Ross Barkley - Do or Don't?
The signing of Ross Barkley was an exciting one for Aston Villa fans. Even more so after scoring on his debut against Liverpool in the famous 7-2 victory at home and the only goal in the 1-0 win away at Leicester. He enjoyed a quick and successful start to his Aston Villa career. Since then a hamstring injury kept him out for nine games and although scoring against Southampton in the 1-0 win, has failed to impress. He has been substituted in every game other than the Southampton victory, further outlining a series of disappointing performances. Should Villa gamble and pay the rumoured £40million price tag on Barkley?
The initial price tag is most likely inflated, the Villa owners may be wealthy, but I do not see a scenario they pay this price tag for Barkley. With a degree of negotiation Barkley could be available for around 20-25 million. This is still a substantial investment, so should Villa pull the trigger?
This season Barkley has tallied 2.6 expected assists (xA) but only 1 actual assists. Indicating he has been unlucky to an extent to not add to his tally. He also provides the second most key passes for this Villa side with 25, behind only Jack Grealish with 76. Barkley has missed nine games through injury, so these figures are impressive. Grealish averages 3.61 key passes a game, whereas Barkley averages 2.08 per game. He may not be on Grealish’s level, but he is a key part to this squad and demands enough respect from opposition that it allows pressure to be taken off the Villa captain to produce.
As previously mentioned, Barkley has missed nine games this season through a hamstring injury. Throughout his career he has missed 74 games through injury, and overall 240 days missed due to specifically hamstring injuries (50 days missed for Villa). At 27 years old this is worrying and casts a huge amount of doubt on whether or not investing such a large amount of money into someone with such a large injury history, is a smart idea.
His defensive efforts have also been scrutinised this season. With specific reference to the lack of tracking for Tomas Soucek’s goal for West Ham, Barkley’s defensive efforts are somewhat disappointing. In players who have played 900 minutes so far this season, Barkley has the lowest amount of tackles (3) and the second lowest successful pressures percentage (25%). He has also only attempted 132 pressures which is the lowest for all Villa players other than the centre halves, who you do not expect to be pressing anyway. His lack of defensive effort is a weakness in his game and could cause issues for Villa, such as the goal for West Ham.
Defensive work isn’t his game, his game is attacking creativity. In this aspect, he is one of the best in the league. Shot Creating Actions (SCA) are actions such as dribbles, passes or being fouled leading to a shot for the team. Barkley has the 4th highest SCA per 90 minutes in the league. Behind only Jack Grealish, Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes, as the graph shows.
Barkley is an outstanding player when fit, and his chemistry with Jack Grealish provides a serious threat to all defences in the Premier League. He has been slow to come back to full match sharpness since his injury, which is another issue for his price tag. Overall for the right price I believe he would be a quality signing for Villa. However, English players usually demand higher transfer fees, and with Chelsea in now having a new manager in Thomas Tuchel, who knows what his plans are for Barkley.
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