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Ross Barkley: is the Englishman the key to Chelsea’s title ambitions?

Ross Barkley is beginning to turn heads back in his direction after displaying a string of top performances that have proven instrumental in Chelsea’s most recent successes.

It’s been a long time coming for the 24-year-old, who has had to endure long-term hamstring problems for almost a year and a half; but it finally seems like Ross Barkley is back to his best and, more importantly, is still young enough to be considered a future prospect for both Chelsea and England.

The Merseyside born midfielder has been called up again for his national team for their upcoming matches against USA and Croatia, and I doubt Gareth Southgate had any second thoughts about this decision. Grabbing three goals and three assists in the last four matches has put him firmly in the running to win the Premier League player of the month award for October too.

It’s not like we hadn’t seen Barkley before those four games though – the Englishman has played in all but one of Chelsea’s Premier League games this year. Having said this, the amount of game time he is being given has started to increase and this has likely contributed to his recent surge of form.

As you’d expect following a long-term injury, the 24-year-old had to gradually increase his fitness level until he was ready for the first team and, even now, Sarri is still not playing him for the full 90 minutes every match. Nevertheless, Barkley and his manager will be very pleased with the progress he has made and his contributions that have helped keep Chelsea within two points of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

The Blues finally managed to secure the midfielder they were after back in January for a relatively small fee of £15 million. They almost had their man during the previous summer transfer window for £35 million, but Barkley decided to stay at Everton a while longer while recovering from his injury.

And it’s a good job that he did as far as Chelsea are concerned – the London based club are £20 million better off and Barkley wasn’t even fit enough to play during the waiting period anyway. The small fee that was paid in the end is beginning to look like an absolute bargain and FPL managers around the country are also being lured into signing the midfielder while his price stays around the £6m mark.

So how has Barkley fit in so well with Sarri’s style? Well, we all know that Barkley is a very attack-minded midfielder, which immediately fits with Sarri’s criteria. The Englishman has natural flair when passing and dribbling, allowing for meaningful forward movement, as well as an ability to both score and set up goals on a regular basis. The 24-year-old is mastering the skills needed to be a complete midfielder and his ability to play both centrally and out wide makes him a vital asset for the Blues.

Barkley can spot a key pass like the very best and usually has the technique to execute it – whether it’s a short or long ball, he can play it. He also has the ability to drill a shot in from long range and grab himself some stunning goals, as well as occasionally finding himself in the right place to bag some tap-ins. Barkley has only been back to full fitness for a few games and has already re-demonstrated all of these traits, exciting Chelsea and England fans alike.

There’s no doubt that Barkley will be working hard on improving his fitness, as there is plenty of competition in the midfield area at Chelsea and another injury blow would be a hard one to take for the young player. Chelsea have got a few tough fixtures leading into December, and an in-form Ross Barkley would certainly help them keep their unbeaten record intact in the coming weeks and certainly put them in a better position to challenge for the title this campaign.

Harry Mahon

90maat's team correspondent for Tottenham Hotspur and a student at Loughborough University.

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