Fitter, faster and back in the fold. Ross Barkley is back on song for Chelsea and England.
The Sarri effect
Barkley was ostracised under Conte. Partly due to injuries, but also due to his style of play, which Conte was not a lover of. Where as Maurizio Sarri has shown belief in his qualities, and trusted him in a highly regimented Chelsea team.
See, Barkleys’ issue has always been his carelessness on the ball which can make him a liability and be detrimental when playing in a top side, as he is now. Barkley was in fine form against Southampton as he found the net, but against Liverpool we saw some of the indecisiveness on the ball that can make him so frustrating to watch.
In saying that, these mistakes are becoming fewer and further between.
The jewel in Englands’ crown?
His performance for England in their superb win over Spain has only added fuel to his comeback fire. His athleticism benefitted him hugely, and his quality was shown in a glorious lobbed pass that found Kane who in turn set up Raheem Sterling to make it 3-0.
There were times where his decision making was off. But what he added to the England midfield is what they were missing from their excellent world cup run; a true roaming playmaker.
Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard were tasked with being the creativity in midfield during the World Cup. We didn’t see the best from Alli and he looked off the pace in several matches. Lingard fared much better, but in what is an unfamiliar role for him.
Barkley could be the missing piece of the puzzle for Gareth Southgate. His pace and strength allows him to drive the team forward from deeper position, and he showed his vision and craft in the final third. This midfield threat frees up the attackers, which will have contributed to the scintilating performances of Sterling and Rashford in particular.
The time is now
Barkley is now 24 and should be coming close to playing some of his finest football. He has made the move to a big club. He’s back in the England team. If it doesn’t happen for him now, it might never happen at all.
He needs to kick on, and become an integral cog in the machine for both club and country. He has long been touted as one of Englands’ most technically gifted players, it’s time for him to prove that.
Admittedly, 24 is not old. However, you expect a player of his mould to be hitting their peak around 26/27. So in that sense, Ross is running out of time.
We only need to look at someone like Jack Wilshere. Arguably the most talented English midfielder since the likes of Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes. But he could never fully deliver his potential. We saw short spells of it, in between ravishing injury layoffs. Now at West Ham, this type of path will be one that Barkley is desperate not to replicate.
The next stage
A continuation in his recent resurgence in form is vital. Barkley is clearly a confidence player, losing the ball or misplacing a pass damages his decision making when he next gets the ball. After that pass to Kane he grew more in to the game and believed in his own ability.
At his best it is impossible to leave Barkley out of the England team, and his £15million move to Chelsea may just turn out to be a bargain.