Football is gloriously unpredictable, and things can alter almost instantly.
Before the appointment of Maurizio Sarri as Chelsea’s new head coach, Ross Barkley’s career was seemingly in a precarious situation. A hamstring injury curtailed his start to his Chelsea career, and the Englishman had concluded last season having made a mere four appearances for his new club. From the 24-year-old’s perspective, the most frustrating aspect of all was being overlooked by Gareth Southgate for a place in England’s World Cup squad. To summarise, his position was far from ideal.
As opposed to wallowing in a state of self-pity, or opting to turn to the press to facilitate his frustrations, the former Everton midfielder chose to work tirelessly over the summer, and he’s certainly reaping the benefits of his commitment.
Throughout his career, the midfielder has been recognised as an excellent technician, and due to these ball-playing qualities, Sarri has entrusted the Englishman with considerable involvement. Barkley has already attained more minutes this season, than the entirety of last season, and his commendable performances at club level have secured a return to the England squad.
The competition for a place in Sarri’s midfield is fierce, the Blues have a plethora of midfield options, and yet Barkley has been continually called upon by his manager. To date, the 24-year-old has attained 12 appearances in all competitions, and of late, his impressive performances have translated to meaningful attacking contributions.
As Premier League fanatics know, Barkley is an excellent passer of the ball, and he exhibits proficient technical quality and desirable dribbling skills. Furthermore, he has tremendous vision and a propensity to score spectacular goals.
For much of his Chelsea career, albeit somewhat limited in its number of appearances, Barkley has been impressive, but concurrently in awe of those that surrounded him. The Englishman squandered a golden chance to score against Newcastle United in his last game of the previous season, and he came mightily close to opening his Chelsea account in fixtures against Arsenal and West Ham United.
As he has grown more familiar, and at ease, with Sarri’s system and its personnel, his creative influence has become more profound. Having been preferred to Kovacic by Sarri, for the league game against Southampton, Barkley single-handedly created the game’s opening goal. The midfielder retrieved possession before sliding a delicate ball into the path of Hazard. He also registered his first Chelsea goal, converting from close-range from Giroud’s inventive cross.
Without question, the performance was a useful parameter of the progression that Barkley has attained under Sarri’s cultured guidance and having started successive games for England; the midfielder maintained his attacking contributions with a dramatic equaliser against Manchester United.
It’s worth noting that Barkley isn’t the only Chelsea midfielder that has impressed this term. Jorginho’s presence has empowered Sarri to revolutionise Chelsea’s style of play, and Mateo Kovacic’s addition has been an excellent one, which has further assisted the quick implementation of Sarri’s system. The Croat is of tremendous pedigree; he flaunts polished passing and dribbling abilities. Despite his calming presence, and formidable skills, he has only registered one assist, and he has yet to score his first goal for Chelsea.
Supporters can debate at great length to the extent of each player’s contributions, and their respective significance, yet, in statistical terms, Barkley’s contributions outweigh that of the Croatian midfielder.
Furthermore, what’s particularly relevant about Barkley’s achievements is that he has the potential to negate an area that has deeply concerned Chelsea in recent seasons. Since Frank Lampard’s departure, the Blues have struggled to provide goals from midfield.
Collectively, Chelsea’s midfielders scored eight goals last season, with Bakayoko and Fabregas amassing a joint highest total of three goals in all competitions. Barkley is already one short of that total, and he has the potential to continue with his treasured form and help alleviate the attacking burden that Hazard shoulders.
Where Barkley did appear apprehensive, he is now commanding. Where his involvement was previously understated, it’s now strikingly apparent. He has the potential to be a significant player for club and country.
The Englishman revealed that Sarri had told him to make the difference during the Manchester United game, and despite the straightforward nature of his goal, the importance of his strike cannot be underestimated.
Consistency is vital, and one senses that it’ll be central to Barkley’s prospective success with the club. In recent games, he has demonstrated his capacity to change the course of the game; now he must illustrate that quality regularly.
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