Is forgotten man Ross Barkley finally the key to unleash Romelu Lukaku?

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Ross Barkley’s position at Chelsea has certainly been in the category of those mentioned in “Do you know these players played for your club?” It may sound harsh but Barkley’s move to Chelsea didn’t go as expected. Then why is Ross Barkley even in the discussion to unleash Romelu Lukaku? Well, the answer to this question tracks back to the duo’s Everton days. Barkley and Lukaku played together for the Toffees from 2013-14 to 2016-17 season. They were absolutely a force to reckon with Everton before Lukaku left in 2017 and Barkley the following year.

Barkley and Lukaku were again reunited last summer when the striker joined Chelsea. But since his move, Romelu Lukaku has hugely disappointed the Chelsea fans as well as the club with his performances. Moreover, His recent display against Crystal Palace set another bizarre record. Lukaku played a full 90 minutes, but only managed 7 touches to the ball. With Barkley in the team, Thomas Tuchel should give a try to pair him up with Lukaku once again to try and change the fortunes of both the players as well as his team.

Can Barkley and Lukaku work their magic from the Everton days?

It’s not that just they played together for Everton, they should do the same for Chelsea. Barkley and Lukaku formed chemistry together, both on and off the field which helped elevate their game. Given Lukaku’s form till now, it is safe to say that he is yet to bond with someone the same way he did with Barkley. it is more evident from the assessment made by former England striker Alan Shearer. “He’s actually stopped running at times because the ball is not coming to him and there were numerous examples of that. It’s very frustrating and I know what I would be doing at half-time or on the training ground. He’s got to demand the ball and make sure his teammates are prepared to pass it to him,” said the Premier League’s all-time top-scorer.

Shearer’s comments clearly outline the problem here. Lukaku is failing to strike chemistry with the other attackers on the field for Chelsea. To add to this, Lukaku and Barkley shared the pitch 146 times in their time with Everton. No other duo from the current Chelsea team has played together that often. Lukaku and Barkley understood each other’s game perfectly and complimented one another. Another aspect that is missing for Lukaku at the moment. The abundance of attackers in the current Chelsea team have more often counteracted each other’s game rather than complimenting. Barkley has played only 12 games for Chelsea this season, to Lukaku’s 28. Furthermore, they have shared the pitch for only 101 minutes across 4 games for Chelsea so far. Due to those mere 101 minutes, Barkley and Lukaku’s brilliant bond has gone under-utilized.

The former Everton duo’s understanding

Romelu Lukaku absolutely loved to share the field with Barkley, and highly regarded the English midfielder. “The midfielders made it so much easier for me, Ross (Barkley), and Arouna. We had that freedom to inter-change positions and defensively we tried to help as well. I told Ross at the start of the season that he needs to score more and make more assists. He is 21-years-old and he needs to be up there with the best players in the league because he has the qualities,” said Lukaku about Barkley during their time at Everton.

Lukaku’s comments clearly show how much he felt it easy to play around with Barkley. Maybe he needs the same ‘love’ to overcome his current difficulties. Premier League stats from the 2013-14 season show how well the pair of Ross-Romelu worked. Lukaku and Barkley played 15 league games together for Everton that season, out of which 10 were wins. Whereas, Everton won only 11 of its 23 games without the partnership of the duo. Moreover, the 15 games saw more goals than the other 23. Everton were helped by 31 goals from those 15 games of the Ross-Romelu partnership compared to 30 from the other 23 games. Lukaku and Barkley together amassed 2.2 points per game from 15 games together, whereas only 1.7 points per game were managed from the remaining 23 games.

Barkley played a number-10 role behind Lukaku’s number-9 for the Toffees. Barkley had an excellent vision and exploited the space conceded by the opponents to feed in Lukaku to run. Barkley’s ability to have a got at the defenders with his sudden burst of pace also helped Lukaku with acres of empty space to take advantage of. Many instances can be unearthed where the duo flourished. However, it’s up to Tuchel to consider pairing-up Lukaku with one of his favorite partners-in-crime.

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