In the first two months of the season, Chelsea’s £15m January investment in Ross Barkley has gone from a colossal joke to a tremendous bargain that’s only going to look better and better with each passing day and game. Certainly, the football media and pundits are already trying to outdo each other in bigging up the Englishman — “the penny might have dropped for him” said Alan Shearer in one of the more measured takes last night.
Most of that is down to Ross himself, who used the painful memories of last year’s injury-hit campaign to reset and refocus and get to work from day one of preseason. His efforts in training led to at least one teammate placing him above even César Azpilicueta as the hardest working player in the squad. Victor Moses isn’t the head coach, but fortunately for Barkley, the head coach hasn’t missed or ignored his dedication either.
“I am really happy with him because from the beginning he has improved, day-by-day, week-by-week, match-by-match. He had a very serious injury in the last season, now he’s improving every day but I think the best will come for him.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Evening Standard
While Sarri rated Barkley’s performance against Southampton as “really” good, he didn’t even think it was Barkley’s best this season, let alone anywhere near his final form. And that’s not just typical Sarri-speak; Barkley also agrees.
“Last season I had a difficult time with injuries, but on the training pitch I have felt strong and confident and I have built on that. As the season goes on I am sure I’ll continue to improve and show people what I am capable of.”
Having earned his recall to the England squad earlier in the week, the 24-year-old celebrated with an assist and a goal on Sunday, showing great determination, tenacity, vision, and anticipation in winning the ball and setting up Hazard for his assist and then finishing off Giroud’s acrobatic cross-shot on a set piece for his goal.
“It was a fantastic result for us, and not only that, for me to get my first goal was fantastic.
“I feel like I have been at a high level for a couple of years, but it’s just about producing performances on game day. Last season I had a difficult time with injuries, but on the training pitch I have felt strong and confident and I have built on that.”
It was his first goal in almost 17 months, and he was clearly delighted by it.
But the hard work that got him to this point does not stop. With stiff competition for places in Chelsea’s midfield — Barkley got the start only to give Mateo Kovačić a breather, while both Cesc Fàbregas and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are aiming for more minutes, and that’s before we even get to the entrenched Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté — it’s only just beginning.
“I am going to keep working hard and the rewards will come.”
-Ross Barkley; source: Chelsea FC
So say we all.