Ross Barkley has been under fire for Chelsea this season. He came in for criticism from manager Frank Lampard following an incident earlier this season (Sky Sports) and has seen his performances criticised by some Chelsea fans.
When his name was announced in the starting line-up yesterday, some fans will have raised an eyebrow. Mateo Kovacic, one of, if not Chelsea’s outright best player this season was left on the bench for the 26-year-old to start. He repaid the faith shown in him by Lampard and put in a great performance for the Blues.
But why did Lampard do it, and why was it so effective?
Chelsea have struggled to break teams that use a low block down of late. Kovacic does not make as much of an impact in the final third and is rarely seen in the opposition box. He is superb in possession and when playing against a high press is brilliant at getting out of tight spaces and creating space for teammates.
However, in games against teams like Burnley, who will sit back and look to nick a goal, Barkley may be the better option. The England international has his faults but gets into dangerous areas going forward. He has an eye for goal and makes late runs into the box that Kovacic does not.
He boasted a passing accuracy of over 90% in yesterday’s game, completed two out of three attempted dribbles, and created one chance. Playing him proved to be a very effective tactical decision by Lampard.
It is important not to get carried away with Barkley’s performance.. He has put in some disastrous performances for the club this season and Kovacic remains the more reliable option.