Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad to face Croatia and Spain in the Nations League included a few interesting names. Youngsters like Jadon Sancho, James Maddison and Mason Mount were rewarded with good starts to the season by their first ever call-ups.
Another interesting inclusion in the Three Lions squad was that of Chelsea’s Ross Barkley. The former England star had not played for England since 2016 after injury and problems with form.
Just developing at Chelsea
Barkley mooted as the player to solve England’s creativity void in the centre of the park, the midfielder has struggled to get into the Chelsea squad since a cut-price January window move from Everton.
The 24-year-old arrived at Stamford Bridge with a hamstring injury, which contributed to him making just four appearances for the Blues last season. However, since the summer arrival of Italian boss Maurizio Sarri, the playmaker has enjoyed a new lease of life at Stamford Bridge.
The Italian has praised Barkley, who throughout his career has produced moments of magic on a sporadic basis in club football. The midfielder always looked like he had great technical ability, but his decision-making was awful.
Barkley has previously praised the effect that Sarri’s coaching has already had on his game. He has started the campaign in a positive fashion, topped by his role in the Blues 3-0 win at Southampton last time out when he scored a goal and produced an assist.
Maybe Barkley has just never had the right coach to help him develop into the player that everybody expected him to be. The early signs are that Sarri could well be that coach.
Now could be Barkley’s time
As much praise as England received for reaching the World Cup semi-finals in the summer, it still obvious that the Three Lions had a massive creative void in midfield and even the attacking midfield positions.
Barkley can play as a central midfielder and he can play as a number ten. The England team has almost been waiting for Barkley to play enough games and impress enough to be that creative player for the team.
Until this season, the midfielder has failed to do that. Even this season Barkley has not always been in the Chelsea team. He has however impressed during his time on the pitch. It also seems like he has a positive relationship with boss Sarri.
Barkley looks likely to start England’s next two games against Croatia and Spain. If he impresses and stays in the Chelsea team, he could well nail down a starting spot in England’s starting line-up for years to come.
Southgate may be slightly cautious
While I expect Barkley to start, I can see England boss Gareth Southgate being slightly cautious with his team selection for tonight’s game against Croatia. England are slight underdogs to beat the Croats at odds of 15/8.
I cannot see the England boss starting Sancho, Maddison or Mount in the game. If he does then it will be a surprise, as Croatia are obviously a highly talented and experienced team. The likes of Danijel Subasic and Mario Mandzukic may have retired, but boss Zlatko Dalic still has a good pool of players to field.
Anyway, back to Barkley. If the Chelsea playmaker does start the game against Croatia, it will be interesting to see how he copes against the world-class talents of Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric. He could even come up against Chelsea teammate Mateo Kovacic on Friday night.
Whether Barkley performs or not on Friday night, at least it seems like the former Everton star’s development is at least heading in the right direction, which can only be good for Barkley, his club and his national side.
Is Ross Barkley starting to fulfil his potential?
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