Despite being injured for much of the season and going into the holiday period with just nine minutes of Premiership football to his belt, Muhamed Besic has made quite the comeback in the last month and has become a revelation in the Everton midfield as a replacement for the injured James McCarthy and Tom Cleverley in the Toffees midfield.
Besic, who was signed from Hungarian club Ferencvaros following a solid showing at the World Cup finals in Bosnia & Herzegovina's debut appearance in 2014, had a steady first season after making the giant leap to English football but has been on the sidelines for much of this campaign with several knocks in training delaying his return to action for the first few months of the season.
He ended up re-injuring himself by rushing his return in order to make it in time for Bosnia's crucial Euro2016 qualifying playoff against Republic of Ireland, but only managed to play 45 minutes in the second half of the second leg (he was suspended for the first, the last of a three-game ban for a chewing gum incident in an earlier qualifier), suffered a setback, and Bosnia ended up failing to qualify in the end.
It meant another month on the treatment table was awaiting the 23-year-old.
But Besic, known for his fiery character and never-say-die attitude, did not let this hold him back and he made his return as a substitute in the Boxing Day win at Newcastle before a solid cameo against Tottenham saw him earn four consecutive starts in three different competitions where he excelled in all the matches and was amongst Everton's standout performers in each of them.
It's the first time in his Everton career that he's completed 90 minutes in four straight outings and his displays have gotten the blue half of Merseyside looking forward to seeing a whole lot more from a player most of them believe will himself as a permanent fixture in Roberto Martinez's starting lineup very soon.
The man nicknamed 'Mo' had very little going his way in the first half of the campaign with several setbacks disrupting his return to the pitch but he's getting some of that luck back now having benefited from unfortunate injuries to McCarthy and Cleverley which have allowed him to play as much as he has done in recent weeks.
With the way he has performed lately, it may well have been a blessing in disguise that's allowed him to show what he can do once again having had many doubts casted over his Everton future during the period he spent on the sidelines.
Interestingly, despite having mainly made a name for himself as a pure defensive midfielder, Besic has taken over McCarthy's role as a box-to-box midfielder in some of the games such as the goalless draw at Manchester City last week and has played the others as part of a defensive double pivot alongside Gareth Barry.
It's evident that Martinez is trying to improve Besic's game going forward given the fact that he is just as sound technically as he is on the defensive end and physical side of the game. And if we compare how Besic has done there in the small sample that we've gotten so far against some of the top sides in England this season, compared to McCarthy, it looks as if Martinez may have found another position in which to utilise Besic more often.
Besic has covered more distance and gotten nearly twice as many touches of the ball as McCarthy in some of Everton's toughest matches in the league this season with similar teammates surrounding the two in each of these games and similar amounts of possession ranging in the mid-to-upper 40s percentage-wise.
Of course, it's ultimately just a small sample to choose from and football isn't a sport that's defined by numbers, but it does highlight just how quickly Besic has accustomed himself in the setup and in that particular role as McCarthy's replacement.
Given the fact that he also has experience of playing in central defense and as a right full-back, that sort of versatility and adaptability only strengthens Besic's chances of finding more playing time even when there is a full quote of fit players available.
If he can keep performing at the level he's shown in recent weeks, not only is it a matter of time before he becomes a permanent starter, but Everton may even have problems keeping him away from the vultures who'll surely come circling at some point in a bid to pry him away from Goodison Park.
By Edin Halilovic
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