Ross Barkley vs Manchester City
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The Rejuvenation of Ross Barkley 

There is a commonly used saying in football that goes, ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent”. This can be applied to Luton Town midfielder Ross Barkley, who is enjoying a stellar season for the Hatters. 

After a tough few years, the former Everton man has revitalised his career at Kenilworth Road. Barkley has been one of the most consistent performers, not only for Rob Edwards’ Luton side but in the whole Premier League this season. 

It has been a remarkable turnaround following a tough few seasons for Barkley, who has struggled with injuries since leaving Everton for Chelsea in 2018. With many people putting Barkley in their England squad for Euro 2024, there is little reason to disagree. 

Technical Brilliance & Defensive Nous

One main thing that has stood out about Barkley’s game this season is his technical brilliance. He is a masterful ball carrier and a superb passer, able to thread the needle with passes in behind. The Luton midfielder’s reading of the game stands out and is reflected in his work both in and out of possession. 

Note Ross Barkley’s data from this season, courtesy of DataMB. His excellent ball-carrying stands out, as do his progressive passing stats and key passes. Barkley is the metronome of the Luton midfield. He makes them tick going forward while also helping out defensively. He is probably the most important cog in a pretty well-oiled machine. 

Ross Barkley Radar jpg

Barkley is the player in Europe’s big five leagues this season with the most dribbles completed, out of a minimum of 60 attempted. His 68.6% is bettered by none. His tall frame is a benefit when carrying the ball. Barkley can use his body to shield the ball from an opponent. 

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He also possesses a surprising burst of pace, meaning he can accelerate away from defenders and into space ahead of him. The midfielder can often be seen powerfully carrying the ball through the opposition midfield, a quick and effective method of progression for Rob Edwards’ side. 

The Englishman’s passing is a joy to watch. He pulls the strings for Luton all over the pitch, orchestrating attacks from deep and crafting openings in the final third. Notably, Barkley is often responsible for getting the ball out to either of the wings for Luton, looking to find their wing-backs, who play very wide, as quickly as possible. 

Ross Barkley is a player with a high football IQ, and this shows in his final third pass. The former Everton man has been invaluable for Luton in this aspect and has created six big chances in the Premier League, registering three assists to go along with three goals. His ambipedality helps in these scenarios in the final third. Regardless of what foot the ball is on, Barkley can slide through balls in behind or lift crosses into the box. 

Playing in a pivot mainly alongside Arsenal loanee Albert Sambi-Lokonga, Barkley has shown his excellent defensive nous. Playing in a pivot in a back three system, and because Luton are naturally likely to have less possession in most games, has led to Barkley putting in some vital defensive contributions. 

Off the ball, he stands out in two facets. Barkley averages 6.7 ball recoveries and wins 7.2 duels per game in the Premier League this season. To break that down further, he wins 5.5 ground duels and 1.8 aerial duels per 90 minutes, making him useful from set-pieces, too. 

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The 30-year-old is a strong and athletic player, and this shows in his ball-recovery ability and duel win rate. Barkley is often seen out-strengthening players in duels, and he uses his six-foot-two frame to his advantage, being able to hook the ball away from an opponent or reach for a loose ball and win possession back. 

Ross Barkley & His Euro 2024 Chances 

It is now just a few months before Gareth Southgate names his England squad for Euro 2024. Ross Barkley last represented his country on October 14, 2019, when England beat Bulgaria 6-0, a game where Barkley scored twice and registered one assist. The midfielder has 33 caps for his country so far, but many people believe he should add to them in the coming weeks. 

England’s next set of fixtures comes in March, friendlies against Brazil and Belgium at Wembley. With no competitive importance on the fixtures, it gives Southgate a chance to experiment with his squad and allows players like Barkley an opportunity to stake a claim for the Euros. 

Some midfielders are guaranteed to be in the squad. Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham are probably two of the first names on the team sheet, and Southgate has played Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield recently alongside them. Jordan Henderson, now playing at Ajax, seems like another player certain to go, which likely leaves two spots. 

Ross Barkley would surely be one of the players in contention for those spots, along with the likes of Kobbie Mainoo, Conor Gallagher, and Kalvin Phillips. Whether or not the Luton man gets the nod remains to be seen, but it is hard to argue against him following his performances this season. 

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A Summer Move or Stay at Luton?

Ross Barkley’s future in club football is also up in the air, with his deal at Kenilworth Road set to expire in the summer. Should the Hatters get relegated from the Premier League, it seems unlikely Barkley will stay. There would not be a shortage of clubs interested in signing him. 

The 30-year-old has been linked with Manchester United of late, with reports suggesting new owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe is interested in recruiting Barkley as one of his first signings since securing minority ownership at Old Trafford. 

There are sure to be other Premier League clubs interested in Barkley. Perhaps boyhood club Everton sees him as a smart investment, while clubs further up the table or abroad might try to secure his signature. It is a largely risk-free investment, considering Barkley would be a free signing and has obvious quality. 

However, there is always the chance Ross Barkley renews his deal at Luton, especially if they manage to survive this season. That would show amazing loyalty and thanks to a club that gambled and brought him back to England, revitalising his career. 

Wherever Barkley’s future lies, it has been a season of incredible rejuvenation for the midfielder. Last summer, no one was considering him for a place in England’s Euro 2024 squad. Yet, now, he is the name on everyone’s lips. As a football fan, you can’t help but enjoy seeing this incredible season Ross Barkley is having. 

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