Frank Lampard certainly has no shortage of midfield options available to him, and he says it is testament to the form and work ethic of Ross Barkley that our current no.8 is enjoying such a prolonged spell in the team.
Barkley has started five of our last seven games and made a positive impact off the bench in the other two, away to Aston Villa and Leicester. He scored the winner in the FA Cup tie, and helped us recover a deficit at Villa Park in our first match following the restart.
Against Watford on Saturday he was a major factor in our control of the midfield, and once again showed his goal contribution with an assist and then a late strike of his own. It left Lampard with reasons to consider his recent form.
‘I don’t think it’s a new level for Ross,’ the boss determined. ‘I played against and with Ross, for England, and he’s got great quality. What he’s doing now is playing a very complete role, with his work-rate, recovering and jumping out to defenders from midfield areas, and he always has that goal threat with his technical qualities of right and left foot.
‘Ross has been dedicated to the cause in lockdown, in his performances just before lockdown, and I’m delighted with him. He just needs to keep his levels. I’m delighted with him and his attitude has been first class.
‘I can’t pick all of my six or seven midfield players,’ added Lampard.
‘Certain games dictate whether you want to be more offensive or not. When Ross and Mason were really positive on Saturday it was great, it changed our game, to get the ball through the lines and in to Christian and Willian, and to get themselves into high areas. That is key in those sort of games.’
He may only be 26 but Barkley is one of the older heads in the dressing room. With the other goalscorers on Saturday being Olivier Giroud (33) and Willian (31), Lampard considered the blend of youth and experience he has had at his disposal this season.
‘The younger players that have come through is always a good story for the media, and for the club, but you need the balance of the group,’ noted the boss.
‘It is always going to be important for the experienced players to play a big part. I felt that at the beginning of the season. Everyone says I played the younger players because I had to play them, it wasn’t true. The younger players played when they had done well enough to keep themselves in the team and really contribute.
‘As the season goes on, if it goes the other way I will pick the team I see as best. That’s when you rely on experienced players. They need to help each other. The experienced players need to help the young players at difficult moments, and the young players need to realise there are levels to kick on and improve, whether that’s in matchplay or how they work during the week.’