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Tuchel happy with Barkley in ‘perfect position’, but makes no promises

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Chelsea v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

In the latest surprising move from Thomas Tuchel, a certain Ross Barkley was given the start yesterday against Burnley. It was the attacking midfielder’s first Premier League start for Chelsea in almost a year and a half, since the tail end of the 2019-20 season. And while we did not win, at least we didn’t play as badly as in that 3-0 defeat to Sheffield United during Project Restart — probably the nadir of the Lampard Era.

Unlike the man he replaced in the lineup, Hakim Ziyech, Barkley did not play on the wing but took up position as a classic No.10, operating between the lines of Burnley’s midfield and defense. And he was actually orchestrating things quite well, pulling strings and creating for others, as well as himself — though obviously we lacked the final product and were made to pay for it late on when Burnley equalized from their one good chance.

Still, Tuchel has focused on the positives from what was otherwise a dominant Chelsea performance, including Barkley showing flashes of the skills that made him the great big hope of Everton and England once upon a time.

“He deserved to start. We changed the shape of the front three today and played with a number ten position to get in behind the two number sixes of Burnley. It was the perfect position for Ross to start today. He waited a long time and he has made a huge impact in our matches when he came on [from the bench].

“ He had a good match. [...] I think if we score a second one then we would score a third and fourth one with no comeback possible. He is angry at himself, he created chances and we had chances in the first and second half so no one points fingers at him [for missing his final chance].”

Chelsea v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Of course, the problem with Barkley has always been consistency. He’s been the complete midfielder before, as well as a complete waste of space. His surgical use by Tuchel has yielded positive contributions and results thus far, but there’s probably a pretty low and hard ceiling for his overall involvement going forward.

Though I suppose you never know in football.

“It depends on himself, first of all, and it is ongoing. If he stays positive and hard-working and at the same time I am happy if he is not fully happy. I am happy if he is not satisfied with what he has.

“At the same time, it is necessary that he appreciates where he is right now and his hard work and effort and he was very serious from the first day in pre-season, but there is a lot of competition going on in his position.

“You need to be ready if you play for Chelsea, if you think you are ready and positive there is always a chance to come onto the pitch. Unfortunately, we have only three subs so it is not always easy but there is always a chance to prove a point with your performance.”

-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London

The challenge is clear, the opportunities available. Obviously Chelsea are far from the finished or perfect article. Barkley could find his niche still and grow from there (he has a contract with us through 2023).

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