Date: 18th September 2019 at 1:40pm
Written by:

As the Chelsea team waited to see the decision of match referee Cüneyt Çakir, as he reviewed a VAR decision on a potential handball, one player saw an opportunity to resurrect his Chelsea career.

By the time Çakir had blown his whistle and pointed to the spot, Ross Barkley had already put the ball down and made it abundently clear that nobody else was taking it, despite the best efforts of Willian, Jorginho and Tammy Abraham.

Score, and Chelsea would’ve rescued a draw, miss and a tough Champions League group gets even tougher.

European qualifications are built on victories at home and it normally requires miracles to do it away.

And as Barkley’s spot kick  clipped the crossbar and ended up in the Matthew Harding End, a news story was born.

Fair play to Barkley for facing the press after the game, but declaring his name is first on the list has done little to silence those doubting the decision of Lampard to let him take it.

Last season Eden Hazard was the taker, then Jorginho, so one would assume that the Italian, who scored a penalty during the extra time period in the Super Cup defeat to Liverpool to force the game to penalties, should be the main penalty taker.

Lampard chose Pedro over new signing Christian Pulisic due to his Champions League experience, yet  a man who was making his Champions League debut when he was introduced in the 80th minute was his main penalty kick taker?

And not just that, Barkley has failed to get much game time, with Lampard preferring Mason Mount, once all the wingers are fit, these two will be battling for their place in the team and right now Mount has it.

Maybe that’s why Barkley was so desperate to take it. Mount had gone off injured after a disgusting challenge from ex-Arsenal man Francis Coquelin, and Lampard had introduced Pedro, not Barkley, to replace him.

Alarm bells may well have been ringing, none more so than when on International duty with England, with both Mount and Leicester City’s James Maddison both catching the eye of Gareth Southgate.

Barkley saw an opportunity to thrust himself back in the spotlight and into Lampard’s plans, but like most of his Chelsea career to date, he fell short.

As the legendary JK often says on the Fancast, we don’t see what happens in training, and perhaps that’s why managers and coaches stick with Barkley.

Perhaps when the pressure is off, in training and pre-season, Barkley is able to make the kind of contributions to the game that had people referring to him as like Paul Gascoigne, when he first broke through at Everton.

But when the pressures on, he seems to go into his shell and looks a shadow of the player that most people believe he could be.

I said on last Friday’s Love Sport Radio show that this would be a ‘make or break’ season for Barkley at Chelsea and I truly believe that given the kind of talent we have coming through in midfield.

It’s already tight this year with N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Barkley and Mount all vying for places.

Add to that Billy Gilmour, Connor Gallagher and even Reece James then you really need to make some tough choices.

Plus we’ll have the opportunity to actually sign some players.

Barkley needs to prove himself at this level, otherwise he’ll find himself out the team, out of the national team and out the door.

Dean is the author of ‘Cult Fiction- how a year under Sarri almost tore Chelsea apart’ available on Amazon now amzn.to/2T7v5Tu