Ross Barkley looked like a man possessed at the start of the season as he begun to stake a claim in the starting XI upon the arrival of Maurizio Sarri; the former Everton man had previously looked unlikely to show anything more than glimpses of what we knew he was capable of during his time at Goodison Park.
Under new management, the 25-year-old seemed to have found a new lease of life – particularly during October, where he scored and teed up three in as many games – however he has been unable to carry that form further and has neither netted or assisted since.
The England international’s poor form was compounded by his recent performance against London rivals, Spurs, in the Carabao Cup semi-final – Chelsea were edged out by the Lilywhites but the 1-0 scoreline was not necessarily a representation of how the game played out, in particular for Barkley.
Sarri’s midfield three are highly contested roles in his team as the Italian has a variety of options to choose from but is very clear about what he demands from each.
The manager’s refusal to deploy N’golo Kante in a holding midfield role is testament to his determination – some may call it stubbornness – to ensure his tactics and ideals are executed on the pitch.
World Cup winner Kante seems to understand what is required of him in his new, more advanced role and was one of the best players on the park on Tuesday but the same cannot be said of Barkley, who was deservedly substituted for his poor showing.
The number 8 completed, astonishingly – as these are usually key features of his game – just 1 key pass as he failed to find a killer ball and was unable to complete a single dribble. Barkley’s powerful runs and vision were what made him a shoe-in for Sarri earlier on in the season but he lacked both on this occasion.
WhoScored, in fact, lists the Liverpudlian’s passing as ‘very strong’ along with his finishing and long shots – again, both of these were absent from his performance against Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
Barkley took on 4 shots – not too bad – although not a single one of these efforts hit the target as he failed to trouble Spurs’ deputy custodian, Paulo Gazzaniga, on the way to a relatively easy clean sheet for the Argentine.
With Ruben Loftus-Cheek also finding his rhythm at stages this season and Real Madrid loanee Mateo Kovacic more than capable of filling the coveted third midfield spot, Barkley is surely running out of chances to impress Sarri and may soon find that the frequency at which he is handed starting opportunities begins to decline should he not regain his verve.
At just £15m, the misfit is surely one of the Stamford Bridge outfit’s most shrewd signings in recent years however he must wake up and smell the coffee or risk replacement – the Blues have already demonstrated that they are willing to splash the cash on areas that Sarri feels need improvement and, however full of talent it may be, the midfield is not excusable if the 59-year-old doesn’t like what he’s seeing.
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