With every game that passes, James McCarthy is looking more and more like an inspired signing. This lad is seriously good and has so many qualities that have been lacking from our midfield for so long. (I will not bore everyone with my often repeated reservations about Fellaini and how he contributed to many of our negative aspects.)

Everything about McCarthy revolves around pace.

Physical pace: He has both acceleration and speed over distance. He’s probably the quickest centre-mid we’ve had for a very long time when you consider Osman, Gibson, Fellaini, Arteta, Carsley, Gravesen, Cahill you have to go a long way back to find one. (Those with the longer memories who would the last fast central midfielder for Everton be that you can think of? I can’t remember one.) Paired with Barkley, we’ve got a really good quick midfield three now (well two out of three aint bad) something that is essential for mixing it with the best and those tough away games at the likes of Stoke when they look to overpower you.

Speed of thought: He has that footballing brain that some of our former midfielders (not naming names) did not. Whether it’s anticipation of danger, releasing the ball at the right time, or knowing when to foul, when to speed up the play, when to slow it down... He just has that brain.

Speed of play: He just gets it and moves it. Either with a pass or he’s driving forward. He just moves the ball quickly and effectively, none of these underhit slow rolling passes behind people. There’s none of this looking at a forward pass for an hour before deciding to drop it off backwards if it’s on, he just plays it rather than threatening to.

Speed of pressing: We haven’t really seen anyone do this since 2004-05 when Gravesen, Cahill and Carsley just crushed anything that dared to venture into the middle. The lad is up in everyone’s face straight away and is onto pressuring the next person before the initial one has even got his pass off. Against Man City, he was even holding Toure off the ball at one point. It’s so refreshing seeing him launching into tackles like a proper old-fashioned centre-mid with real aggression and a desire to win the ball rather than simply ’nick’ it. If he doesn’t get it in the tackle, he makes sure that no-one is running away from him with it.

In summary, he is what we have needed for a long, long time in midfield. He may not be the most creative or have the class of Arteta but, with him and Barkley, it is good to see a midfield again with some bite and aggression that isn’t pushed around and will not be ran all over by Gerrard and Co in the derbies. Compare Osman, Neville and Fellaini to Barry, McCarthy Barkley....

Barry has slotted right into our team but he will not go on forever. With Barkley and McCarthy, we have two-thirds of a potentially all-beating midfield to rival anyone’s in the league. McCarthy may even be able to move back and become the shielding defensive midfielder to replace Barry’s role. Either way, I believe we only have one slot to fill in that midfield three over the long term whether that be finding an Arteta or Cabaye type for creativity, or a proper holding midfielder if McCarthy plays more box to box.

Martinez has done an incredible job in reviving our midfield so quickly when you consider that the starting three are completely new this season. I always thought (contrary to some views) that our midfields have always been able to play: Osman, Gibson, Arteta, Gravesen, Cahill they could all play.... and, against the lesser sides, they would dominate and look really good. Against the top sides, though, you need that pace and aggression as a minimum. With Barkley and now the excellent McCarthy we have that.

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Reader Comments (42)

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Steve Pugh
1 Posted 21/10/2013 at 08:18:16
He does look as though he will develop into something very good. May turn out to be a bargain after all.
Brin Williams
2 Posted 21/10/2013 at 08:57:59
Kevin Radcliffe by far the fastest IMO.
Brent Stephens
3 Posted 21/10/2013 at 09:03:12
I hadn't watched Mac closely before we signed him so had an open mind. From what I've seen so far, I like him. A great engine, as they say. And strong. Won't shirk a tackle.
Colin Glassar
4 Posted 21/10/2013 at 09:07:12
I've been saying on here for a while that he is a top, box-to-box player in the Roy Keane mould. The 13m we paid for him will turn out to be a bargain as he will only get better as the season progresses.
As for your question James, I'm quite happy with our MF trio right now (Barkley, McCarthy, Barry) what I would like is a Deco/Arteta type player who can split open a tight defence with a killer pass, or who can dazzle friends and foe alike with a bit of magic. Then our MF would be perfectly balanced IMO.
Erik Dols
5 Posted 21/10/2013 at 09:24:36
I always thought Cahill was great against top sides and sometimes was absent against lesser teams, actually.

Initially I thought we overpayed for a player from the championship who never really caught my eye when he was at Wigan. But he looks good, I like the guy. If he keeps on improving like he apparantely has done last years, dare I say he will be off to Man U/City/Chelsea in two years??

Jim Potter
6 Posted 21/10/2013 at 10:04:54
And McCarthy and Barkley are still only young - so if you think they're good now ...

