England registered yet another fantastic performance as they put five past Montenegro on Monday, with Ross Barkley scoring twice in what was a man of the match display from the Chelsea man.
The 25-year-old might have been given a telling off after possibly stealing international and club teammate Callum Hudson-Odoi’s first goal for the Three Lions but, regardless of that tap-in, his showing should have got Blues boss Maurizio Sarri thinking ahead of the trip to Cardiff this weekend.
The former Everton man was – as he often is for Chelsea – deployed in a midfield three alongside an anchor and another number 8 and excelled in every aspect of his game besides the goals, of which he scored two.
Southgate and Sarri may seem like total opposites but both demand a lot from their midfielders. Barkley obliged on Monday night and his brace might have disguised the excellent work he did in defence – the Liverpudlian completed three tackles as he broke up play well and started England attacks.
Of course, though, his impact on the front foot is the real talking point and rightly so – the star performer took on three shots and created two chances, two and one of which, respectively, resulted in goals.
The ball in for Michael Keane was perfect while he also got into the right area to prod home Hudson-Odoi’s effort, before arriving in the right area to slam home Raheem Sterling’s cutback and score his second of the game.
It is unlikely that we would have seen Barkley score those goals if Sarri was in the Three Lions dugout on Monday – the Neapolitan has slowly stripped the player of any license to get forward and cause the problems he did in the early stages of the season.
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Having chalked up three goals and three assists in October, Barkley was nominated for the player of the month award and it looked like Sarri was going to make proper use of the midfielder who had begun to stagnate under Antonio Conte. Fast-forward five months, though, and the Blues number 8 hasn’t found the net since and has only added one to his assist tally in the league.
If Sarri was tuned in to England’s demolition of Montenegro, then he should have learned that Barkley is at his best when allowed to power forward and get into the box. Will the former Napoli boss give the player chances to do so when we return to domestic action at the end of the month?