After an electrifying start to his Everton career, Ross Barkley eventually found himself sidelined by Sam Allardyce and he ended up leaving his boyhood club through the back door. He joined Chelsea in January 2018, with his confidence levels so low and his performances so ineffectual that very few believed he could make the cut at the highest level.
The Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe summed up football experts’ feelings shortly after Barkley finalised his moved to the West London club, saying: “When he broke into the Everton team, he seemed destined to become the next Wayne Rooney. He could just as easily become the new Jack Rodwell.”
Yet, under role model Frank Lampard, the Englishman is starting to find his feet at Stamford Bridge, slowly becoming an important part of his manager’s attack-minded, free-flowing philosophy. Now up to 25 appearances for the season, Barkley seems to have finally found a manager that trusts in him and his ability, and Chelsea are beginning to reap the benefits of that trust.
Ross Barkley is Finally Finding His Feet at Chelsea
Struggles in London
In the early stages of his Chelsea career, Ross Barkley did little to ease doubts over his ability to thrive in a top-six team. Following an ineffectual performance on his debut for the club, in a League Cup semi-final against Arsenal, Barkley managed only two Premier League appearances under Antonio Conte, failing to make an impact in either game.
The midfielder did manage more game time under Antonio Conte’s successor, Maurizio Sarri, but in a very limited capacity. Often used as a substitute for Mateo Kovacic – so frequently, in fact, that Chelsea fans began to mock their head coach for his predictable decision-making – Barkley again appeared unable to pin down a starting position in the side, completing 90 minutes in just 11 of his 48 appearances – and scoring only three goals in the process.
So, when Lampard was appointed manager in July 2019, Barkley was hoping for the chance to become a vital fixture in the Chelsea legend’s side. “He was a player I looked up to when I was growing up, and then I was lucky enough to play with him as well and take tips from him when we were with England together,” Barkley told Chelsea FC shortly after Lampard’s arrival. “Now it’s great to have him as manager.”
Early on, though, things didn’t exactly go to plan for Chelsea’s number eight, with chances becoming increasingly rare as the season got underway – as academy product Mason Mount quickly became Lampard’s preferred attacking choice in the midfield three. This shaky start had commentators such as Daniel Childs warning of another “false dawn” for Barkley, claiming that he was at risk of becoming a “forgotten man” at the club.
Barkley Becomes Key
Yet, over time, the midfielder has managed to win over his idol, offering something that Chelsea’s other midfields struggle to – goals. It is well-documented that the club have struggled to find the back of the net this season, with their manager consistently lamenting their inability to kill off games once they have taken the lead – costing them 18 points in the league this season.
Yet with the reintroduction of the 26-year-old, this may become less of a problem, as the midfielder continues to prove a threat in and around the box. As Barkley himself explains, having one-on-one guidance from Lampard has helped him to become more clinical in front of goal. “[The manager] encourages me to arrive in the box and get goals,” Barkley explains, adding that Lampard’s coaching has helped to give him an extra edge in the final third.
This guidance is certainly paying off for Barkley and for Chelsea, with the Liverpudlian bagging two vital goals since the restart, including a game-winning strike against Leicester City in the FA Cup. He has now played in every game since the restart, and his performance against Watford was one of his best in a Chelsea shirt, terrorising the Hornets’ defence from start to finish and picking up a goal and an assist in the process.
Lampard is Impressed
This has delighted his manager, who said: “Obviously, he always has that goal threat with his technical qualities: right and left foot, great strikes. I have seen that and Ross has been absolutely dedicated to the cause. I am delighted with him and he just needs to keep those levels. There is more to come and his attitude has been first class.”
In his third season in West London, it appears that Barkley may finally have established himself as a key member of the Chelsea squad, winning over his manager and almost guaranteeing himself a place in the matchday squad. If he keeps this up, his £15 million price tag may prove to be a bargain.