Gareth Barry: Barkley stronger after last season's struggles

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Everton midfielder Gareth Barry believes Ross Barkley has benefited from last season's difficulties.

The 21-year-old's struggles to recapture his scintillating form of manager Roberto Martinez's first campaign were almost symptomatic of the entire team's troubles which saw them finish a disappointing 11th.

Barkley managed just two goals, taking 11 matches to get off the mark, but has already opened his account with a fine strike in an encouraging performance during the opening 2-2 draw at home to Watford.


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"Ross burst onto the scene and set his standards so high but inevitably it is impossible to keep those going continuously," Barry told Press Association Sport.

"I am sure last season he would have wanted to score more goals and have more assists but you can't continuously keep that upward curve going.

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"But it will have been a good year for him in terms of his future and he started well with a fantastic goal."

While Everton undoubtedly need more goals from midfield, and the arrival of Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu should assist in that, their fortunes are likely to be determined by the form of striker Romelu Lukaku.

The Belgium international scored 20 times last season but eight of those were in the Europa League and without the distraction of European football this season he will be expected to have much more of an impact in the Premier League.

"Every top team needs a goalscorer scoring 20 goals and in Rom I think we have a player who can do that year in, year out," added Barry.

"It is important he stays fit and gets his confidence going and he can achieve great things too."

Fitness is currently an issue for Everton with left-back Leighton Baines ruled out for three months after an ankle injury.

With Bryan Oviedo still working his way back to fitness teenager Brendan Galloway is likely to fill in but it is a difficult ask to replace Baines - Everton's Mr Consistency who provides a threat from the flanks.

"The manager described it as a disaster and that is probably the right word because of the influence he has in games and around the dressing room," Barry continued.

"It is a chance for someone else to step in and improve us again."

Everton head to St Mary's on Saturday and Barry admits Southampton are now serious competition to them after finishing seventh last season but feels they have to take advantage of Saints' involvement in Europe over the course of the campaign.

"They are on the back of a fantastic season. Everyone was writing them off last year but the players have produced a good season," he added.

"It is teams like Southampton we are competing with - we want to finish above them and kick on from there.

"Last season it was great to be involved in European football, it is where this club wants to be, but at the same time it can take something away from Premier League performances.

"So in terms of that there is no excuse for the players not being ready for Premier League."

Everton have not won in their last six visits to the south coast club and their record there is poor.

"The last two visits have been really tough games for different reasons and I don't think they have been just football aspects - things that could go wrong went wrong," said Martinez.

"Two years ago we had two early own goals. But it is not just in the last two seasons - the last six visits we have had three defeats and three draws.

"We've only had two wins in 22 years so it becomes an extra challenge and we want to embrace that."

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