Manchester City’s Gareth Barry watched Wednesday night’s Champions League defeat at the Etihad to European champions Bayern Munich from the Sky Sports studio but how much are the Blues missing him on the pitch?
City were undone by the continent’s finest team on the night in what the pundits in the studio described as a ‘masterclass’. Manuel Pellegrini’s side would have hoped to salvage something more from the game but, ultimately, they were outplayed by the champions.
Gareth Barry was deemed surplus to requirements by new Chilean boss Pellegrini this summer and subsequently loaned out to Everton for the season where, so far, he has been one of the Toffees' best performers.
Incidentally, Roberto Martinez’ side are the only team to remain unbeaten in the Premier League this season and, ahead of their trip to the Etihad this weekend, they sit fourth in the league and two points off leaders Arsenal.
Barry will not feature in Martinez’ line-up against City this weekend and his presence will undoubtedly be missed in the Spanish boss’ midfield. The 32-year-old English midfielder is one of the most underrated players of his generation, mostly due to the style of his play and the qualities he possesses.
Gareth Barry rarely scores goals – he has scored just 6 in the Premier League over the course of four season and 132 appearances since his arrival from Aston Villa in 2009. Managers have come and gone in that near five-year period – Barry has overseen something of a revolution since he moved there.
Gareth Barry rarely makes ‘Hollywood’ passes – he is neither the type of midfield architect that David Silva is for City, nor the powerhouse that Yaya Toure is and, subsequently, his vital role in the team is often overlooked because of its subtlety.
His role is as a patrolman in front of the backline where he anchors the play between defense and midfield – when his team have possession he sits in the oval on the halfway line reading the game and when his team loses possession he breaks up the oppositions attacking play, squashes the space, often winning the ball back and distributing it to a teammate up field where he repeats the process in a cyclic fashion.
He is aerial dominant, defending in his own penalty area whether it be set-pieces or long-balls in open play, he is a leader, a commander on the pitch, always calm, always composed and always committed.
Statistically, on Wednesday night, against probably the best football team in the world, City had just 33.6 per cent possession of the ball (at home) and completed just 43 per cent of the passes the opposition completed.
In the middle third of the pitch, Bayern were allowed to complete 92 per cent of their passes and, in the final third, 90 per cent of their passes. City were successful in just 57 per cent of their attempted tackles over 90 minutes and made just three interceptions over 90 minutes in central areas between the penalty area and the halfway line.
£30 million summer signing Fernandinho who effectively replaced Barry’s role in City’s team this summer, made five tackles over 90 minutes. He made just one interception all game, won two of his three attempted aerial duels and had a total pass completion rate of 83 per cent.
Gareth Barry also played a European champion side this season – okay, it was the Europa League winners Chelsea but they won the Champions League by beating Bayern the season before, so it’s close-(ish) – when Everton beat Jose Mourinho’s side 1-0 at Goodison Park last month.
Gareth Barry was Man of the Match in that game – he completed 100 per cent of his tackles, 100 per cent of his interceptions, 100 per cent of his clearances, operated a pass completion rate of 97 per cent and made a block in front of goal that ensured the Toffees took all three points on the day.
Now, I’m not suggesting Barry would have had the same impact against Bayern Munich but surely he would have had more impact than Fernandinho who is, whilst a very talented player, not the same leader, not the same protector, not the same comfort blanket that Gareth Barry has been for Manchester City.
image: © dalli