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Ross Barkley set for Chelsea return after ‘inconsistent’ season at Aston Villa

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Managerial verdict

Aston Villa v Everton - Premier League Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

It’s become increasingly apparent that Aston Villa will not be making any overt moves to keep Ross Barkley beyond his one season on loan there, and their manager, Dean Smith has once again confirmed that ahead of their game against Crystal Palace today.

While Smith paid credit to the 27-year-old’s hard work and determination, he apparently couldn’t quite apply himself consistently — a familiar evaluation of Barkley, even if his season was also blunted by injuries.

“He started the season like a house on fire, then, with the Covid break after his injury, he’s probably been as inconsistent as we have as a team.

“[But] I’ve had no problem with Ross Barkley at all. Ross has been outstanding since the day he came here. He got injured and lost form and he’s worked really had to get that form back and we’ve seen bits of it over the last three or four games. Especially against Everton away, where I thought he was outstanding.

“He was fighting to get that form back. One thing I can say about him is he has never shied from a challenge at all. He has been a credit to himself, certainly on the training ground with us.”

After his excellent start to the season, it seemed like Barkley could turn his one-year loan into a longer stay at Villa Park, but a hamstring injury in November derailed things, and he could never quite get back on track.

“We never really had any decision to make. He’s got two years left on his Chelsea contract, I believe. The deal was always to bring him in for the season [and] we haven’t had any discussions about [more than] that and I think it would be wrong to do so, since it was a one-year loan.”

-Dean Smith; source: Birmingham Live

Barkley, like fellow loan warrior midfielders Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tiémoué Bakayoko, will surely get a chance to impress Thomas Tuchel this summer, but whether they can carve out a place back at Chelsea is a lot less certain.