Earlier in the week, Everton manager Roberto Martinez spoke glowingly about four of the younger members of his squad -- James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley and John Stones -- and his plan to reward them with contract extensions. - Report: Pienaar set to miss three weeks Aside from Barkley, who has two years to run on his current deal, the others are already on lengthy contracts: Coleman has three years remaining, while McCarthy and Stones are tied down for four more years. Renewing the McCarthy deal, in particular, will strike many as odd. The midfielder is yet to complete his first season on Merseyside, but it underlines the kind of forward thinking synonymous with his manager. Tying these players to long-term deals puts the club in a strong position, one from which they can (in theory) resist the advances of other clubs, thereby allowing Martinez to maintain the task of moulding this group to his requirements. At 25, Coleman is the oldest member of a quartet -- McCarthy (23), Barkley (20), Stones (19) -- with plenty of football ahead of them. In an ageing, albeit experienced and talented squad, these four have the time and ability to become the standard-bearers for Martinez's Everton. Continuing his fine form from last season, refining his previously wayward crossing ability along the way, Coleman has excelled under Martinez. The right back is the top scoring defender in the league, scoring six in 26 appearances, with only Romelu Lukaku (10) hitting the back of the net more often for the Blues this season. Although perhaps at his best terrorising opponents in their own final third, Coleman has improved tremendously in defence, using his pace and combative approach to great effect. There are few, if any, better right backs in the division on current form. Displaying a similarly aggressive approach is McCarthy; the midfielder heads his teammates on tackles won (65) and tackles attempted (85). Central midfield competition is scarce, admittedly, especially with Darron Gibson injured, yet McCarthy has deservedly cemented his place as one of the first names on the team sheet. Another 'benefiting' from injuries to others is Stones, with the established centre-backs all spending time on the sidelines in recent months, and the young defender has not looked back. Seizing his chance at the heart of the defence, showing maturity beyond his age, Stones has demonstrated his obvious potential in the absence of injured captain Phil Jagielka. The only slight aberration on his fledgling career was the Anfield derby, with Stones lost as a stand-in right back. Comfortable on the ball -- more so than the first choice pairing of Jagielka and Sylvain Distin -- with a team-high passing accuracy of 91 percent, Stones has all the necessary attributes to become a permanent fixture in this ever-evolving side. That leaves but one: Barkley, who is, arguably, the jewel in the crown. Attempting the most dribbles (94) in the squad, the young midfielder is at home with the ball at his feet, whether it is picking a pass or running at the opposition. Enjoying his most consistent and prolonged spell in the team, Barkley can be thankful for a manager willing to enhance his development by taking the rough with the smooth. Mistakes do not concern Martinez; they are inevitable in a young player learning his trade. The important part is how a player reacts to them. Showcasing the kind of fearless approach absent in others who are more advanced in years and experience, Barkley is a refreshing presence with his refusal to hide and a desire to influence proceedings, even when form or fitness are lacking. Able to continue their upward trajectories using a style suited to their talents, while one or two begin to look like future captaincy candidates, this foursome are more than capable of providing the youthful catalyst for driving forward Martinez’s positive, attacking brand in years to come.
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