Ross Barkley took a big risk to step out of his comfort zone and join Chelsea two years ago, leaving behind his boyhood club and the only place he’d ever called home at 24 years of age. It was high time to fly the coop for the former Everton wonderkid, who had not lived up to the hope and the hype that followed his arrival on the scene as a 17-year-old.
It’s fair to say that his Chelsea career hasn’t quite lived up to expectations either, though we should remember that Chelsea got a massive bargain in matching Barkley’s own personal risk-taking in this endeavor, including the major injury he had been still recovering from at the time.
Barkley’s two years at the Bridge so far have already seen some extreme highs — Sarri calling him a “complete” player — and some extreme lows — Conte essentially calling him dumb — and that’s before we get into any of the off-pitch nonsense, but the one thing that has eluded him has been consistency. He’s struggled for consistent minutes and thus consistent performances, and vice-versa.
It’s been the same story this season. He featured in 9 of Chelsea’s first 13 matches, then disappeared for a few months (minor injuries and the aforementioned unprofessional off-pitch incidents), but since re-appearing, he’s featured in 10 of our last 11 matches in all competitions. That’s included starts against Spurs, Bayern, and Liverpool, with both he and the team playing very well in two of those three. In fact, he scored a wonderful goal against his former rivals on Tuesday to seal Chelsea’s 2-0 win and place in the FA Cup quarterfinals.
Obviously, it’s the good Barkley we’re all hoping to see more of, and Frank Lampard’s no different (especially as we’re down to just 2 healthy central midfielders, one of whom has never really been a central midfielder until now and the other one still a tiny teenager).
“He could look at himself and say he could be doing better, probably. But Ross has taken that on in the most positive way possible.
”He has worked hard, got his nose in the team and he does need confidence as a player. I believe that. So, to try and play him, give him minutes, is always going to help with confidence. If he plays like he did against Liverpool and Tottenham recently, then he is going to be a big player for this club.
”I have been pleased with his recent performances and he needs to keep churning them out. I definitely know he has the intention to. I see it on the training pitch and how he holds himself every day in this period, so I am happy with Ross.”
Barkley may be sporting the famous No.8 shirt that Lampard took all the way to top of Chelsea’s all-time goalscoring charts, but Lampard isn’t looking for just goals from the 26-year-old. Like Sarri, the new boss wants a more complete, a more technical game from the midfielder. Like Conte, he wants a more cerebral, a more efficient game as well.
“His shooting with his right foot and left foot is as good technically as I have seen on a training pitch. [...] Also, his ability to go passed someone in advanced areas in midfield, his skill and ability to do that.”
”When you see that, you see he is a really good player for us, so he can be that goal scoring midfielder. I don’t like to compare it for sure, but he can definitely be a good player for us. Not just a goalscoring midfielder, he can play, run and tackle. He can do a lot of things and he can do all that.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Goal
Lampard’s hardly the first manager to hope for great things from Barkley. Will he be the last one? That’s up to Barkley to decide.