Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown believes Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri must stick with Ross Barkley at Newcastle next weekend.
Having only featured in four games for the club last term after joining from Everton on the back of a horrific hamstring injury, the midfielder has impressed so far this season for the FA Cup holders.
Starting off with an impressive pre-season for the club, the 24-year-old has caught the eye in the club’s wins over Huddersfield Town and Arsenal.
Given N’Golo Kante and Jorginho look certain to be two of Sarri’s three midfielders over the course of the campaign, Barkley faces a battle with Cesc Fabregas, Mateo Kovacic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Danny Drinkwater for the final place.
While Kovacic replaced Barkley on the hour mark in the win over the Gunners, Keown believes that the player can finally fulfil his potential under the club’s new manager.
“Maurizio Sarri’s style of play is ready-made for Ross Barkley,” said Keown in the Daily Mail. “He is enjoying the freedom the new manager has given him to attack.
“The 24-year-old is the closest England have come to Gazza in terms of technical ability but at Chelsea we have yet to see his full repertoire.
“Barkley had two excellent chances against Arsenal, firing over the bar in the first half before bursting into the box and having a shot tipped around the post by Petr Cech after the break.
“But while he is proficient with both feet, Barkley hardly used his left on Saturday and seemed reluctant to sprint into the area.
“It felt like he was playing within himself, as if wary that he could suffer a recurrence of the hamstring injury that kept him out for most of last season.
“He was replaced on the hour by Mateo Kovacic but I would urge Sarri to stick with Barkley for Sunday’s trip to Newcastle.
“This is a player who needs to gain confidence and become more free in his mind to go and play. Sarri has a special talent and can give him the perfect platform to finally fulfil his potential.”