Dean Smith has hailed the impact Ross Barkley has had and insists his England ambitions are better suited at Aston Villa rather than Chelsea’s bench.
The 26-year-old has impressed in midfield. He has scored twice in his three appearances for Villa since joining on a season-long loan deal this month.
He was instrumental, linking up seamlessly on his debut with Jack Grealish, in Villa’s sensational 7-2 dismantling of Premier League champions Liverpool. Barkley then scored his new side’s fifth goal early in the second half.
Barkley, who is under contract at Chelsea until the summer of 2023, then scored an injury-time winner at Leicester.
Smith believes that Barkley’s performances reflect his ambitions to make the England squad for the delayed Euro 2020.
“He’s someone I felt we needed,” said Smith ahead of Villa’s Premier League game at home to Southampton.
“I look at the Premier League and you need legs in your midfield area. You’ve got to cover a lot of ground in a game. Ross does that.
“He’s got ambitions to get into the Euro squad at the end of the season. With the quality Chelsea have got, they couldn’t guarantee anyone minutes.
“His work ethic and attitude has been tremendous. He brings us that added bit of quality that we needed.”
Villa have made their best start to a season since 1930 but lost their 100 per cent record last week. That’s after Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds stormed their way to a 3-0 win at Villa Park.
Smith names two dangerous Southampton stars
Smith has said he is confident of a reaction from his players on Sunday. However he acknowledges the threat posed by Southampton.
In particular, he has warned his players to be wary of Danny Ings and Che Adams. The strike duo have six goals and four assists between them so far this season.
“They’ve got goals in the team with Danny Ings and Che Adams – two strikers that can stretch the game. We have to be wary of their strengths,” said Smith.
“They’ve got a really good systematic approach that works for them. We’ll have to be at our best.
“They were good against Everton last week and had a really good comeback against Chelsea the week before.
“They’ve been a team that you can look at since ‘Project Restart’ that have been really strong, solid and reliable.”
Smith has an unchanged squad for Sunday’s game. Bertrand Traore, Ahmed Elmohamady and Conor Hourihane are available as options if he wants to freshen up his team.
However, the Villa boss has made only one change to his starting line-up in the Premier League so far this season. That was when he took out Hourihane and handed Barkley his debut against Liverpool on October 4.