The familiar cyclical pattern at Chelsea looks set to to continue this season if their opening under Maurizio Sarri is anything to go by.
A season of success is followed by a season of woeful underachievement; one manager leaves and another arrives. Chelsea’s recent history has diverged from one extreme to another from season to season, and there is a growing feeling of predictability as to how they will perform based on their history.
Luckily for Maurizio Sarri, he has arrived in a season which, according to the history books, should be a thoroughly successful one for Chelsea.
4 wins from 4 Premier League fixtures, including a 3-2 victory over top-four rivals Arsenal have added to the feeling that Chelsea are set to enjoy a positive campaign under Sarri, but how will his presence influence the performance of a peculiar talent in Ross Barkley?
Despite rejecting the opportunity to move to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2017, Barkley agreed to join Chelsea in January in a deal worth £15 million in January.
That the Blues were willing to spend £15 million on a player whom they could have signed for free in the summer speaks volumes about how highly he is regarded, but it’s not quite worked out for him since he arrived in west London.
Barkley (valued at £22.5 million by Transfermarkt) made just 2 Premier League starts under Antonio Conte, although it’s important to note that he was still having minor issues with the hamstring injury which ruled him out for most of 2017.
But just when Barkley may have been pondering the merits of his decision to join Chelsea, Sarri handed him back-to-back Premier League starts against Huddersfield and Arsenal this season – a fact which suggests he will be handed a fantastic opportunity to prove himself under the new manager.
A return to the England squad is not even worth considering at this moment in time, but if Sarri can find a way of finally squeezing out the potential which Barkley has flamboyantly demonstrated in sporadic bursts throughout his career so far, there’s no doubt Gareth Southgate will be watching on with a keen eye.
Pep Guardiola has been hailed as a football genius by fans and pundits alike for a multitude of reasons, including his terrific man-management skills which have helped players to realise the full extent of their potential.
Sarri is still some way from being discussed on a level alongside Guardiola but, if he can do what no manager before him has achieved and turn Barkley into England’s most devastating number ten, there’s no doubt he would have pulled off a genius piece of man-management.
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