ROSS'S RETRIBUTION: HOW BARKLEY SAVED HIS CAREER
Just six months ago you’d be forgiven for thinking that Ross Barkley was simply yet another player who failed to live up to the hype of their youth, and was slowly fading into mediocrity.
Now, however, following his loan move to Aston Villa, Barkley looked re-energised, reinvigorated, and the talent that was displayed so elegantly at Everton is showing itself once again.
Dubbed the ‘next Wayne Rooney’ by the Goodison faithful, Barkley burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced teenager, akin to his hero Rooney, but unlike the Manchester United legend, Barkley failed to move away from Merseyside until he was 24.
With over 175 appearances to his name for his boyhood side, Barkley has had to deal with heightened expectations for near-on 10 years now, and perhaps a move back down to a club without the stature and pressure of Chelsea is exactly what he needed to kickstart his career.
And kickstart his career is exactly what he’s done.
Villa currently lie sixth in the table, and with the potential to go top if they win their game in hand, something not many would’ve been bold enough to predict at the start of the season.
Whilst Jack Grealish has earned the praise of every pundit and fan across the country, and deservedly so, Barkley’s importance to this Villa side has slightly gone under the radar.
The free roaming no.8 role that both he and John McGinn play enables Grealish to display his magic further forward, rather than being restricted to a role as predominantly a ball-progresser, like he was last campaign.
The addition of Barkley has also added far more fluidity to the attack, and with only Chelsea (20) and Tottenham (19) outsourcing Villa’s 18 goals so far this campaign, signs are promising for Dean Smith.
With two league goals already this season, Barkley has doubled last term’s tally after just five games, and his underlying numbers are all considerably up.
His 3.4 shots per 90 (p90) would rank top of Chelsea’s current squad, as would his 2.2 dribbles p90 and only Hakim Ziyech (3.8) betters his 3.0 key passes p90.
In fact, with Frank Lampard switching to a 4-3-3 system in recent weeks, it begs the question as to why Chelsea let Barkley leave.
In fact, Barkley’s 0.65 xG + xA p90 this season is the highest it’s ever been in his career, and yet again only Ziyech in Chelsea’s squad tops it.
Dean Smith has managed to get the best out of Barkley, something Lampard had been unable to do at Stamford Bridge.
His relationship with Grealish seems innate, and the two perfectly compliment each other’s play style.
With wins over both Liverpool and Arsenal already under their belt, a Grealish and Barkley-led Villa could well be the surprise package this season.