Fitter than ever Barkley targets key role in Sarri's Chelsea
The Blues star has assured the football world that his injury problems are behind him, as he aims to make an impact next season under a new manager
Ross Barkley says he is fitter than ever and ready to become a regular starter at Chelsea after hiring his own fitness coaches to help him train over the close season.
The 24-year-old, who had a nine month spell out with a thigh injury prior to joining from Everton in January, made only four appearances for the London side last season, with several small injuries occurring outside of his recovery.
But Barkley has put in extra work with his own fitness coaches so he can hit the ground running and make a good impression on new coach Maurizio Sarri.
“I arrived with a long-term injury, I have done everything I could perfectly,” he said. “I felt strong towards the end of the season and then I went off in the off-season, worked hard, came back and all the hard work I did last season – I didn’t play many games because of a few niggles and that long-term injury – I feel really good now and I know the hard work will pay off.
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“I relaxed for a couple of weeks, just rest, then worked hard with the strength and conditioning coach. A lot of running, a lot of ball work and just getting my body right for the season.
“Yes, it was tough. You know, with the type of injury that I had you do get little niggles.
“I had a few little injuries from recovering and getting used to working hard and getting my body right again. But I didn’t see it as a waste of time, from the time that I joined in January because I got my body feeling better than it has ever felt before.
“I feel like I have been here for a long time now and I get on well with all the lads. During the off-season I just got myself really fit just to give myself a head start. When you have got a new manager you have got to impress and get used to what he wants really quickly. That has been my approach.”
Sarri has started Barkley, alongside Cesc Fabregas and new signing Jorginho, in both of Chelsea’s pre-season games.
N’Golo Kante has yet to return to the team after winning the World Cup, but the start of the Premier League season is now less than a fortnight away and Barkley is well positioned to start in the Community Shield against Manchester City on Saturday.
He is hoping to take the responsibility of being a creative force in Sarri’s three man midfield, much as Marek Hamsik was for the head coach at Napoli last season.
“[I want] to keep learning, the new manager obviously has a different style of play to our previous manager. There will be freedom because you have three men in the midfield. Going forward, getting close to the box, having shots, trying to create, obviously we have to be disciplined and organised without the ball.
“Being well drilled, it’s a new style and we are all learning day-by-day. Every day just taking all the information from the manager, Gianfranco Zola as well, step by step getting a lot of game time. Scoring goals, creating goals, towards the end of the season there will hopefully be a prize at the end with a trophy or a couple of trophies.
“We will see how it goes, but one step at a time, I’m hoping to start the season really strong.”
The new manager’s utilisation of Barkley has been a boost and he hopes that his Chelsea form can help him work his way back into the England squad in the coming months, after watching on from home as they reached the semi-final of the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
“To earn a regular spot at Chelsea is my main focus. If I do well at Chelsea, then the national team will take care of itself. Chelsea is a massive club, you aim to win the Premier League or are challenging for trophies with the aim to win everything.
“It will take care of itself if you keep producing the goods on the pitch, so I am focusing on what I can do for my club right now, but one of my goals is to get back in the England set up and to keep progressing. I am working day-by-day, giving it my all and I am ready to kick on this season.
“It is very exciting and you see with the younger age groups that they are doing very well as well. They are winning World Cups and doing very well with developing players differently now. That approach through the younger age groups lets you see the quality and confidence that they have got to give in the future.
“In the next World Cup, or even next Euros, there may be even more talent mixed in with experience and going forward that’s really exciting. I kept in touch with a few of the lads and I was wishing them well. I have been seeing the progress that the team has made and I have been in one squad under Gareth Southgate and I have seen the direction that the team is going in.
“They have really improved in the last couple of years, you can see that it has been out with the old and in with the new. There has been a progression. Unfortunately, with my injuries and everything, I wasn’t able really to leave an impression to get back into the team but I will work hard and do what I can this season and hopefully I will be back in the set up.”
Chelsea will close out their pre-season with an ICC clash against Arsenal on Wednesday.