- Chelsea’s Ross Barkley excelled in pre-season and was tipped to be a key player this term.
- Injury, off-field issues and disappointing displays have restricted his game time.
- Chelsea will want to see more from someone who is no longer a young player.
Last summer, Ross Barkley looked poised to make a belated breakthrough at Chelsea. He was among the club’s standout performers in pre-season, and the appointment of Frank Lampard was supposed to bring about an upturn in the midfielder’s fortunes.
Before this campaign, Barkley’s Chelsea career had yet to take off. He played just 131 Premier League minutes in 2016/17 after signing for the club in January. Last term he made 27 top-flight appearances, but more than half of those were as a substitute.
Chelsea fans had high hopes for Barkley this season. Yet the 26-year-old currently finds himself on the periphery of the Chelsea squad. Unless he acts quickly, the former Everton man is in danger of letting his career drift away.
Barkley’s career is at a crossroads
After some excellent displays in pre-season, Barkley started three of Chelsea’s first four Premier League games in 2019/20. Primarily deployed in his favored No.8 role, he failed to make much of an impact against Manchester United, Norwich or Sheffield United.
Barkley then fell out of favor before an ankle injury ruled him out of action for three months. The England international returned to the Chelsea side on the weekend, scoring against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round. But it’s in the Premier League where he will be judged, and Barkley cannot afford many more false dawns.
Natural talent is only part of the package
There can be no denying Barkley’s ability. On his day he is extremely difficult to play against. The midfielder is strong and powerful. He can carry the ball past opponents and drive his team forward. He is adept at shooting from range.
Yet question marks remain about his decision-making. Failing to make the right choice was excusable at one point, but Barkley is no longer a young player. He remains more raw than refined. The rough edges have yet to be completely smoothed out.
Barkley must find focus
Last October, Barkley was involved in a publicized argument with a taxi driver in Liverpool. A month later he was pictured shirtless in a nightclub in Dubai. Lampard accused the midfielder of a “lack of professionalism”.
Chelsea have been linked with several players since the transfer window re-opened last week. N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic have all performed well in midfield this season. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is nearing a first-team return. Barkley must rediscover his focus if he is to avoid falling further down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge.