London (AFP) – Thomas Tuchel insists Ross Barkley can make an impact on Chelsea’s bid to win the Premier League title after the midfielder came in from the cold in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Burnley.
Barkley made his first Premier League start this term as Tuchel tweaked the leaders’ line-up at Stamford Bridge.
The 27-year-old got his rare chance because Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner are injured, while Mason Mount was only fit enough for a substitute’s role after a tooth infection.
Barkley started in a ‘false nine’ role in Chelsea’s three-man attack and delivered arguably the best performance of his troubled three-year spell with the Blues.
Since signing from Everton in 2018, Barkley has found it impossible to recapture the dynamic displays that made him the darling of Goodison Park.
He spent last season in exile on loan at Aston Villa and looked certain to eventually leave Chelsea.
But Tuchel has kept him around this season and in only his second start in all competitions, Barkley finally showed his quality.
Linking with the midfield and driving forward dangerously, while displaying his range of passing, Barkley was Chelsea’s most influential figure against Burnley.
Ironically, Barkley’s last contribution before being substituted to a standing ovation was to lift a shot over the bar that would have put Chelsea two goals up after Kai Havertz’s first half opener.
Barkley wasn’t alone in missing a good chance as Chelsea fluffed a host of opportunities to kill off lowly Burnley before Matej Vydra’s 79th minute equaliser.
Blues boss Tuchel might have second guessed his decision to take off Barkley, and he was quick to praise the player’s contribution.
“He waited a long time and he had a huge impact on our matches when he came on,” Tuchel said.
“He deserved the chance to start. We changed the position in the front three today, so he could play as a number 10.
“He had a good match. Maybe he had the match on his foot with that chance. If you see him in training he would score that.
“Of course he is angry on himself but he created chances, so nobody minds.”
– ‘Very serious’ –
Barkley has made only eight appearances in all competitions this term and his lack of game-time has left his England career also on hold.
If Mount, Lukaku and Werner are available in the coming weeks, there could be less opportunities for Barkley to remind Tuchel of his qualities.
But, with Chelsea facing a hectic schedule as they challenge for silverware in four competitions, Tuchel offered a glimmer of hope to the midfielder.
“It depends on himself first of all, if he stays humble and hard working. I’m happy if he is not completely satisfied,” Tuchel said.
“He was very serious from the first moment in pre-season, but there is a lot of competition at Chelsea.
“You need to be ready. If we think you are ready there is a chance to come on the pitch.”
Tuchel was less forthcoming about his touchline spat with Sean Dyche — an incident provoked by Barkley’s collision with Ben Mee.
Tuchel reacted to a comment from Dyche by leaping to his feet and angrily gesticulating at the Burnley manager.
Dyche’s assistant Steve Stone reportedly told Tuchel and his staff to show more “respect” during the incident.
But Tuchel would not be drawn on the row, saying only: “I don’t want to talk about it now. Maybe it was fun for you but I will not talk about it.
“I learned in my career as a coach not to comment on referees and other coaches. It will catch you out. So I will not comment.”