Everything’s clicking for Ross Barkley, a player transformed from the injury-prone ‘maybe man’ released by Everton in January this year for what now looks like a bargain £15million.
Strong, keen and almost clairvoyant in his anticipation of moves, he looks a natural in Chelsea’s squad… evidenced by his pivotal role in the Blues’ overwhelming display against Burnley on Sunday.
No wonder Morrie Sarri called him a “complete player”, and is looking for ways of keeping him in his starting XI wherever possible.
He scored one, and teed up a further two in the Blues’ 4-0 win at Turf Moor, keeping Chelsea’s unbeaten record going a little bit longer.
It was Barkley who set up Chelsea’s 22nd-minute opener, sliding in a through ball for Alvaro Morata – yes, really – to jab past Joe Hart. Then Barkley got one himself, firing into the bottom corner from 25 yards after an hour had been played.
His second assist followed, with Willian fed through to curl one past Hart. Underlining Chelsea’s growing squad depth, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, fresh from his midweek hat-trick in the Europa League at the Bridge, added the fourth in stoppage time.
Barkley’s feat in scoring in three consecutive Premier League games makes him the first Englishman to do so since the man Chelsea welcome back to SW6 on Wednesday night, one Frankie Lampard, in February 2013.
“Barkley is doing very well,” said Sarri. “He improved his physical condition because the last season for him was really very difficult. He’s a very good player from the technical point of view. Now I think Ross is complete.”
The good news for Chelsea is that they have proved they can win, and win well, without their talisman player and top goalscorer Eden Hazard, still recovering from a back injury. He will skip Wednesday’s Carabao Cup game, although – as he was against BATE on Thursday – he’ll be in the stadium, watching from the seats behind the dugout.
But he hopes to be fully fit to face Crystal Palace at the Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
Chelsea’s remarkable start to the season – unbeaten after the first 10 games in the top flight – is only the fifth time they have achieved such stats. The previous times were 1964-65, 1966-67, 2005-06 and 2014-15, with the last two leading to Premier League titles.