“We were on a break” is one of the most famous quotes said by Ross Geller in the American sitcom Friends, but it might also be a popular turn of phrase for Ross Barkley in the corridors of Cobham.
Yes, Ross has had some misdemeanours this season, starting with the missed penalty at home in the opening Champions League group stage defeat to Valencia.
Then, he was seen being taken to a cash point by the Police after failing to pay a taxi driver after a night on the tiles.
Another international break, in which Barkley wasn’t selected for England, further photos emerged of a topless Barkley enjoying the sauce in a nightclub.
But these misdemeanours both happened (penalty excluded here) in periods where Barkley was on authorised leave, they didn’t affect his performance in a game or the results of the team.
It seems as though these are being used as an excuse for Lampard to not bother trying to improve Barkley.
Many, myself included, thought that this was Barkley’s make or break season for Chelsea, but under a coach such as Lampard, who’s one of the greatest midfielders of all time, Barkley would have the guidance to finally set his talents free.
And yet, it just hasn’t happened. He’s made just six league appearances (0 goals and assists) and hasn’t started a league game since the 1-0 win over Newcastle on the 19th October.
Its all the more confusing given that Chelsea have often struggled breaking teams down, especially at home, that Lampard hasn’t turned to Barkley more often.
Playing for England, Barkley is given more freedom to express himself and last season it was often said that his performances for club and country were like chalk and cheese.
Lampard could have had used Barkley in a free role against teams that come to Stamford Bridge and defend with a low block, however Barkley has seemingly been frozen out.
He of course got a goal in the FA Cup third round win against Nottingham Forest, but where he fits in this side still seems unclear.
In front of him are Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kante and Mason Mount (plus Ruben Loftus-Cheek when he returns), while the youngsters like Billy Gilmour and the on-loan Conor Gallagher will (being academy products) also probably be ahead in the pecking order come the start of next season.
People were Uber-critical of Maurizio Sarri last season for not bothering to coach anyone outside of his 15 man squad and yet seemingly Lampard is doing a similar thing without facing any questioning.
This season has been stated as a “free hit” for both Lampard and the young players in the squad, and yet some are being given more opportunities than others.
Of course, as the famous JK quote goes, we don’t see what happens in training. And Lampard has spoken publicly that the way players can impress him is through their performances, attitude and application in training.
So perhaps Barkley isn’t showing the right attitude and desire in training that Lampard wants to see, but maybe the best course of action is for Lampard to put his arm round Barkley, do some one-on-one sessions and give him a run in the team to see once and for all if he’s ever going to make it at Chelsea.
Personally, Barkley isn’t at the level required, better suited to a mid table side where he’s a stand out player. Someone like, ironically, Everton or West Ham etc.
But if we have given up on Ross, let’s move him on in this window.
Dean is the author of ‘Cult Fiction- how a year under Sarri almost tore Chelsea apart’ available on Amazon now amzn.to/2T7v5Tu