Barkley’s big chance: Villa loan is an opportunity for the Chelsea midfielder to prove he still belongs at the top… but he must produce the goods now or be left wondering what might have been
- Ross Barkley has completed a season-long loan move to Villa from Chelsea
- Midfielder, 26, was always going to struggle for game time at Stamford Bridge
- England international will have seen Euro chances diminish as he warmed bench
- But he should play more regularly at Villa and remind everyone of his class
- Successive Chelsea manager have failed to appreciate Barkley since he joined
- Southgate has always handed him opportunities in his Three Lions team
Ross Barkley’s loan move to Aston Villa was completed so swiftly that more than a few eyebrows were raised when the news emerged on Wednesday afternoon.
As recently as late last week, it seemed Barkley was satisfied to stay at Chelsea and compete for scraps of game time in a midfield that is well-staffed to say the least.
But when the 26-year-old was left on the bench by Frank Lampard as Chelsea fell three goals behind at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday night, Barkley changed his mind.
Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley has joined Dean Smith’s Aston Villa on a season-long loan
The England international will play for Villa for the remainder of the 2020-21 campaign
Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish responded to the news with five love heart emojis on Twitter
Perhaps it was something about the West Midlands air or a cursory glance at the early Premier League table but Villa, who’d asked about the possibility of taking him on loan earlier in the summer, suddenly seemed the perfect fit.
It’s a move that makes complete sense for all involved. Villa get another England international in their ranks, maintaining the feel-good factor that has marked the start of their season. Plus they get a player with something to prove.
Jack Grealish certainly approved of Barkley’s arrival, replying to the club’s announcement tweet with five love heart emojis.
Chelsea get another squad player off their books for the season, meaning one less person for Lampard to keep satisfied with the occasional few minutes off the bench or token cup outing.
Barkley has never exactly been first choice in his two-and-a-half years at Stamford Bridge and when you’re behind Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech in the midfield pecking order, you ain’t going to play much.
Barkley was never going to be assured of game time given Lampard’s midfield options
He had come off the bench to replace Ruben Loftus-Cheek during Chelsea win at Brighton
Chelsea’s exit from the Carabao Cup on penalties to Tottenham on Tuesday night only served to further reduce Barkley’s playing prospects.
But most importantly, it’s good news for Barkley himself. He has a golden opportunity now to remind everyone of his abilities and push for inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2020.
Barkley has shown us many glimpses of his class in the past but it’s been a while since he’s performed consistently well or was even given chance to do so.
The potential he showed coming through at Everton, where he made his first appearances as a teenager, hasn’t materialised into a top class career.
His £15million move to Chelsea in January 2018 was supposed to be his springboard to that higher level but it doesn’t happen for everyone and he’s been disappointed.
During his time there, Barkley has started just 28 of the 76 Premier League matches for which he has been available for.
Barkley was also on target after starting for Chelsea in their Carabao Cup win over Barnsley
Barkley (top left) was an unused substitute in Chelsea’s 3-3 draw at West Brom on Saturday
Consecutive managers in Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and Lampard have failed to be fully convinced.
Injuries have not helped his cause. Barkley’s first half-season at Chelsea was ruined by a hamstring injury not long after signing.
A chunk of last season was spoilt by two small chips of bone in his right foot that left him only able to train using his left.
It was a painful process of rehabilitation but Barkley’s prospects hadn’t brightened much at the start of the current season despite sub appearances in the opening two league games and a start – plus a goal – against Barnsley in the Carabao Cup.
Indeed, his stand-out moments in recent years seen to have come in the colours of England rather than Chelsea.
Barkley (right) was outstanding when England beat Spain in Seville back in October 2018
He scored twice during England’s 6-0 thrashing of Bulgaria in Sofia last October
Southgate has always valued Barkley and it isn’t too long ago that he turned in an outstanding performance in England’s 3-2 Nations League win over Spain in Seville.
A midfield masterclass against one of the most technically-gifted sides in world football was crowned when he lofted a wonderful ball over the Spain defence for Harry Kane to tee up Raheem Sterling to make it 3-0.
Barkley was also highly-effective in his last England outing – scoring twice and setting up another in the 6-0 thrashing of Bulgaria in Sofia last October.
On that night, the attention was rightly stolen by condemnation of the abhorrent racist abuse aimed at England’s black players from a section of Bulgaria supporters.
Barkley, though, started England’s earlier home Euro qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo and he has amassed 33 caps, finding his best form under Southgate.
Barkley will have ample opportunity to impress Southgate with his displays for Villa
International football was on pause for 10 months so Barkley won’t have lost ground in Southgate’s midfield pecking order even though he wasn’t involved against Iceland and Denmark last month.
But he can only be in contention for the rearranged European Championship next summer – and the England squads prior to that – if he features regularly and plays well for his club. He was not named in Southgate’s most recent selection yesterday.
Villa will offer him this opportunity and it’s one Barkley must seize with both hands to ensure his talents don’t go permanently to waste.
Meanwhile, Dean Smith will only benefit from having a player who, aged 26, knows he must produce the goods now or be left wondering what might have been.
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