The England international can soften the blow of losing N’golo Kante
With Ruben Loftus-Cheek out with an Achilles injury, and N’Golo Kante struggling to shake off a knee problem himself, Maurizio Sarri could be left with a Chelsea midfield trio without two of its star performers this season. Perhaps not the most enticing prospect for Blues fans ahead of a huge Europa League final against Arsenal on Wednesday, but as is often the case, such an occasion sees the cream rise to the top. So step forward, Ross Barkley.
Valued at £25.2m by Transfermarkt, the England international has endured a mixed time at Stamford Bridge since moving from Premier League rivals Everton. The midfielder has shown flashes of the promise that initially heralded him as one of English football’s brightest young talents, and the ‘next Wayne Rooney’, but unfortunately for Barkley and Chelsea alike, those instances have been few and far between.
But with Kante likely to miss the final in Baku, Barkley’s probable inclusion could be the kick-start his career needs. The 25-year-old has scored five times and provided six assists across all competitions this season, and when given the licence to interplay with the likes of Eden Hazard, can offer something different to the rest of Chelsea’s midfield. His long-range strikes are still a major threat and a great weapon to have, and with Jorginho and Matteo Kovacic likely to sit back and protect, Barkley could find himself pushed further up the pitch by Sarri when the Blues break forward.
At Goodison Park, Barkley relished the responsibility of being Everton’s main creative hub, and enjoyed the freedom that the number 10 role offered him. Whilst Sarri is highly unlikely to give up on his love-in with the 4-3-3 formation before such an important game, Barkley can be a far greater attacking threat than the man he will seemingly replace. Kante’s absence would be a massive blow to the Blues, but under his Italian manager this season, he’s developed into a more box-to-box midfielder. And for all the France World Cup winner’s incredible defensive qualities and off-the-ball work, Barkley is simply far more comfortable in and around the penalty area.
When Chelsea look to a hero in Baku, the man they will immediately turn to will no doubt be Hazard. But, in the big games, where it is often suggested that the battle is won or lost in midfield, the Blues will need Ross Barkley to dominate. The comparisons between Barkley and former Evertonian Rooney have died down in recent seasons, but if the current Chelsea man can deliver one of those trademark 30-yard thunderbolts to help the Blues to European glory, then even at 25, it really will be a case of ‘remember the name’.
Chelsea fans, do you think Barkley can be the man to replace N’golo Kante and deliver a match-winning performance in the Europa League final on Wednesday? If not, why not? Join the discussion by commenting below…
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