Aston Villa new boy Ross Barkley had a great debut – but what can we take from that?
Words: Harry Trend | @Hazatrand
New signing Ross Barkley was a key figure as the Dean Smith’s men tore the current Premier League Champions apart at Villa Park. Here are five things we learned about the new Aston Villa signing.
Confidence is key
As we’ve seen from last season, the majority of new signings take time to bed themselves into Dean Smith’s side. However, there was no shyness from Ross Barkley, who looked familiar with his Villa teammates from the outset.
The Chelsea loanee wasn’t afraid to demand the ball off the likes of John McGinn and Douglas Luiz whilst also taking charge of set-piece duties.
Barkley was not afraid to shoot either, twice missing from long range before his optimistic approach was rewarded with Villa’s fifth.
Some worried that as a “luxury player” Barkley wouldn’t be able to fit in an XI with Jack Grealish. However, the 26-year-old showed he deserves much more than that label.
Barkley was up and down the Villa Park pitch all night whilst playing in that “number ten” role, driving his team forward with purpose from midfield. A personal highlight coming when he showed too much pace for Virgil van Djik to draw the foul that eventually led to Watkins’ third goal.
Not only that, but Barkley is a presence too, the 6-foot-2 midfielder winning six duels whilst making Fabinho look average.
A late runner
While Barkley had an excellent game, the midfielder could have easily tripled his goal tally tonight.
The Evertonian did well to spot the space in between Virgil van Djik and Andrew Robertson before receiving the ball and skewing the shot wide early on.
Later in the game, Barkley would get another chance, taking a touch before again missing the target from a similar position.
However, these are promising signs for the Pride who have notably lacked goals from midfield in the past.
So far these points have focused on Barkley’s all-round game, but for this point I’d like to focus on one moment.
As previously mentioned, the Villa midfielder did superbly to draw the foul from van Djik in the lead up to Watkins’ third. But it’s the delivery of the set-piece that Barkley should get the plaudits for.
The 26-year-old spots the run of Trezeguet at the back post and puts in a delivery meaning the Egyptian can pull the ball across to Watkins without breaking stride.
The best of both worlds
Ross Barkley rarely experienced a free role whilst at Chelsea.
Under Maurizio Sarri the England midfielder often found himself in a rigid midfield three next to N’Golo Kante and Jorginho or Mateo Kovačić where license to roam was limited.
Then under Frank Lampard, the 26-year-old found chances in the starting Blues XI restricted. However, tonight Barkley was given a little defensive responsibility with Douglas Luiz and McGinn providing the protection for Villa’s back four.
Considering his performance, you’d assume Villa’s latest signing will continue to start in this role – it’s the best of both worlds for Barkley.