It was announced officially on Wednesday morning that Ross Barkley has joined Aston Villa on a season-long loan, sparking confusion at a deal that came completely out of the blue.
After being named on the bench on Tuesday night for Chelsea’s Carabao Cup tie against Tottenham, the fact a deal was completed so soon afterwards definitely took everyone by surprise. It’s a deal however that makes plenty of sense for all parties.
Barkley has barely featured for the Blues this season and after manager Frank Lampard spent £250 million bolstering the squad, the former Everton man has decided to get regular minutes elsewhere.
Aston Villa had been linked with Barkley’s teammate Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but the academy man is a target for Southampton too although whether he is still going to be allowed to leave in unknown at this point.
With Barkley joining up with Dean Smith at Villa, he will now likely be the first choice central midfielder alongside John McGinn and Douglas Luiz meaning he will probably displace Irishman Conor Hourihane. The deal sees a swift move to also help take the attacking burden from captain Jack Grealish, who signed a new long-term deal to stay at the club last month.
After just about staying in the Premier League last season thanks to Grealish’s final day goal, it was expected that Villa would push to secure more attacking threat to help their star man out if they planned to keep him around. After completing the signing of Ollie Watkins from Brentford for a club-record £33million, they have also now signed Bertrand Traore for the opposite wing too.
For Aston Villa the benefits are clear, they’re getting a player who improves their starting team. For Chelsea though, they now have a player getting regular minutes elsewhere in the Premier League and one less unhappy body in the squad. Barkley was clearly behind Kante, Kovacic, Jorginho, Mount and Havertz for his favoured central roles and also had to compete with Loftus-Cheek too.
With Euro 2020 coming up next summer, he will be keen to impress England manager Gareth Southgate after losing his place in the squad recently. By potentially forming a partnership with Grealish, Watkins and Mings at Villa he could force his way into the squad with midfield comfortably being the weakest position throughout the squad.
It’s one of those rare moves that sees everyone win on paper. Now it’s down to Barkley himself to turn in the type of performances to prove it.