Everton manager Ronald Koeman has revealed that he has had "several talks" with Ross Barkley this season and says the midfielder should be 'afraid' if he ever stops conversing with him. Koeman regularly criticised Barkley during the embryonic stages of the season but is now finally getting the best out of the talented playmaker.

Barkley's form has drastically improved over the last couple of months and is benefiting from the tough love shown by Koeman after years of mollycoddling from Roberto Martinez. The Dutchman says he has spoken with the Wavertree-born star about his performances and position since taking the reins at Goodison Park and seems pleased with what he is seeing from the 23-year-old in recent weeks.

"We had several talks about his performances, about his football and about his position," the Everton boss said in his press conference. "In the last few games he's played in different positions, I think it's best for the team and himself, he's working hard. I told him if I don't talk to you anymore then you need to be afraid."

Koeman later turned his attention to another of his attacking jewels in Ademola Lookman. The former Southampton manager is rarely surprised but admitted that he was taken aback by just how quick the teenager is, and has been impressed by the starlet's start to life in the Premier League.

Ross Barkley
Barkley has become a polarising figure during his time in the Everton first-team Getty Images

"You need to wait because he's really a young player and it's good too see how easy he came in and adapted to more intensity and quality. It's a good signing for Everton, he's a young player and will be the future of the club and is already getting his chances to start. He's faster than I thought when I signed him! If you deserve to get minutes, you get minutes."

Koeman will hope Messrs Lookman and Barkley can help guide Everton to victory when they return to Premier League action against struggling Sunderland at Goodison Park. The Toffees did not have a game last weekend as they were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round and will be hoping to close the gap between them and Manchester United to just four points with a win against the Black Cats.