Ross Barkley’s Chelsea career hasn’t really got going so far, has it?
Since making the £15 million move from Everton in January, the 24-year-old’s six-month spell at Stamford Bridge could be summed up in a single word: Mediocre.
But, in Barkley’s defence, he had just returned from a lengthy spell on the sidelines, which had derailed a summer move to West London. As well as injuries, the tactical side of things didn’t suit his style of play either. Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 formation meant he was behind N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoue Bakayoko, and arguably even Danny Drinkwater in the Italian’s pecking order.
However, following Conte’s sacking, the appointment of Maurizio Sarri could give Barkley a new lease of life at the club. If the new Chelsea manager implements the 4-3-3 tactic that was successful during his time at Napoli, the midfielder could be the breakout star of 2018/19 season.
One mainstay in the Chelsea midfield will be Kante. In the three-man midfield under Sarri, the Frenchman will sit the deepest and be the defensive anchor, like he has been during his two seasons at the club. He’ll be joined by new summer signing Jorginho, who will replicate his role at Napoli in West London. Known for his defensive ability, as well as his box-to-box nature will allow the third man to be more attacking.
This is where Ross Barkley can shine.
At Napoli, the attacking midfielder under Sarri was Marek Hamsik. In the Serie A last season, he netted seven times with an additional assist. The Slovakian averaged 1.3 key passes a game and made 2.3 sprints per game. Passing and running are two huge components of the Sarri style of play, so how does Barkley compare?
Although it would be unfair to use last season as a comparison, we will look at the 2016/17 season. With the Toffees, he appeared in 36 league games, scoring five times and earning eight assists. He averaged 2.3 key passes per game and 2.4 sprints per game. In both areas, he betters Hamsik.
Going forward, Barkley bettered Hamsik in terms of dribbles per game with the Englishman averaging 1.7 per game, with the Slovakia international only attempting an average of 0.4 per game. Long balls are also something that Barkley averaged more than Hamsik in. The former Everton man attempted 3.1 per game, whereas Hamisk averaged 2.4 a game.
There is no doubting Barkley has the skill and the ability to fill the Hamsik role in Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation, but it is the question of fitness and injuries that the midfielder will need to answer in order to earn a regular spot next season.
The returning Ruben Loftus-Cheek and any potential signing of Alexandr Golovin will no doubt provide shrewd competition for Barkley at Stamford Bridge next season, but under the new manager, I firmly believe that Ross Barkley can be a key player for the Blues during the 2018/19 season.
All stats used in this article are sourced from WhoScored.com