Dean Smith has praised Ross Barkley’s work ethic but feels injury and the side’s indifferent form hampered his season-long loan spell at Aston Villa.
Barkley, 27, made the switch to Villa Park after falling out of favour under previous Chelsea boss Frank Lampard. The former Everton man made only 13 Premier League starts in 2018-2019 and the same number last term. With ambitions to add to his 33 England caps, the midfielder opted to move to the West Midlands to reignite his career.
And things began well as he scored on his debut, bagging the fifth goal as Villa thrashed champions Liverpool 7-2. The Liverpool-born ace then netted a stoppage-time winner in his next outing as the Villans beat Leicester 1-0.
However, he picked up a hamstring injury as Smith’s men went down to Brighton on November 21. The injury meant he did not return until the 2-0 loss to Manchester City on January 20 this year.
Barkley ended up making 18 top-flight starts among 24 outings and added one more goal to his tally. But he will not be making the loan move a permanent fixture at the end of campaign.
His future at Stamford Bridge is up in the air. Thomas Tuchel will not have seen him play at close quarters and it may be that he is either sold or loaned out once again.
Hopes of Barkley deal evaporate
Back in February, it appeared as though Villa might look to secure Barkley on a permanent deal. But that will not happen and Smith feels circumstances prevented the talented schemer showing his best stuff.
“There was a lot right and when he signed, we knew we had signed an excellent individual and he proved that in his first game against Liverpool,” he told reporters.
“He scored the winner the following game against Leicester and then unfortunately he got an injury which halted his momentum because he was playing excellently. He got injured against Brighton and didn’t come back until after our Covid break.
“That coincided with a lot of indifferent form from us as a team – not just Ross – and it never happened as much as we’d have liked it to.
“I certainly can’t fault the guy’s ability or his attitude and I’ve really enjoyed working with him.”
Barkley cannot face parent club Chelsea in Sunday’s season finale and so has kicked his last ball for Villa. He will not get an opportunity to play in front of the fans, with 10,000 allowed in the stadium this weekend.
The hosts will finish in 11th spot in the table whatever happened but can influence proceedings at the top end.