While a highly rotated Chelsea sputtered to a 0-0 draw at Carrow Road on Saturday, a fair number of the first-team squad stayed at Cobham to train and start preparations for the League Cup semifinal against Arsenal.
Thibaut Courtois, César Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, N’Golo Kanté, Cesc Fàbregas, Victor Moses, Marcos Alonso, and Eden Hazard all stayed behind to work, while off to the side conducting one-on-one drills was new signing Ross Barkley, in his first action for his new club.
Barkley had been back to training with Everton for the last couple weeks after missing all of the season thus far with a hamstring injury and subsequent surgery, so Conte’s hoping that the 24-year-old will come up to speed very quickly. With the busy schedule — already congested even before the replay against Norwich was added into the one open midweek we were going to have — the coach could use all the numbers we got.
“There are many chances for all my players and I’m happy to give this chance to everyone because I think they deserve it.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
On Barkley specifically, Conte, who is generally very slow in integrating new players into his schemes, is hoping to be able to use him “very quickly”.
“My hope is to have this player very quickly. On Saturday he started to have a training session with the fitness coach. It’s important for me to see him, to understand his physical condition, to improve his physical condition, to work with us, into our ideas. From Monday I’ll see him and then we’ll start to prepare a programme, a plan to have him very good.”
As far as where and how Barkley may be used, it sounds like he will be an option for the advanced midfield role in the 3-5-2 (i.e. the shuttler/runner/Bakayoko role, if we can call it that) or the support forward roles in the 3-4-3 (either of the wide forwards in the front three) — at least that’s what I think Conte means when he talks about a no.10 in a system that doesn’t actually have a true, traditional no.10.
“It will be very important to know him very well. For sure before playing we must be sure that he is into our idea of football. Otherwise it’s a problem for him and it’s a problem for the rest of the team.
”Ross Barkley is a really good player. First of all we have the necessity to bring him in the best physical condition. I think he can play in midfield, if we play with three midfielders, or number 10 if we play 3-4-3. Ross Barkley is also a creative player.
“I think he has the quality to score more goals. My priority before is to convince the player to work for the team. If you are able to work for the team, the team then exalt your characteristics. We are talking about a talented player and we are happy to have him in our squad.”
As we’ve talked about in analysis, goals from the wide forwards have been one of the biggest areas of improvement for the squad, and if Barkley can contribute there, he just might prove not only a smart but actually a good signing. In fact, Conte’s hoping that with there potentially important contributions at Chelsea, Barkley can even earn a recall to England ahead of the World Cup in the summer. If Barkley needed any more motivation, he’s got it now!
“We are talking about a player with great talent.Before this bad injury he was with the national team. I think we have five months to show he deserves a call with the national team for the World Cup. I hope, because it means he will do very well with us.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Evening Standard
So say we all.