Chelsea finally starting to see best of Barkley
Ross Barkley has been a slow burner at Chelsea but he is finally starting to flourish under the guidance of Frank Lampard.
It’s fair to say that more than a few eyebrows were raised in January 2018 when Chelsea handed over £15million to sign Barkley from Everton.
Barkley had burst on to the scene with boyhood club Everton in 2011-12, making his debut in a 1-0 loss to QPR.
Tim Cahill claimed Barkley was the “most talented” footballer he had worked with, while former Arsenal defender Martin Keown, who was working as a pundit, predicted that Barkley “will be one of the best players we’ll ever see in this country”.
In a similar way to fellow academy graduate Wayne Rooney, Barkley had a physicality beyond his years and looked ready for senior football despite being only 16.
He made six Premier League appearances during his debut campaign and was farmed out on-loan for the following two seasons, gaining further experience in the Championship with Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds.
Barkley’s breakthrough season at Everton came in 2013-14, scoring six times in 34 league outings, as the Toffees finished fifth.
The midfielder had clearly benefitted from his stints in the second-tier and was rewarded with a first senior England cap in August 2013.
His best season in an Everton shirt came in 2015-16 as he notched eight times in the league and laid on eight assists.
Another solid campaign was to follow, scoring five and assisting eight in 2016-17, and praise continued to be thrown in his direction with some even comparing Barkley to the legendary Paul Gascoigne.
The Everton faithful didn’t get the opportunity to bid their man goodbye in 2017-18 as he spent the first half of the season on the sidelines with a long-term hamstring injury.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte drafted in Barkley to add depth to his ranks but he was restricted to just two Premier League appearances.
Joining the Blues with an injury left Barkley playing catchup from the word go, and he appeared to struggle with the fact that he was unable to immediately step up for his new employers.
Maurizio Sarri took charge for 2018-19 and Barkley failed to earn regular minutes, starting just 13 league games, and he would have been delighted to see Lampard come in last summer.
Competition for places kept Barkley on the fringes early in 2019-20, however, he started to come into his own prior to the current break in action and earned rave reviews for his performance in the 2-0 win over Liverpool in the FA Cup.
Lampard had spoken of Barkley’s importance and the 26-year-old has featured in seven of Chelsea’s last eight games.
Ross Barkley has 6 goal involvements for Chelsea this season in just 10 starts from central midfield.
He averages a passing accuracy of 88% and makes 1.5 key passes per game while offering a dominating physical presence between the lines, helping his team retain possession. pic.twitter.com/NDwjxrMLef
— (@FootballYannick) March 20, 2020
Reports suggest that N’Golo Kante and Jorginho could be moved on at the end of the campaign and Lampard appears to be confident about Barkley’s ability to slot in on a permanent basis.
Barkley certainly seems to be on an upward trajectory and former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole has even backed him to follow in the footsteps of Lampard.
It’s possible that being out of the limelight for the past couple of seasons has allowed Barkley to get back to basics.
The likes of Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and James Maddison have all heavily spoken about in terms of domestic and international football, meanwhile, Barkley has been working hard on his own game behind the scenes.
Barkley will need to maintain those standards when football finally resumes and Chelsea fans will hope he can help them over the line in the race for a top-four finish.