Ross Barkley is feeling as good physically as he has ever done, after a prominent showing in the first pre-season match, which ended in a 1-0 win for the Blues.
The 24-year-old played all but the final quarter-of-an-hour in Perth and was one of the three players to shoot against the woodwork in the second half, after Pedro’s early strike. Following what has been a protracted period with injuries, it is the type of start to the fresh campaign for which he would have been hoping.
‘I felt good out there,’ Barkley told the official Chelsea website. ‘We have been working for the last couple of days on tactical work and I have worked hard during the off-season. In this game I felt really strong and I am ready for the season ahead. Game by game I will feel much better and ready for the season.
‘I came through a difficult spell with a few little niggles after a long-term injury but now I feel as strong as I have ever felt before,’ he added, ‘and I am feeling fitter than I have every felt so yeah, I feel good.’
Barkley played different roles during the game. In the first half he was one of the more advanced midfielders along with Cesc Fabregas, with Jorginho playing deeper, then in the second half he operated on the left of the attacking three.
‘As a young player breaking through at Everton, that is the position I played in,’ he says of the second of those. ‘I was in that position because it gave me freedom to express myself and I understand that role, and I understand the other roles in midfield so I am happy to play anywhere as long as I am on the pitch.
‘It has been very interesting,’ is Barkley’s verdict on his first week under the guidance of Maurizio Sarri. ‘The style that he wants us to play, it is really exciting and very attacking, as well as being very organised. We have been understanding what he has been getting across in training but the more we do it in training, the more we get used to it and I can see from the training sessions that this season is going to be very exciting.’
As well as Sarri, the players are now being coached by Gianfranco Zola. Barkley has a few memories from when he was very young of the Sardinian maestro in action for Chelsea.
‘I saw one game with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Gianfranco Zola up front towards the end of his Chelsea career but I have seen clips since over the years on Sky and now on Chelsea TV, and I know what a legend he is. I remember one clip where he turned Jamie Carragher in and out and he was a very technical player.
‘Since he has been back at the club he has been helping each player out and he has been helping me with a few little tips.’