Everton boss Ronald Koeman has challenged Ross Barkley to improve – something he says the midfielder understands after the pair spoke privately having watched clips that left “no escape” from the reality of his performance at Sunderland.
Koeman decided to take Barkley off at half-time during Monday’s Premier League contest at the Stadium of Light, which was goalless at the break before the Toffees ran out 3-0 winners.
The Dutchman later said the 22-year-old England international “didn’t show the level” expected of him.
And, speaking on Thursday ahead of Everton’s home clash with Middlesbrough on Saturday, Koeman stressed Barkley needs to up his game “in all the aspects”.
He said: “If you play a match, you analyse it, and of course there was a reason to change Ross at half-time – because he did not play well.
“He lost many balls and a player of that quality can’t lose those kind of balls.
“We always analyse the game, and then you have individual talks, and of course I had an individual talk with Ross.
“He needs to improve, but okay – we will see at the weekend.”
Put to him that Barkley’s drop in performance level might be linked to him being left out of Sam Allardyce’s first England squad last month, Koeman said: “In my opinion, that is the past – what counts now is what happens now.
“I mention always that you get game time in national teams because you play at a good level for your club, and it is deserved.
“That was one game, what happened on Monday.
“I spoke to him and he understands – because we showed the clips, and then there is no escape.”
Koeman added: “I think it is the more the way how he used to play.
“The player is strong enough to work harder to do better pressing. You look to his qualities and he needs to be the key player between defenders and strikers – he is that position in the midfield, to create, but also defensively to be part of the team.
“In all the aspects he can improve – and he needs to improve. But he still a young player, no question.”