Ross Barkley, who was named among the Chelsea substitutes versus Tottenham 16 hours ago, has joined Aston Villa on a season-long loan.
Thanks to Chelsea’s slightly lopsided squad-building moves this summer and a generally high number of midfield personnel, one if not both of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley looked likely to depart the club. Both had been previously linked to Aston Villa, although Loftus-Cheek was said to have up to eight suitors to take him on loan. Regardless, the confirmation of this transfer has somewhat come out of the blue and raises several questions over the makeup of Chelsea’s midfield this season, given Barkley was in a strong position to contribute to the Blues’ 2020/21 campaign.
Whilst surprising given his profile as a midfielder is different than the rest of Chelsea’s options, Barkley’s departure could make sense if Lampard wishes to shift to a 4-3-3 with two ‘attacking 8’ midfielders in the long-term. This would which could potentially see Mount, Havertz, Pulisic, Ziyech and Werner all play in the same XI. That would mean Chelsea’s midfield options would be Gilmour, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Mount and Havertz, thus leaving room for Loftus-Cheek to depart on loan and return to his best self as well. Furthermore, the possibility of switching to 4-2-3-1 in certain games remains. If this were an outright sale, one might think it could be paving the way for a Declan Rice bid but that, by all accounts, remains unrealistic at West Ham’s current asking price.
With Euro 2021 around the corner, though, it makes further sense that he would want regular minutes in the short-term, so as to best make his case for inclusion in the England squad.
Good luck at Villa, Ross!