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Barkley making better choices on and off the pitch at Chelsea, says former Everton teammate

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Leon Osman explains what’s changed for Ross Barkley this season at Chelsea

Leon Osman and Ross Barkley celebrate a goal for Everton at Carrow Road in August 2013
Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

Before retiring in 2016, Everton legend Leon Osman spent the last 3-4 years of his 433-match career on Merseyside playing alongside fellow homegrown fan favorite Ross Barkley, so he’s perhaps uniquely placed among all pundits in being able to deliver an opinion from a personal perspective when looking at Barkley’s development this season.

And what a development it’s been! From basically spending an entire season on the surgeon’s table, in the treatment room, and on the training pitch, Barkley’s playing a key role in unbeaten Chelsea’s ever-improving midfield, crowning his current red hot run of form with a Man of the Match performance against Burnley on Sunday. His goal was his third in the last three games, his two assists give him three assists during that same span, but it was also his off-the-ball work that prompted head coach Maurizio Sarri to call him a complete player. That’s not to say that the work is done, far from it, but it’s validation of all the hard work Barkley’s put in on and off the pitch to get to this point.

And that effort is not lost on Osman, who gave his opinion as part of beIN Sport’s coverage of the Premier League.

“As an attacker, he’s made strides this season. He’s getting into positions, he’s taking the onus on himself to shoot, he’s making passes. At Everton, it wasn’t his ability that was the problem. He would make naive decisions, give the ball away cheaply at times. I haven’t seen that from him this season. He’s making the right decisions more often.”

It’s not just on the pitch that the “penny’s dropped” for Barkley, as the studio host puts it — I hear ya, Andy “Take a bow son” Gray — but off the pitch as well, where he’s now truly becoming a professional footballer and athlete (physically, mentally, etc.). Barkley himself has hinted at such a notion when discussing his move away from the friendly confines of Everton and his hometown, and challenging himself in a new team, in new surroundings, with different expectations and pressures than he’s ever known.

Osman agrees.

“I think he looks more lean, he looks more powerful. Maybe he was carrying a little bit more [weight] over the last 18 months. He’s moved away from his home where he was raised and is now in the real world. Playing with the top players comes the realization as well [that] now I have to start delivering, and this season he certainly is.”

-Leon Osman; source: beIN Sports

Being injured for almost a year tends to take a toll on a player’s physical condition, but otherwise, Osman’s probably right on the money.

‘Tis the Season of Ross, and we can only hope his red hot form continues for a long time.