Ross Barkley says Maurizio Sarri’s coaching methods and style of football have made him a better and wiser player, and he expects to continue improving at a fast rate under our manager’s guidance.
The midfielder we signed from Everton in January had an injury-interrupted start to his Chelsea career but this season has featured regularly, playing in all but one of our games to date. As Sarri pointed out this afternoon, Barkley has already got considerably more minutes under his belt this term than he did in the second half of 2017/18.
Ninety of those came in Greece a fortnight ago as we kicked off our Europa League campaign with victory against PAOK. Barkley was one of our stars in Thessaloniki that night and speaking to the media ahead of our next European assignment, against Vidi tomorrow, he highlighted just how much his game has come on since his move to Stamford Bridge, and especially in the last few months.
‘I had a difficult time last season with a lot of injuries,’ he noted.
‘It was bound to be frustrating, but I was mentally tough as I have been with previous injuries. My focus was on here coming here and improving, and I believe even when I wasn’t playing games I was still improving in training and understanding the different movements of the players and getting used to them.
‘This season I have got a strong pre-season under my belt and now I am kicking on. I am feeling as fit as I have ever felt before.
‘Sarri has given me the chance to play and I have played, and I hope I have taken my chance.’
Barkley’s continued selection in our starting XI or as a substitute brought off the bench at critical moments suggests he is central to Sarri’s thinking, and the 24-year-old explained how his new boss’ methodologies has played into his hands.
‘From a technical point of view, he is making me a better player,’ Barkley said.
‘His philosophy is helping me a lot right now. Over the years I haven’t really been coached much, and I am at an age now where I understand football a lot more, and I know how important it is to take different tactics from different managers on board.
‘Our players are high up the pitch, he likes to press, and when we receive the ball we are closer to the goal to take shots and create chances, which is the way I like to play. Right now I am ready to understand every aspect of the game.
‘His style of play really suits mine, so I feel like as the season goes on I will show a lot more of what I am capable of.
‘You only need to be around the gaffer for half-an-hour to know how intelligent he is,’ added Barkley.
‘His attention to detail for each player is really important so you understand what he wants for each game we go into. He prepares for each game and each opponent really well. You can understand how much he loves the game.’
Barkley said he was enjoying playing in central midfield where he was accustomed to lining up in his youth either in a two or a three, and the quality of players we have at Chelsea ensures he is learning plenty from them, too. He is hopeful his performances for the Blues will earn him a place back in the England squad, where he was for the 2014 World Cup following his rapid rise to the first XI of his boyhood club, Everton. The speed with which he got in the team at Goodison Park was impressive - a regular from 17 onwards - but it did bring about drawbacks, too.
‘When you go through the youth system you’re always going in to do analysis work, you’re always looking at every way of improving and your coaches are always on top of you,’ he revealed.
‘And then, once you get into the first team, it can change because game to game managers are focusing on weekly results and not player development. A lot of players in first teams are older, experienced players who know the game. That’s just the way it can go.
‘I believe if I did have that type of approach from a coach from when I was younger, then maybe I would have improved a lot more, but these things happen in football. Where I am right now is where I believe I should be. I am in the right place to show what I am capable of.’