The Unlikely Ross Barkley Villa Loan
After sitting on the Chelsea bench on Tuesday night at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for Chelsea’s League Cup clash, the last place you expected to see Ross Barkley the next day was taking part in a Bodymoor Heath training session wearing an Aston Villa kit.
It had been mooted that Dean Smith was in the hunt for a No.8 to bolster the ranks and was looking at either Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Ross Barkley on a season loan deal. With Barkley still in and around the Chelsea match day squad, it seemed, from the outside at least, if either was going to happen, it would be Loftus-Cheek.
It was something that most Villa fans perhaps had resigned to being a deadline day possibility and something of a bonus, if it happened. So the club’s unveiling was a bit of a surprise to all.
The deal allegedly was being finalised while Barkley sat in the stands watching Chelsea lose on penalties to Spurs in the League Cup.
Appeal to Villa
Considering the amount of money Villa have spent already in the window and the need to get in players that actually improve the match day squad, the loan option of the England international is a good way of solidifying the ranks for 2020/21 with genuine quality, without another big upfront transfer fee.
Barkey has had a bit of a hit and miss time with Chelsea, since moving from Everton, where as a young player he was something of the second coming of Wayne Rooney. While Rooney went onto blossom further at Manchester United, Barkey in comparison, has had something of a patchy time at Chelsea. With injuries and fierce competition for places interrupting his progress – he’s only started around a third of his appearances – making him something of a squad player at Chelsea.
After being compared to the likes of Paul Gascoigne and Michael Ballack in his early years, his star has dimmed slightly, yet aged just 26-years-old, he has still managed to a mass 33 England caps with eight international goals to his name.
He’s still highly regarded and rated in the game, and arguably still has his best years ahead of him.
Due to Barkley’s stuttering game time, recent stats are fairly superfluous in terms of judging Barkley. The most important thing that Barkley brings to the Villa set up is ‘main man’ aura.
A midfield line-up of Barkley, Grealish, John McGinn and Douglas Luis certainly on paper looks formidable. And there’s genuine depth now, with Barkley Villa now have a figurehead in the midfield who could cover for Grealish or McGinn, if they missed a game or two.
His appearance on the team sheet will suddenly give the opposition something to worry about straight away, thus taking the pressure off Grealish. With Watkins and Traore also coming in to give the team more attacking dimension, Grealish should flourish with his new found freedom.
You’d think Barkley will slot in for Conor Hourihane as a No.8 alongside McGinn, although the Irishman with his end product still very much has a role to play in the first team.
The more physical box-to-box presence of Barkley, along with his skill set going forward, should allow Villa to dictate the midfield more, something they have struggled to do, even playing against 10-men in the past year.
Villa are now a team to be worried about, rather than just having a particular player that needs stopping.
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Defining Season for Ross Barkley?
While Villa will spend top dollar on Barkley’s wage, it’s something of a pivotal season for the midfielder, who joined Chelsea from boyhood club Everton in January 2018.
First of all, he’ll need to reach the standards he was once known for at the Toffees, to make the England squad for the Euros. He could be opposition for Grealish in that respect, but if the duo gel well, then Southgate may be persuaded to pick the pair of them.
Perhaps more important though is that his reputation and status as a player is under review. A poor season for Villa and he limps back to Chelsea, with no chance of getting into their team and he’ll probably never be able to command the same wage again.
Shine and he’ll either give Frank Lampard a selection headache next season, or have a queue of clubs willing to pay a decent fee, with Villa hopefully at the front of the queue.
In many ways Villa could ultimately find themselves inflating his price, as they did with Tyrone Mings impressive loan period. Meaning they’ll be faced with the catch-22 situation of paying more, if they do have the opportunity later to buy him outright.
That though is an issue for another time. If it does arise, it’ll at least mean the Chelsea loanee has had a decent season for the Villa.
The chief concern is the here and now.
When it come to the problems of recent times, whether it be the Villa midfield lacking gravitas, getting the best out of Grealish, making sure the front man isn’t isolated, and making the team a collective attacking force, Barkley may be the key to solving all of those issues.
In short, Ross Barkley could be the missing key to unlock the true potential of Smith’s evolving Villa team.
In an additional episode of the My Old Man Said podcast (episode 116.5), we look discuss further at the merits of Villa’s new loan man, and what it means in the bigger picture of Villa’s season.
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David Michael – @oldmansaid
Chris Budd – @BUDD_music
Phillip Shaw – @prsgame
Dan Rodgers – @avfc_vilr
Editor/Producer – David Michael
Music – Philip Marten