Football news - Ross Barkley resurgence prompts age-old question at Chelsea

Football news - Ross Barkley resurgence prompts age-old question at Chelsea Featured

By / Premier League / Monday, 22 October 2018 08:23

Chelsea's saviour on Saturday is too good to sit on the bench. But Ross Barkley may have to play a waiting game to find his way into the first team, writes Dan Levene.

Ninety-five minutes and 27 seconds into a Premier League clash with Manchester United isn't a bad time for a Chelsea player to net their first goal at Stamford Bridge. And, whatever happens in months and seasons to come, Barkley will be fondly remembered by many a Blue for that particular 'Fergie-time' equaliser.
It hasn't been an easy start to the midfielder's Chelsea career, since his January arrival from Everton. He has been tremendously unlucky with injuries and so, when he first found the net at Southampton in the preceding game, his personal delight could not have been clearer.

On that occasion he was a man of the match candidate: though given Eden Hazard was, by some distance, the leading contender he wasn't getting anywhere near the coveted Champagne.

It was an imperfect performance from the Liverpudlian at St Mary's, but one which showed more than enough promise and improvement to earn him a starting place sometime soon.
Not against United, though, and here we have one of the major obstacles to Barkley's immediate progression within Maurizio Sarri's embryonic set-up: Mateo Kovacic has shown himself, so far, to be a class above all other contenders for that role in midfield.

He has been fortunate enough to go into the season in great form, a luxury not within Barkley's immediate grasp. But, over and above that, the Croatian is already very much the finished article – at just 24 years of age.

With 48 caps for the World Cup finalists, he has had twice the international exposure of his English squad buddy – who is six months his senior.

Chelsea face a familiar issue here of a domestically produced player, with bags of potential, but with a shortage of opportunities to let him shine.
Barkley is very similar to Kovacic in his play, though is possibly slightly more attacking in his outlook. That is why many had hoped to see him start against what had been expected to be a quite conservative Jose Mourinho side. In the event, he didn't get the opportunity until well over an hour was on the clock and, ultimately, his introduction paid dividends.

It remains to be seen whether Sarri will give Barkley an increased number of opportunities from the start. Though, with twice-weekly football very much the routine now, surely he won't be short of chances to offer.

Kovacic is a joy to watch, but the problem is a lingering feeling that every game he plays is merely offering an ultimate benefit to someone else. Sources in Madrid say Chelsea's hopes of keeping Kovacic, who is on loan from the Spanish giants, are negligible. Though, in truth, that will depend largely on the next developments in what looks like an increasingly fluid managerial situation at the Bernabeu.
If he does return to his parent club at the season's end, it would hand Barkley an obvious point of entry to the first team – especially with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the other main contender for that role, well down the pecking order, and looking a likely January mover.

But will Barkley's patience hold that long? For Chelsea, it is the same old short-term v long-term argument. The club would doubtless love to have another English player dominating midfield, at the heart of much they do.

But, equally, this one was a snip at £15m, and with five years left on his contract, any impatience on the player's part would simply lead to an incoming fee of many times their outlay.

For now, there is that goal to savour. But many will hope Barkley is given the chance to score many more in Chelsea blue.

Author

Cholo Radjavi

Cholo Radjavi

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