Ross Barkley’s Chelsea career exploded into life on Sunday as he played a key role in the team’s win over Southampton. Since joining the club in January, the 24-year-old has only played nine times in the Premier League. It was thought that the move could allow him to fulfil his potential, but he wasn’t given many opportunities to do that under Antonio Conte.
The midfielder would have been tempted to look for a move elsewhere during the summer. At the age of 24, he can’t afford to not be getting any minutes, especially after a difficult year suffering with injuries. The appointment of Maurizio Sarri came at the perfect time for Barkley and he is now getting a chance to prove himself at Stamford Bridge.
The former Everton player has played seven times in the Premier League, three of which came as part of the starting eleven. He has yet to pin down a regular place in the team, but he can’t complain about a lack of opportunity. Sarri is the perfect manager for Barkley, as the Italian encourages his teams to play attacking football and he gives the players freedom to express themselves.
Barkley has never been an excellent reader of the game or a player with broad tactical knowledge. However, he is able to produce moments of magic on a football pitch and he could prove to be a great rotational player under Sarri.
On Sunday, he was brought into the starting eleven for the game against Southampton. It was a tricky game, but Barkley was excellent as he grabbed a goal and an assist. He was very good in possession, as he completed 94% of his passes. At times, he can be wasteful and make poor decisions on the ball, but that wasn’t the case on the South Coast.
In addition to that, he attempted three shots and made one key pass. Meanwhile, in defence, he worked hard and contributed to the team keeping a clean sheet. During the match, Barkley made two tackles as he showed he wasn’t afraid to get stuck into the opposition.
It was an encouraging performance from Barkley, as he showed that he can offer something to Chelsea this season. In January, it was considered a low-risk transfer and the Blues are now reaping the rewards for taking a gamble on Barkley. Mateo Kovacic remains the favoured option in a midfield three, but the 24-year-old Englishman offers a more direct attacking threat.
In matches against the lower mid-table teams, Barkley could be a great option for Chelsea. He will look to make things happen and play in a more advanced midfield role than Kovacic operates in.
Although it is early days in the rebirth of Barkley, his performance against Southampton can only be considered a huge positive. It was important that he delivered a goal-scoring performance sooner rather than later as it will generate confidence. That will be true for him, his team-mates and the supporters. He has taken the first step to proving himself at Stamford Bridge.