Ross Barkley had hoped that a change of scenery could rejuvenate his club and national team career last season, but a spate of injuries prevented him from properly settling at Chelsea following his delayed transfer in January. He made just a handful of ineffective appearances, and unlike Gary Cahill, who used the season’s run-in to win his place back in the England squad for Russia, Barkley came nowhere near to doing the same.
But now it’s a new season and a new man in charge, and a (re-)new(ed) Ross Barkley!
Healthy since day one of preseason, Barkley’s been steadily building his rapport with new boss Maurizio Sarri, and has leveraged that into regular playing time so far this season.
“Last season I had a difficult time with my injuries but that’s in the past now, I’m feeling really strong and I’m ready. Game by game I’ll be feeling even better and I’m feeling confident.”
As it stands, Barkley is winning the battle against all the other midfielders not named Jorginho or N’Golo Kante for the role of third starter in the center of the pitch, though that might change once Mateo Kovačić becomes match fit, Cesc Fabregas recovers from his knee injury, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek knuckles down to fight for his place. (And Danny Drinkwater’s here, too.)
Still, if he can keep up the minutes, Barkley is sure that he can work himself back into contention at international level, too.
“I’ve just got to do what I can. I’m still learning and giving 100 per cent in training, trying to learn the new manager’s methods. Hopefully with my performances on the pitch I’ll be in the thoughts of the England manager.”
All the midfielders bar Jorginho are still in the learning phase of Sarri-ball, so opportunities should be up for grabs. Barkley may not be the most obvious candidate to emerge as the ultimate winner of the midfield fight for minutes, but at still just 24 years of age and once heralded as the next big thing in England, he could yet surprise.
Meanwhile of course we need to keep up the winning as a team as well.
“It’s a brilliant start, it was a difficult game against Arsenal but the main thing was to get the three points.
“We’ve started the season really well and got six points from two games. We’re feeling really confident, we’re still learning under the new manager but things are looking positive.”
-Ross Barkley; source: Chelsea FC
Next up will be Newcastle United on Sunday and Barkley will be hoping to start his third consecutive Premier League match for Chelsea. Onwards and upwards!