Schneiderlin: The end for Blue McCarthy?
Giovanni Trapattoni and Roberto Martinez disagreed on almost everything about James McCarthy. His match fitness, his mental strength (Trap famously said he would “punch” McCarthy if he didn’t lose his shyness), and how he should be utilised on the pitch. Martinez looked to him for his passing, his technical abilities, his vision. Trap saw him as an engine.
Morgan Schneiderlin had an equally similar period of managerial schizophrenia. Arriving to a nose-diving Southampton side as a suave and ‘unimposing’ Strasbourgian central midfielder, he soon found out that his mandate in England was to get ”up and at ‘em”. Toughening up as they climbed leagues, he progressively transformed himself into more the player Nigel Atkins envisioned and not so much the FFF.
Now, as Manchester United look to offload the Frenchman this January, it looks like their two paths could be about to merge.
Last Calls for McCarthy?
Even in this last year alone, if you were to read the press, it feels like McCarthy has used up all his nine lives. He’s been rumoured to be signing for Celtic, West Brom, Burnley, MLS clubs, and even retiring from football altogether. Ronald Koeman has seemed less than enthused with him from the start. However, recent displays by McCarthy have perhaps left Koeman second guessing himself.
He was excellent against Arsenal, so much so that Koeman made him a tactical focal-point in the Merseyside Derby the following week. A move that completely out-smarted and out-manoeuvred Klopp’s side for 40 minutes until an untimely injury forced him off. Everton buckled thereafter.
“James played fantastically tonight. He was one of the motors to start to press and to be aggressive and that was a good message to the rest of the team”
If this is a role Koeman now feels he needs (it most definitely is), it’s hard to see Schneiderlin, a more pensive and patient holding midfielder, excellent at reading the game and passing out from the back, filling that void.
Equally, Idrissa Gueye, who has been a revelation at Goodison since signing this summer, and is Koeman’s (and the fans) first choice defensive midfielder, would be a bigger risk, given his brilliance at patrolling in front of the back four, breaking up play, and winning aerial battles.
Gareth Barry, well, just isn't in the running for discussion.
But the media seem convinced that buying Scheiderlin means something has got to give with another defensive midfielder. But does it? With Coleman and Baines both attack minded full-backs, and Schneiderlin’s range of passing, it’s certainly not out of the question that all three could fit. Especially with how Ross Barkley’s career progression seems to be stuttering to a depressing and anti-climatic halt.
Recess, Your Honour
What continues to be very obvious though is that McCarthy is still discovering his game. He’s had a manager in Martinez who breast-fed him soft sweet compliments for the best part of six years. He’s had several horrid phases, perhaps headlined by his showing in Bordeaux against the Belgians this summer, and some momentum-halting injuries too. But whilst many will no doubt disagree with this, McCarthy has also been getting things right – for starters, Koeman, O’Neill, Keane, and very likely even James himself, knows more about who he is as a player than ever before. And that’s a massive breakthrough, in itself.
So, granted, he may not play every minute with Everton in the second half of this season, but he’s at a club that appreciate a player of his style and energy, he has a manager that seems to have just had his James McCarthy lightbulb moment, he has his country (and soon, no doubt, club) captain pushing him relentlessly, and perhaps most importantly (let’s face it), he has no chance of being in a side relegated to the Championship next year.
So, whilst Martinez is no doubt telling bed time stories to Hazard, Dembele and De Bruyne about how good McCarthy is – perhaps it’s about time the player starts believing it himself. Schneiderlin certainly will.
There's no rush here.