After Ross Barkley scored a long-range free kick away at Swansea to win the game in 2013, Roberto Martinez, the manager of Everton at the time, claimed he was a ‘diamond of English football’
At that time, he looked certain to ascend to the very top of English football and then how much further? That question never got answered, due to a culmination of injuries and a fallout in faith from managers that halted his development – but we could yet see that question be answered due to his early season form.
When Antonio Conte left Chelsea, the defensive ideologies set up from his time in charge left with him. Plenty of players were gunning for an exit and were reportedly unhappy with the defensive style of play being asked of them. The arrival of Maurizio Sarri has brought a new attacking, pressing, creative system focused on utilizing possession to win games; the type of play a certain industrious, talented, attacking midfielder could potentially thrive on. We all know Barkley’s strengths, they’ve been common knowledge ever since he broke into the Everton team, but in case you need reminding – his ability to drive forward with the ball, to beat a man, to shoot from distance and score with both feet which is complimented by a tremendous hard-working attitude and that special something that is rarely seen all that often.
Barkley, like most players, saw an opportunity to thrive in this system and dedicated his summer to becoming as fit and as strong as he could to show his manager he was ready to not only just play in this side, but that he was hungry to learn and grow as a player and get back on track in terms of realizing his potential. It was reported that he spent the summer studying how Napoli, Sarri’s former side, played and how the tactics instilled into that team would translate into his own game and how he could find a way to embed himself into this system.
He experienced a strong pre-season with a lot of game time, but as the season began, he fell down the pecking order due to the arrival of Kovacic, the summer loanee from Real Madrid. It was clear from the early games Kovacic is a highly talented midfielder who fits effortlessly into this new Chelsea system, but a midfield three including Jorginho and Kante culminates to a very strong midfield lacking one major output – goals. Factor in the problems that persist with Chelsea’s strike force which is currently faltering and is not sustainable for title challenge against the attacking power that Liverpool and Manchester City possess. Therefore, the current outcome of the season is nearly entirely dependent on Eden Hazard’s performances and goals.
This all translates into the demand for an additional goal threat from midfield, meaning Barkley would replace Kovacic as a regular fixture in Chelsea strongest starting team. Having that creative force in midfield, Barkley is free to join attacks with the forward players as he has the insurance of Kante’s dynamism to cover the pitch and defend and Jorginho’s deep lying role means there are players behind him that can allow him the license to go and be that goal threat.
Barkley’s last three performances have shown us that he is ready to undertake the role aforementioned as his last three performances have seen two Man of the Match performances, three goals and three assists as well as being part of the England team that beat Spain 3-2 away and we are now seeing Barkley start to display the talent we were all so excited by in the breakout 2013/14 season. The sheer direct nature of his game helps to bridge the gap from possession to creation and the ability to shoot with both feet adding that extra goal threat is vital to Chelsea’s overall outcome of the season. He now fully deserves his place in the starting XI, next to Jorginho and Kante and Chelsea and England fans alike should be excited because this is only the start for him. The platform of being able to train and play with world class players under an attacking style of football should help us finally see Ross Barkley perhaps become the diamond of English football once again.