After years of being underplayed and overlooked, Ross Barkley is finally back in the England fold for the upcoming internationals this week.
He was an unused substitute for the entirety of Euro 2016 and then missing Russia 2018 entirely, he had become something of a forgotten man.
In fairness to Southgate, Barkley had missed almost 200 days of action in 2017/18 with a hamstring complaint. His omission from the World Cup squad was therefore understandable.
However what is more difficult to explain is his consistent under employment for his country. At 24 he has a lot to offer Southgate’s new look England team. He will now hope to be set for a long-term role for his country after years as a bit part. This could well be down to the role played by his new boss.
The Sarri Effect
However, injuries affected his form and he struggled for game time. With Conte’s departure in the summer though, came a lifeline for Barkley’s career, just as it threatened to stall once again.
Since Sarri has come in at the West London club, the former Everton man has looked a different player. His game, once again looks full of energy and movement. His passing has been top class and he’s getting forward with real hunger. On top of that he also looks fitter and leaner than at any point in his career.
Barkley recently told The Guardian: “If Sarri had managed me sooner, I’d be a better footballer.” He clearly thinks very highly of the former banker, now working his magic at Chelsea. It is also obvious though that he is benefiting from operating with better players.
The likes of Jorginho, Hazard and Kante are only going to make you improve. Vying for a starting berth with the talented Mateo Kovacic is also bound to keep you on your toes and ready for any opportunity that comes your way.
There was also something of a puzzle to solve when it came to the Wavertree born midfielder. It was hard to know what his best position was and how to get the most out of him.
At times he had been dropped back to play in a traditional number six role, whilst other times he was so far up the pitch, he could have been a false nine.
Some players do suffer as a result of being good in too many positions. Perhaps this can be put forward as an excuse for his bizarre inactivity for England.
Sarri though has been able to get Barkley playing in his more natural role. With runners ahead of him and playing through the middle as a number eight, he looks much more useful and effective for Chelsea. His passing game has always been very impressive and something which could really help Southgate in the long term as he looks to plot his a new and more positive future for England.
Good times ahead
With Chelsea looking as though they can challenge for the title, he could also prove to be a very useful weapon in their arsenal.
For a player compared with Paul Gascoigne and Michael Ballack, complemented by the likes of Xavi and Frank Lampard, Barkley’s stuttering development has been a strange one.
He will now hope to have found his place under Sarri and Southgate. If he can continue in this current rich vein of form he could be set for his most productive and impressive season to date.
With England often lacking a cutting edge and a killer final ball, Barkley could be the player to finally unlock the potential of Southgate’s excellent young squad. The future looks bright once again for Barkley.