Everton boss Ronald Koeman was full of praise for Ross Barkley after the Toffees midfielder shone in Sunday’s 2-0 win over West Ham.
Barkley has had his troubles this term, losing his place in the England squad and being substituted by Koeman at half-time at Sunderland in September, with the Dutchman afterwards making it clear he wanted the 22-year-old to raise his game.
But he was in fine form against the Hammers, capping a very lively display by striking home the second goal in the 76th minute from a cross delivered by Romelu Lukaku, whose header had made it 1-0 five minutes after the break.
Koeman said of Barkley’s performance following the match at Goodison Park: “I think it was one of his best of this season.
“He was working hard, he was tackling offensively, and he was important in the game.
“(West Ham goalkeeper) Adrian made an incredible save (to deny Barkley) in the first half, and then he scored the second goal.
“He was really the player between the defence and the front to create, and that is what you like to see.”
Lukaku’s goal - a close-range conversion of a tee-up from Yannick Bolasie, who had reacted well to send the loose ball across to him when Adrian parried a Seamus Coleman shot - kept up his remarkable scoring record against West Ham.
The Belgium striker has a goal a game in appearances for Everton against West Ham - a run that which has now extended to nine matches.
And Koeman, whose sixth-placed side registered their first win in five Premier League outings, said of the effort that took Lukaku to seven club goals this season: “You have to recognise the work of Bolasie to give the assist.
“And if you have players like Romelu, if he gets that chance he will score.
“Sometimes it is difficult to explain why you have a row of scoring goals against a certain opponent.
“But he showed today he is a fantastic striker and a very important goalscorer for the team.”