Gareth Barry believes the Everton squad for the new season is “definitely the strongest” he has known during his four years at the Club.
And the Blues’ vice captain says the “massive signing” of Wayne Rooney will help boost Ronald’s Koeman’s group with vital experience to blend with the crop of young talent aiming to make their mark.
Barry was impressed with the Toffees’ performance in the 3-0 friendly win over FC Twente on Wednesday in east Holland. The 36-year-old midfielder started the match as Everton dominated throughout and showed their depth of talent, using 21 players on the night.
Barry insists that will be crucial for coping with the demands of European football. And after the arrival of his former England teammate Rooney, he feels Everton have plenty of reasons to be positive going into the 2017/18 campaign.
Asked how he ranks the current Blues squad to others he has been part of since first moving to Goodison in September 2013, Barry told evertontv: “In terms of depth it’s definitely the strongest. Wayne coming in has added a lot of experience. He knows all about winning so that’s a massive signing for us and a big signing for the dressing room.
“With the mixture of the energy and the young players we’ve got, experience as well, it’s looking very good. At the same time we all know the Premier League is very competitive, there’s a lot of money being spent on top players and we’ve got to get in amongst it.
“It was important with us qualifying for the Europa League. We’re going to need the strength in depth, not just for the Premier League. We found out a few seasons ago how hard it can be so the Club’s learnt and got a really strong setup here.
“We need to take these pre-season games very seriously, play them like we’re playing the competitive games because they are just around the corner. We’re going to expect a couple of tough games in the Europa qualifiers so we’ve got to be ready.”
Barry impressed during his hour-long shift against FC Twente as goals from Kevin Mirallas, Aaron Lennon and Kieran Dowell steered Everton to victory.
The former Aston Villa and Manchester City midfielder reserved special praise for 20-year-old forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and called on Everton to maintain that level for Saturday’s friendly against KRC Genk in Belgium (3pm kick-off UK time, 4pm local time).
“It was another good workout,” added Barry, who sits second in the Premier League all-time appearances list on 628 games, just four short of Ryan Giggs. “I think Twente are a week ahead of us in terms of fitness but I thought we kept the ball well in muggy conditions so it wasn’t easy for the fitness but it was a good workout again.
“We played some good stuff first half. I thought Dominic was very good. He made a lot of space and good runs behind to make it easy for us to play the balls up. We squeezed high and dominated the game both halves.
“Saturday is now another important one, the last one before Europe so we’ll go there and try to put in a similar performance. The spirit in the camp is very good. The manager’s very big on making the team unit together. We had a little taste last year for what he likes so we know what to prepare for.”