the fans were very happy for him to stay for one final year, in the hope that he could help them qualify for the CL, and then would maybe stay. If they don’t manage it, then fine – he is free to go. And after all that, he moves to a club that finished 4 places and 12 points below them.

So City are aiming to break into the top 4 next year by signing some star players (Tevez, Lescott and Eto’o if you believe rumours) from around the world. Strange, then, that they’d prioritise Barry when, I’m sure a lot of their fans would agree, De Jong and Kompany were two of their better performers in the midfield holding roles towards the back end of the season.

Spurs missing out on him

There were plenty of rumours to suggest that Spurs were keen to sign Barry – with the likely departure of Zokora, and with O’Hara and Huddlestone hinting that they’d move on in search of first team football, it would be no surprise to most Spurs fans that Redknapp may want to bring in some quality competition for Jenas and Palacios. Indeed, Redknapp confirmed in his Sun column that this was the case, and that we’d lost out on Barry to Manchester City’s millions.

On the face of it, Barry sounded like a great idea – this is the guy who has taken Carrick’s place in the England set-up. Carrick, who was the best midfielder Spurs had had for many years, and whose departure left us with a gaping hole in our team. So Barry must be perfect, right?

Remember though, that we’re a totally different side to the one that Carrick played in. In the days of Carrick, we frequently played a lop-sided 4-4-2 – Lennon wide right, with Davids (or Tainio) and Jenas tucked in close to Carrick. Carrick would sit deep and dictate play – everything went through him. In the last half of the season under Redknapp, we tended to play with Jenas and Palacios holding, giving Modric and Lennon license to roam and create. Jenas and Palacios have complimented each other well – neither player sitting particularly deep, but both well aware of their defensive responsibilities, and both with a burst of acceleration that allows them to be quick to recover their positions when necessary.

I simply can’t see how the Barry that we see for England would fit into our formation. Firstly, because he plays too deep and, secondly, because he is painfully slow. Our midfielders are left to mop up and to pass the ball quickly to the creative players, and occasionally to support the attack or to drive forward with the ball. They aren’t playmakers.

It’s also worth pointing out here that Barry has played a totally different role at Villa this year. With Petrov as the deepest lying of the midfield players, Barry has played often as a schemer – a passer, short or long range, who likes to arrive late in the box, or pop up on the left wing. This player wouldn’t really fit into the line-up either. Essentially, we’d be paying £12m for a 28 year old who would then need to adapt his game, and who we wouldn’t really be getting the best from.

And now I revert back to my opening line – in my opinion, Barry is an overrated player. I’d pick Carrick over Barry for England all day long, and I’d also pick Jenas/Palacios over Barry for Spurs’ midfield.

Plenty more fish in the sea.

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