On Friday and 4 months late Ross Barkley finally joined Chelsea. At his unveiling Chelsea Director Marina Granovskaia beamed a huge smile as Barkley put pen to paper and with good reason- she’s got an absolute snip bagging the Everton midfielder for £15million.
In the week a certain other attacking midfielder left Merseyside for almost 10 times Barkley’s fee this looks a low risk potentially very high reward move for Chelsea, even before Coutinho transfer this season has seen Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain & Danny Drinkwater go for £35million.
Of course Barkley only had 6 months left on his Everton deal meaning Chelsea were only left with a relatively small fee to pay to ensure Barkley joined in time for the business end of this season. The small fee makes Barkley a low risk acquisition but that doesn’t mean he’ll be a guaranteed success at Stamford Bridge. Since breaking into Everton’s starting lineup 4 years ago Barkley has been maddeningly inconsistent- he can take a defender out of the game with 1 drop of the shoulder and score a goal from nothing but he tends to drift in and out of games and often picks the wrong pass in promising situations.
Statistically he’s a great player- the second highest contributor of assists amongst English Premier League players during the last 2 seasons but he needs to learn tactical discipline if he’s ever going to live up to the ‘new Michael Ballack’ billing he received from former boss Roberto Martinez. But is there a better to coach to tutor a young player in tactical discipline than Antonio Conte?
Barkley will probably fit in the front 3 of Chelsea’s 3-4-3 system and whilst some would argue he isn’t an automatic choice in Chelsea’s first 11 it’s worth remembering Eden Hazard is likely to move on to Spain before too long and Pedro will be 31 in July. Chelsea have talked up in recent years the need for an English spine in their squad following the departures of Terry, Cole & Lampard- they now have Barkley, Gary Cahill, Danny Drinkwater and Ruben Loftus-Cheek likely to return in the summer.
Once fit Barkley will find opportunities at Chelsea with the Blues facing a 4 front assault in the second half of the season and then there’s the World Cup. Barkley faces stiff competition to regain his England place this summer- Dele Alli has superseded him as England’s number 10 in addition Adam Lallana is fit again, Loftus-Cheek passed his England audition, Oxlade-Chamberlain is now acclimatised at Liverpool, Jesse Lingard is reaching a career high at Old Trafford and Demarai Gray earning glowing reviews at Leicester.
Barkley must take his chance at Chelsea and be mindful of the career trajectory Jack Rodwell suffered after leaving Everton for Manchester City, but he has the ability to succeed and the right manager to fix his flaws- the Premier League will be a more fun place for his return.