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Preseason god Ross Barkley ready to help fill Chelsea’s Eden Hazard-shaped void

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It’s a BIG void

Reading v Chelsea - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images

One should always be wary of reading too much into preseason, both in terms of team results and in terms of individual performances, but at the same time, those things shouldn’t be completely ignored either. For every Marko Marin outplaying Eden Hazard, there’s a Victor Moses staking a key role. One player whose performances surely cannot be ignored is Ross Barkley, who, alongside Mason Mount, has been a standout this summer.

Barkley had an inconsistent season under Maurizio Sarri, seeing plenty of minutes in the fall when Sarri declared him a “complete player” but fading hard in the second half of the season once Ruben Loftus-Cheek stayed fully healthy. Now working under his idol, Frank Lampard, Barkley will have to avoid a similar pattern if he is to help fill the void left by Eden Hazard.

“Yes. You have to fill in [Eden’s shoes].

“Am I ready to take that responsibility? Yes of course. Last season when Eden wasn’t playing we still won games, we still created chances. Everyone in the squad understands that he was a great player, but he is gone. He has new challenges now and we have to replace his goals and create the chances.”

”We have that much quality in the squad [and] we will all step up to the plate. We know [Eden] is an exceptional player, but we have exceptional players in the squad. We have young ones that will step up and produce the goods as well. We have Callum [Hudson-Odoi] coming back from injury and we have signed Christian Pulisic [in January], he is an exceptional talent. We have wingers who can create from tight positions, players who can shoot from distance and strikers — young and experienced — who are hungry for goals.”

Hazard led the Premier League in combined goals (16) and assists (15), and even if we have a committee of young talent ready to step up in his absence, those numbers will not easy to replicate.

Barkley has never scored more than 8 league goals in a season and had only 3 last year (despite setting a 20-goal target a la Lampard). Pulisic topped out at just 4 in the Bundesliga, and Callum Hudson-Odoi is still looking for his first Premier League goal after scoring 5 times in all competitions last season. They will all have to step up and rise to the occasion.

Hopefully a certain Frank Lampard’s goalscoring prowess will rub off on the players. A few tactical tweaks from last season would not go amiss either.

“[Lampard] will help all the midfielders. He is a legend of the game, the highest goal-scoring midfielder in Premier League history, so we are going to take all he has to give us and the experience he has from the past on board. We will keep improving and he will help us.

[...]

“It is a new manager and a new formation — we’ve had to adapt to the different systems we are going to play. [It’s about being] hungry for goals, just have the desire to get in the box. At the minute I have been playing a bit further forward, to think like a striker especially as a No.10, but try to help out defensively and work hard off the ball.”

-Ross Barkley; source: Evening Standard

Thus far, Lampard & Co have been quite successful at reviving good vibes at Chelsea. But the only way to truly keep those up is to keep winning once we get to the real season. It won’t be easy, but at least we’re approaching it with all the right intentions.