Ross Barkley, picked as the player to accompany Maurizio Sarri to the pre-match press conference, started the last Europa League game against PAOK and got the assist for the only goal of the match, scored by Willian.
After a year of injuries, transfer drama, more injuries, and bench time, Barkley’s certainly enjoying the new season under Sarri. He’s learning a new position, too, and getting a tactical education, all of which are making for a pretty happy time in his life right now.
“Last season was tough, but I thought this was a good chance for me to play. There is a lot of technical work, I feel like I am going to continue to improve.
“Right now Sarri’s philosophy has helped me a lot. I haven’t been coached much, but I am at an age where I understand football a lot more. I understand every aspect of the game. Martinez played me in a number ten, something I had never done before. Now I am in a three and I think that it is helping. The last couple of years I have had injuries, but I think I am fresh now.”
Barkley’s history of injuries could put a damper on any player’s career, but he’s stayed strong and focused and has shown plenty of mental fortitude to push through the setbacks. That he’s done so while also stepping up a level from Everton to Chelsea makes it even more commendable.
“I came here excited, it was bound to be frustrating but I was mentally tough and even though I wasn’t playing I felt I was improving in training. This season I have had a strong pre-season and feel like I am kicking on. It was hard to leave Everton, being my boyhood club. But I felt it was the right time. I needed to take this chance.”
Barkley’s mental fortitude doesn’t apply only to club football; it also extends to international football. After being overlooked for the England squad for for the 2018 World Cup, the midfielder hasn’t given up hope and is looking to make a comeback to the national team setup as soon as possible.
“I believe I am [capable of getting into England]. I am playing a big role and I feel my performances mean that I can be, so hopefully.
“I had a strong pre-season, I have had a lot of minutes. I just have to keep working hard. Sarri is still getting his philosophy across, but I feel his style suits me. He likes to press and to get the ball high up the pitch.
“I was disappointed of course, seeing how the team did and not being a part of it. But I knew it could have been the case. I accepted it, and I feel I can be part of the Euros and the World Cup.”
-Ross Barkley; source: Football.London
Here’s hoping Barkley is able to achieve his dreams and make a positive impact on Chelsea along the way. He’s off to a promising start this season; now he just needs to keep it up and build on it.