Chelsea have been advised to use Ross Barkley in a more central, free role in attacking midfield after a nightmare start to life at Stamford Bridge.
That’s the message from former Arsenal star and pundit Paul Merson, who believes Barkley’s career looks at real risk of going down the drain at the moment.
The England international has barely featured and rarely in his preferred role since joining Chelsea from Everton in the January transfer window, with Merson labelling his start a ‘disaster’.
Once regarded as one of this country’s brightest young talents, Barkley missed the first half of the season for Everton with injury and is quickly becoming something of a forgotten man despite his move to Chelsea in the winter.
Merson believes Barkley now doesn’t have long to prove himself and that he has to hope a new manager could come in and use him in a different role, or else send him out on loan to give him more of a chance of playing regularly.
‘Ross Barkley is running out of time to resurrect his career. His move to Chelsea has been a disaster and it needs to click for him quickly now or he’ll be forgotten,’ Merson wrote in the Daily Star.
‘I’m a big fan of his but it’s a strange one. He’s a No 10, and when I played, you didn’t start playing in that position until you were 27 or 28.
‘It’s the hardest position on the pitch. I know because I’ve done it. You’ve got to make things happen and you’re always under the microscope. It’s a pressure position.
‘But he’s not playing there for Chelsea and you have to wonder if he ever will.
‘He’s been stuck out wide there and he needs a free role in my opinion. If a new manager comes in with a different system he might get a chance next season.
‘A new manager might play a different way and Barkley might finally get a chance. If not, then he will be tempted to leave, even if it’s only on loan.’
Many Chelsea fans will have seen this as a strange signing at the time and now look to be being proven right.
Still, Barkley is just one of many poor signings the Blues have made this season, along with Tiemoue Bakayoko and Danny Drinkwater, while Antonio Rudiger, Davide Zappacosta and Emerson Palmieri haven’t exactly hit the ground running either.
All this after letting two of last season’s title-winning stars in the form of Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic leave.