• Anna Dugdale


Ross Barkley is arguably in the best form he’s been in since leaving Everton two years ago.

Since transferring to Chelsea, it is no secret that Barkley has struggled to find his feet in the blue side of London. He fell out of favour with Frank Lampard after being pictured topless in a nightclub in November 2019 and was subsequently left out of the travelling squad to Valencia.

There seemed to be light for Barkley, when he joined Aston Villa on a season-long loan at the end of September. Playing in an Aston Villa side that struggled to stay in the Premier League last season, it seemed like Barkley could easily flourish.

And he definitely has.

Villa have had a blistering start to their season, notably beating current Premier League champions, Liverpool, 7-2; a game in which Barkley scored. Currently, they sit 6th in the league, a million miles away from their struggles last season. After escaping the pressure of playing for Chelsea, Barkley has thrived for Villa, scoring 2 times in 7 games.

One reason why he seems to have flourished is Villa’s talisman, Jack Grealish. Grealish has been a top target for many of the ‘big six’ Premier League clubs, but Villa managed to retain him and sign him up to a new five-year deal. The two have formed an excellent midfield partnership, with Grealish even saying he sees parts of himself in Barkley. A lot of people assumed they would not fit in the same team, but it seems the English duo can share the spotlight.

The Chelsea loanee’s style of play fits in well at Villa, his pace complements the rest of the teams’ style, a seamless fit. Barkley has always been the playmaker, with his virtuous vision allowing him to make passes that the opposition team wouldn’t expect. His accurate long balls give service to the strikers.

There may be extra motivation behind Barkley’s recent stellar performances. Aston Villa manager, Dean Smith, promised his new loanee that he would get him into England’s Euro squad next summer. With Barkley not being a staple in the England squad since making his debut in 2013, it is apparent that the promise of playing for his country in a major tournament was enough to ignite his flaming form.

Barkley is in arguably the best form of his career and it’s not uncommon for player's careers to pick back up when sent on loan. The pressure of London seems to have taken its toll on Barkley in the last two years, but escaping to a more affable environment in Birmingham seems to have given Barkley the freedom he needed to become the player he was when he left Everton.