When the referee’s final whistle blew on Thursday night, in Chelsea’s 3-1 win over BATE Borisov in the Europa League, it was only the second time all-season that Ross Barkley did not play even a single minute of the preceding 90 on display.
With six starts and six substitute appearances to his name in Chelsea 14 matches this season (including the Community Shield), Barkley has firmly established himself as part of Sarri’s midfield rotation, building on an excellent preseason under the new head coach. That feat is even more impressive if we consider that he has to battle two other players for the third midfielder position since Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté have the other two roles on lockdown. And it’s even more impressive considering that this time last year, he was in the middle of trying to recover from a nasty hamstring tear.
Even after making his bargain-rate Chelsea switch in January — Chelsea paid £15m with just six months left on Ross’s Everton contract to avoid any market shenanigans — Barkley hardly featured. He was not ready to play, physically, mentally, tactically.
To his credit, Ross did not give up. Quite the opposite in fact. He knuckled down, worked his butt off, and has gotten his career back on track. Almost like a new signing! Now back in the England squad as well, he’s hoping to continue going from strength to strength.
“I’m in a totally different frame of mind this season. When I first arrived, I was excited to join a massive club, with the ambition to achieve success. But I came here with a long-term injury, so I had to focus on just getting my body right and getting back to normal.”
“Then I had a few niggles, so it was a bit stop-start. I knew then that this season was going to be my time, and that I would be more like a new signing this summer than I was in January, just because of where I was at physically. When you first come back from a long-term injury, you’re just trying to get your body in order and trying to get back into the training and match routine.”
“That’s why it was important for me to get a strong pre-season under my belt, because it gives you the right platform. I’m back on track and I hope I’ll continue to improve, score goals and get assists.”
Barkley has a mini, two-match scoring streak going, with the second of those coming in the 96th minute against Manchester United last weekend to keep Chelsea’s unbeaten start going. While he’s only actually started 3 of Chelsea’s 9 Premier League matches so far, given that both Kovačić and Loftus-Cheek started on Thursday, Ross could be in line for a runout at Burnley tomorrow.
“It’s brilliant how the team’s started. We’ve adapted really well to the manager’s system and started the season on fire. We’re unbeaten and that shows how well we’ve adjusted and also the manager’s style of play is really exciting for the players.
“So, you’re looking forward to games as a chance to take what you’ve learned on the training pitch onto the big stage. We have got the players who have achieved success before and we believe we are capable of doing that.”
-Ross Barkley; source: London Evening Standard
So say we all.