Tottenham Hotspur supporters must have been eager to see Ross Barkley in action last night just over a year after Mauricio Pochettino decided against signing him, and that decision was vindicated in part by a mediocre showing at Wembley.
Around this time last year, Spurs fans were digesting the news that Pochettino had decided against moving for Barkley, despite the fact Daniel Levy was willing to sanction a deal (as per football.london).
The months that followed hinted that Pochettino was absolutely right to snub the creative midfielder, but the early stages of the current campaign saw Barkley enjoy a surprising resurgence under Maurizio Sarri, earning him an England recall in the process.
Fleeting moments of quality slowly translated into well-rounded, complete 90-minute performances, but the inconsistency which has plagued his career is beginning to set in once again.
Sarri handed Barkley (valued at £22.5 million by Transfermarkt) an opportunity to show Tottenham fans what they are missing last night in the first-leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final, starting at the heart of midfield alongside Jorginho and N’Golo Kante.
But the 25-year-old endured a quiet evening, rarely utilising his dribbling ability to penetrate Spurs and generally playing percentage passes which you’d expect him to complete more than 95% of the time.
It was a performance which BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty was eager to dissect, as he delivered a scathing review of his distinctly average performance in his post-match column (BBC Sport).
‘He has had more opportunities this season but the early promise has faded and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Mateo Kovacic with 15 minutes left and Chelsea seeking an equaliser.
‘Barkley was too often on the periphery of the action; spraying the occasional pass that was pleasing on the eye but too much was safe from a player who won a reputation as a risk-taker.’
That Callum Hudson-Odoi, 18, offered a much greater attacking threat on an evening in which his future was a more notable sub-plot than Barkley’s performance was indicative of the former Tottenham target’s lack of bravery.
Sure, Barkley operates in a slightly less advanced position than Chelsea’s wonderkid but his years of experience should provide him with the confidence and know-how to utilise his quality on the big occasions – but that was far from the case.
As McNulty alluded to, the promise which characterised the early stages of Barkley’s season has faded in recent weeks, and his latest demonstration of mediocrity may well be giving Levy cause to thank Pochettino behind the scenes for a wise transfer snub.
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