Ross Barkley was a forgotten man for both England and Chelsea some weeks ago. In fact, his inclusion in the most recent England squad for their two Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro were questioned by many.
The 25-year-old answered all questions promptly and utterly against Montenegro yesterday after his two goals and equally impressive all-around performance for the Three Lions in their 5-1 win. Barkley was confident, strong and looked back at his powerful best seen previously only in an Everton shirt.
It was performances like this that earned him his move to Chelsea in the 2018 January transfer window. Needless to say, though, his same dominant performances haven’t been seen too often in the blue of Chelsea.
He has played 23 times in the Premier League season (12 appearances as a substitute) and scored just three goals. But goals have never really been Barkley’s game, have they? The most goals the attacking midfielder has ever scored in a Premier League is eight in the 2015/16 season.
This doesn’t help Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea’s quite obvious problem. They do not get goals from central midfield. The difference in goals between N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Barkley and Ilkay Gundogan, Fernandinho and David Silva is incomparable.
All of Chelsea’s central midfielders have scored a combined total of 17 goals this season. Manchester City’s central midfielders have a combined total of 34. Manchester United’s have 25 which may make all the difference in the race for their top four battle.
Whilst Kante has added goals to his game, playing in a more advanced role, the ownness should really be on Barkley to be the outstanding scorer of Chelsea’s central midfielders.
Good passing and a few assists will not earn Barkley a first-team spot in this Chelsea team. They have Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho for that.
Barkley, despite struggling to find regular domestic football and score goals, has been included in the England team for some time. He has appeared in the World Cup Qualifiers, World Cup, Euro Qualifiers and the UEFA Nations League.
To date, Barkley has made 14 competitive apps for his country and scored four goals – doubling his tally for England in the match against Montenegro.
That actually makes him one of the more experienced England players in that current midfield, with Gareth Southgate continually showing more and more faith in younger debutants such as Declan Rice, Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Too little too late?
Maybe. The talent of young English players is exciting. There are very few England players who are currently 25 or over that could be a certainty for the Euro 2020 tournament. Barkley certainly is not one of them.
In his early days, he was playing well for club and country and looked to establish himself as a certain England player. That certainly has been lost over time. The most qualifiers were huge for the Chelsea midfielder. His start and goals will do him the world of good.
If he returns to Chelsea and continues to play in the Premier League and potentially win the Europa League with the blues – scoring goals along the way – then his place at the next qualifiers and UEFA Nations League will be all but guaranteed.
It is, though, a big if for a player who arguably shines in the face of critics and controversy.