Maurizio Sarri has been discussing the big improvement he has seen in Ross Barkley over the course of the midfielder’s first full season at Chelsea.
Barkley joined the Blues from his hometown club Everton in January of last year, but spent much of his early months at Stamford Bridge recovering his fitness and sharpness after a lengthy spell out with an injury suffered with the Toffees.
However, with a full pre-season behind him, Barkley has been an important player for Chelsea in 2018/19 and Sarri has been impressed with what he has seen as the campaign has gone on.
‘Of course at the beginning of the season he didn’t have big confidence because the last season was really very hard for him,’ said the Italian. ‘Then after three, four, five matches in the starting XI he changed. Now he’s a very important player for us. He is a very, very good player. He is important in our midfield and he’s played a lot of matches.
‘He has improved a lot tactically. I think that he improved a lot in the defensive phase because technically he was, and he is, a very good player. In the offensive phase he is able to score seven, eight goals every season and now I think he is a good player also in the defensive phase.
‘Also physically I think, because in the last season he played only 200 minutes and so he needed time on the pitch. Fortunately now he is going very well with the leg and he has improved a lot during the season.’
As we head into our first match following the season’s last international break, Sarri also admitted he isn’t able to step back and relax during those weeks without a game, instead using the extra time to focus on our upcoming fixtures, only allowing himself to ease off briefly when the season is over.
‘I don’t switch off, even if I try,’ he said. ‘I worked also during the break, I watched our last five or six matches, I saw our future opponents, so I try to work in the same way.
‘My feeling is the same when there is a match, when there is a training, for me everything is really very important, so I want to stay at the same level with my mind for 11 months.’