Is it time that Jacob Ramsey played another full 90 minutes as Barkley’s poor form continues?
Words: Matt Blogg | @Blogg_Matt
With Jack Grealish not making Sunday’s game at home to Leicester, many Aston Villa fans expected Ross Barkley to step up and fill the talismanic winger’s boots, but the Chelsea loanee failed to make an impact. Only when teenager Jacob Ramsey entered the match on 76 minutes did Villa’s midfield seem to possess the energy necessary to rescue any kind of result, and the impressive cameo from the youth product really does beg the question, should he start at Elland Road ahead of Barkley?
When Ross Barkley first came into the Aston Villa team in October, the Englishman started like a house on fire, grabbing Villa’s fifth against Liverpool before following up with a last-minute winner against Leicester a fortnight later, but the hunger and creativity that contributed to such a strong start to the season seems to have vanished. Since picking up an injury in the first minute of Villa’s home game with Brighton in November, Ross Barkley has only scored one goal, and his consistently flat performances have raised questions over whether there is actually a clause in his loan deal that forces Dean Smith to start him when fit.
With Gareth Southgate present, Sunday was a huge opportunity for Barkley to get himself back in the international conversation, but he was outshone by the repeatedly impressive Jacob Ramsey, despite the youngster only getting 15 minutes of game time. With Ramsey on the pitch, it suddenly looked like Villa had a serious chance of snatching an unlikely equaliser, despite another disappointing performance up to that point, and while that didn’t materialise into a positive result, the clamour for Ramsey to start at Leeds has consequently exploded.
The 19-year-old came on against Leicester and did exactly what everybody thought Ross Barkley would do in the absence of Jack Grealish. He broke lines with passes and dribbles, moved the ball quickly to maintain an attacking tempo, and ultimately looked like making a difference. We know he is capable of playing in the Premier League, and have done since he looked completely at home in his full debut at Wolves in December, but only now is it becoming truly apparent that, actually, he could make that centre attacking midfield spot his own.
Of course, as with any young player, you have to be careful with how you expose him to responsibility. Pep Guardiola’s treatment of Phil Foden over the last few years is a perfect example of that, and Dean Smith will be wary. But at the same time, Smith has also told us numerous times that Ramsey is ready for Premier League football, and having dropped him strategically into the closing stages of almost 10 league games this season, it is now time to unleash him properly.
Barkley simply hasn’t done enough to keep his place in the team, so unless a clause is in place within his loan deal, there is no excuse for him to keep Ramsey out of the team this coming weekend. Energy is arguably the primary attribute that has been lacking from Aston Villa’s play in recent weeks, especially Barkley’s, and if there is one thing you need to play against Leeds United, it’s energy.
Jacob Ramsey has energy in abundance, not to mention his trickery, positional intelligence, confidence, eye for goal, hunger to impress, technical ability and creative flair, so why not give him the opportunity. For this week at least, Ross Barkley needs to be put to one side. It’s JJ’s turn.