Peter Laing
7 Posted 21/10/2013 at 10:15:08
For the first time in many a year I feel that barring injury we could be going into the derby fixture with Liverpool with the stronger Midfield. The axis of Barry, McCarthy and Barkley will be more than a match for what Liverpool have to offer, my only reservation at the moment is the back four and Howard who seem to be incapable of ensuring a clean sheet.
Ken Buckley
9 Posted 21/10/2013 at 10:15:43
Last season I saw us play Wigan three times and on each occasion McCarthy stood out. In the cup game at Goodison I thought he ran the show. I just hope he continues progressing injury free. I imagine though he is already being scouted by those with the cash.
Erik Dols
12 Posted 21/10/2013 at 10:37:46
Ken, in hindsight I have to agree totally with you on the cup game last year. Think I erased that one from my memory...
Ciarn McGlone
13 Posted 21/10/2013 at 10:45:41
My MOTM on Saturday...rarely put a foot wrong and when he did he rectified it.

Harold Matthews
14 Posted 21/10/2013 at 10:08:55
Good article James. I've always wanted a tiger in midfield and now we've got one, although I didn't expect it to be the lad with the baby face. As Steve, Colin and Erik suggest, he might well be something special. Of course, this won't surprise his ex-manager from across the border who rates him higher than any Scottish player ever. Fact.

The Barkley situation is a concern. OK, he's involved in most of our goals but are we asking too much of him at this stage? He was pushing himself on auto-pilot ten minutes before his substitution, hence the daft back heels and not seeing team-mates. The lad was knackered and is probably still learning the art of giving himself a breather. The trouble is, youthful enthusiasm is making demands his body can't endure and Martinez will have to be careful. Youngsters don't know their own limits.

Ciarn McGlone
15 Posted 21/10/2013 at 11:18:50
Barkley's problem is that he's exhausting energy unnecessarily... I hope Martinez is taking him to the side and trying to hammer it into him that he doesn't need to beat the whole opposition when a simple pass is all that's required..

Once he stops doing this he'll not be half a knackered as he looks..

Liam Reilly
16 Posted 21/10/2013 at 11:20:36
Reminds me of a young Roy Keane, keeps the game simple and is always looking forwards. Also has the engine to really get about the opposition when we don't have the football.
Kevin Gillen
17 Posted 21/10/2013 at 11:24:35
Was pleasantly surprised Saturday in the second half. Won tackles, didn't give the ball away, spotted the danger and intervened on more than one occassion. He did stop running though for their goal and if you watch it, if he had carried on tracking back he would have easily cut out Aluko's pass. Time will tell if he meets his valuation but the signs are good. We need him at the moment because Osman and Barry are half a yard too slow, I can't see Gibson winning the sprints or Barkley so we need some legs.
Ian Tunstead
18 Posted 21/10/2013 at 11:30:45
What ever you think about Fellaini, one of the main reason Moyes signed him was because of the lack of height and presence for set pieces. If you think back before we signed him, our midfield was called the 'midget gem' midfield which was vulnerable from corners even with Cahill in the side. This also had a lot to do with the delayed introduction of Baines to the team and why Moyes preferred to play 3 centre backs with Lescott and Left Back.

I agree McCarthy has done well for us, I have always said I didn't rate Rodwell and that we should get rid and replace him with McCarthy. But as expected we are now looking shaky during set pieces as he and Barry are struggling with some of the aerial battles.

James Stewart
19 Posted 21/10/2013 at 12:00:38
Looking to be a great signing. Great engine as others have mentioned and rarely gives the ball away. Fernandes was pretty quick to answer your original post's question. 13m does not look overpriced anymore for McCartney. The 6 million man Kone on the other hand looks like a trainwreck
Sam Hoare
20 Posted 21/10/2013 at 11:43:03
I really hoped we would get McCarthy and though he was perhaps a tad overpriced (time will tell) I'm glad he's settled in so quickly. If I have one criticism it's that he's sometimes too conservative. There were a few times on Saturday that I thought the ball was on to Barkley in space but that he went for the safer ball out to the wings instead. I think he has the ability to play more incisive forward balls and hopefully will grow the confidence to do so on the right occasions. Him and Barkley are certainly an exciting double act for the future with maybe one of Ledson/green/Lundstram /Grant to join in the middle in a few years time.
Norman Merrill
21 Posted 21/10/2013 at 14:04:24
Ciaran! my thoughts exactly! the lad seems to be trying too hard! for want of a better description.

The combination of Ross, Barry & McCarthy, can only improve, now Pienaar is back, hopefully for the better.

Saturday at Villa will be a good test, they are smarting after yesterday's result.

Norman Merrill
22 Posted 21/10/2013 at 14:04:24
Ciaran! my thoughts exactly! The lad seems to be trying too hard! for want of a better description.

The combination of Ross, Barry, & McCarthy, can only improve, now Pienaar is back, hopefully for the better.

