When Chelsea signed Ross Barkley from Everton for £15 million in January, it’s fair to say a few eyebrows were raised.
After all, the 24-year-old midfielder had seen early career promise on Merseyside become a tale of unfulfilled potential and after a number of hamstring injuries, doubt was rife about whether Barkley could ever live up to the big billing he had once received.
Under Antonio Conte in the second half of last season, Barkley was restricted to four appearances for the Blues including only two outings in the Premier League.
But as Chelsea enjoy a new lease of life under Maurizio Sarri this season – second in the table on goal difference with 20 points from eight league matches and having already knocked Liverpool out of the Carabao Cup – Barkley is enjoying a revival of his own under the new manager, with the much-debated new system, and is finally looking to become the top player that he was always capable of being.
Barkley has featured eleven times already this season and was particularly instrumental in the 3-0 win over Southampton, in which he scored his first goal for the club and provided an assist for Eden Hazard.
As part of a midfield three, the Englishman is competing with compatriot Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Real Madrid loanee Mateo Kovacic and Premier League veteran Cesc Fabregas for a place in the starting line-up ahead of Sarri’s pass-master Jorginho, the deep-lying quarterback who will rely on explosive receivers ahead of him.
Hazard is in blistering form so far this season but with Jorginho sitting so deep in Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation, two workhorses either side of the Italian are required to get between the lines and deliver the ball into space for the Belgian talisman.
On Jorginho’s right flank, N’Golo Kante breaks up play as well as acting as his trusty ball-carrier. Jorginho’s left side is where a place in the starting eleven has been up for grabs, but it is Barkley who is nailing that spot down so far and playing in Sarri’s system, he’s the man with the ideal attributes to do so.
Barkley is an athletic powerhouse that can carry the ball forward at pace and create opportunities for the front three, or even add goals himself, effectively bring to this side what Marek Hamsik did for Sarri’s Napoli.
Alongside Jorginho and Kante, the Liverpudlian can be the foremost element of that midfield trio, as a fluid goalscoring midfielder opposite Kante’s tireless ball-winner.
Providing Barkley can stay fit, he can become an integral part of what has the potential to be a very strong Chelsea side who find themselves amongst favourites to win the Premier League across popular gambling app sites.
The £15 million that the Blues invested in January now looks to have been a great investment as Barkley is paying dividends for the club.