Saturday at Villa, will be a good test, they are smarting after yesterday's result.
Noel Early
23 Posted 21/10/2013 at 14:20:37
Well, that didn't take long to win people over. Some moaning done over here about his fee when we bought him. I have said it before and say it again: he will become a legend at this club and future captain. Such an exciting future.
Sean Patton
24 Posted 21/10/2013 at 14:14:07
"We only have one midfield slot to fill" two words for you: Ryan Ledson.

As Sam mentions above, he is a tremendous prospect just turned 16 and already playing for the U21s. I think, but not entirely sure that he used to be a centre half and is now playing in midfield so his defensive qualities will be good.

We should sign Barry on a free at the end of the season and then, when he is ready to retire, Ledson steps in and we have a new Holy Trinity!

Kevin Rowlands
26 Posted 21/10/2013 at 14:30:49
Colin #558, I think that midfielder your looking for was actually playing on Saturday... his name: Tom Huddlestone.

He's exactly what we could use; how the hell he landed at Hull I'll never know.

Anyway, anyone thinking McCarthy is/was overpriced we paid 14M less than the Mancs paid for Fellaini; I think that puts it into perspective.

Colin Glassar
27 Posted 21/10/2013 at 15:22:57
Kevin, I've always rated huddlestone for his passing ability. He's a lot like carrick in that sense but, like carrick, he's very slow physically and mentally. He often gets caught daydreaming on the ball and he isn't the quickest. I think we've already got a similar player to him in Gibson so I would still go for a tricky little MF player who can split defences wide open I hope bobby has his scouts trawling s.america, and Spain as we speak. I'm sure there's a few unearthed, cheap gems out there.
Vinny Garstrokes
28 Posted 21/10/2013 at 16:18:01
Yes the king is dead but my god I miss him!!


Kevin Rowlands
29 Posted 21/10/2013 at 16:20:36
Unfortunately for him and us, Gibson is someone were never going to be able to rely on for obvious reasons Colin, I do agree though, midfield is somewhere were going to have to strengthen in January because god forbid McCarthy or Barry pick up an injury. That young lad from Derby, Will Hughes looks a real prospect and would be a nice addition.
Raymond Fox
30 Posted 21/10/2013 at 17:00:24
I mentioned before we signed him that he reminds me of Alan Ball a lot (gimmer alert)
will run for 24hrs never mind 90mins.

Ball wasn't flashy, not overly creative or a great finisher but he would be the 1st name the manager put on the team sheet each week!

He will become valued at twice what we paid for him before the seasons out, we need to stick hold of him though, if we have any ambition at all.

Michael Winstanley
31 Posted 21/10/2013 at 17:59:10
Great article James.
I didn't know too much about him before he came but I've been surprised how good he is. Every game there will be a passage of play where I wonder 'who was that?' It's always him.

One thing he has over his team mates, he understands Roberto's playing style. Second half on Saturday he was urging Distin to slow it down, to keep the ball on more than one occasion. He get's the concept of controlling the tempo of the game, I expect him to become a vital player for us this season, more so than Barry.

And dad, my Skype ain't working.

Paul Ferry
32 Posted 21/10/2013 at 18:52:54
Great post, spot on James, like Harold (Matthews) I have been longing for a midfield tiger for quite a while now and we now have one. I watched the Wigan QF over the weekend and JM was absolutely magnificent; such was my horror and shame at the time that it probably slipped me by.

I'm now not sure although I felt so at the time that we did fork out well above the odds: look at the JM/silly hair fella comparisons right now on manure boards and they leave you in no doubt who they believe to be the better player.

There's been some real silly shite spouted on here at times about all things Wigan - e.g. look at Walling's 1st post on the 'Passing it to Death' thread and Nick Entwhistle's proof of his total lack of footie nous in his bizarre comments on JM in the Hull 'tussle' thread (great choice of word there, 'tussle', sums the match up perfectly). A handful of whingers and whiners and wigan-warriors aside, it's so nice to see so much harmony on here now about the gaffer, the team, and man-of-the-match by a country mile on Saturday James Mccarthy.

David Chait
34 Posted 21/10/2013 at 19:17:25
Great to read JM doing great.. I was very unsure about the signing, largely cos we had already bought 3 others..

It is awesome to know we have 2 of the most exciting youngsters in the heart of our midfield... I can see Lundstram being the 3rd.. The others seems a little far away and too much water will flow under that bridge to make any guesses... Even Lundstram is a shot in the dark.

I don't know Ledson much, but will definitely keep my eye out now. I was thinking we might have mcarthy and Barkley in the engine room with Green behind the striker! Geez imagine Lukaku was ours... What a prospect for 2015 ! Don't know why I do that to myself!

Ian Bennett
35 Posted 21/10/2013 at 20:01:37
I liked him at Wigan, he made them tick and was always the standout player for me.

13m is a lot of money, but 50% of Fellaini...., it was good business all round. I'd fancied Ramsey to go with him in the summer. I got laughed at for that, but i'd seen him shine for Wales which suggested he was about to up his game. That isn't going to happen, but another decent young centre midfielder would do a treat (ideally that bracket with a bit of height and a good left peg). Certainly fishing in the 18 to 24 bracket, is a welcome change.

Ian Bennett
36 Posted 21/10/2013 at 20:20:30
Oh and Fer looks average...
Jamie Sweet
37 Posted 21/10/2013 at 20:41:07
But how is it that he is good at football, yet played at Wigan who got relegated? I mean, who would have thought this possible?

I'm loving the way that those fans who spouted the "he managed / played at Wigan. Wigan got relegated = they must all be complete shite" are being made to look more and more silly with every week that passes.

Kevin Rowlands
38 Posted 21/10/2013 at 21:20:11
There going to look even more silly Jamie when Kone starts firing on all cylinders which he will and Alcaraz, who is a very good player comes back fully fit. Wigan were very unlucky with injuries last year and lets not forget this was a team that won the FA cup, we cherry picked their best players, we didn't recruit the whole team.
Peter Warren
39 Posted 21/10/2013 at 21:33:56
Maybe I'm missing something (and I did miss City game when he was supposed to have stood out) but unsure how people can tell already he's great unless they've studied his form at Wigan. He's looked alright to me, nothing unbelievable.

I don't understand the MoM lark as I thought Barry was head and shoulders above anybody.

Dan Brierley
40 Posted 21/10/2013 at 21:36:16
I agree with Colin Glassar, next season I would like to see Barry go back, and us have a Cabaye/Arteta type player alongside Mcarthy as the ball winning midfielder. I think its overkill playing both Barry and Mcarthy, as they both seem to do the same job. Admittedly very well, but it seems to be encouraging Barkley to come deep to get possession, and then having 6 players to get through when he picks up the ball.
Neil Quinn
41 Posted 21/10/2013 at 22:07:11
Good post. I didn't have the best stream while watching Saturday's game & couldn't always tell if it was McCarthy on the ball or not. Glad somebody's taken the time to do an in-depth analysis.

James - you mention "speed of play, he just gets it & moves it". One thing I would like to add is that most of the team seem happy to receive the ball now & are pretty comfortable in possession. Nobody is treating the ball like a hot potato which I felt was the case in seasons past.

Danny Broderick
42 Posted 21/10/2013 at 23:08:29

God only knows how many we would have conceded if we didn't have both Barry and McCarthy in the team. I think they give us a really good base to allow the front 4 to get at the opposition.

For me, we have been crying out for legs in midfield for a long time. I know the likes of Arteta, Fellaini, Carsley etc were all fit, and covered a fair amount of ground. But they all operated in 3rd gear. McCarthy does seem able to get about the pitch with much more freedom than our previous centre mids.

A word of caution though. Previously I heard some people saying he doesn't look like a 13 million player. This lad is not gonna beat 5 men or score 15 goals a season or anything like that. But what he will do is keep possession, cover the ground, press people & win tackles - all of the stuff that is necessary, but goes unnoticed. And exactly what we have been lacking in centre mid.

Ironically, it seems to be what Man U are also lacking now they have the twin towers Carrick and Fellaini in midfield. And that thought makes it even sweeter for me!

Nicholas Ryan
43 Posted 21/10/2013 at 23:30:34
Surely, he must be Lee Carsley's secret love-child?!
Paul Ferry
44 Posted 22/10/2013 at 01:08:19
Jamie Sweet - 738 - that post should enter the toffeeweb-hall-of-fame-posts.

Crap being so prolix I could never have put your points in so few sharpshooter words.

Nice one.

Tom Bowers
45 Posted 23/10/2013 at 00:07:01
Whilst there are some positives about the new players and the Martinez way of doing things, there are obviously flaws that need to be addressed quickly.

Everyone seems to agree the defence has been at sixes and sevens in several games this season. Coleman and Baines are undoubtedly great on offense but are sometimes caught way out of position leaving the speed of Jags and Distin to cope. Having said that, Jags has been a little erratic by his standards and Distin is starting to lose a yard.

It is worrying especially with Alcaraz unavailable, Stones not quite ready to replace any of the centre backs, and Heitinga not a reliable replacement either.

In the meantime, the answer will have to be greater tracking back by the midfielders when possession is given up. Pienaar replacing Osman would be a positive step to this end.

Tony Doran
46 Posted 23/10/2013 at 15:02:43
Peanut isn't finished yet. Great on the left and up's Bainsey's game but I reckon he could do a great job in the middle if he had the backup.
Danny James
47 Posted 25/10/2013 at 19:39:16
I don't believe he was overpriced at 13 million. I just think we are sensitive when it comes to spending money because we don't have a lot.

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