Thomas Tuchel has sent a brutal reality message to Chelsea outcast Ross Barkley amid his struggles to break into the first-team at Stamford Bridge. Barkley was at one stage regarded as one of the most exciting young prospects in the country, but he has failed to live up to his early billing.
The 27-year-old made the move to the Blues from Everton in 2018 but has struggled to make much of an impression ever since, and was sent out on loan to Aston Villa last season.
It was widely expected that he would leave in the summer transfer window but in the end nothing materialised.
And speaking ahead of his side’s game against Villa on Saturday, Tuchel admitted he was baffled by Barkley’s decline.
When asked about where his future at the club lies, Tuchel replled: “He is also asking himself the same questions and maybe all of us here, to be honest, don’t have the answers.
“I’m sure that he himself worries a lot about the situation. How can it come so far that right now I’m like in between the chairs and don’t really know where I belong and what my role is?
“I don’t have these answers because I don’t follow him long enough and don’t know him long enough.
“In the moment he is part of the training group, a regular part of the training group, and now it’s most important that he accepts the situation.
“He does not have to love the situation, but he needs to accept it in a positive way. This is what I feel from him and hopefully he can keep this spirit up. It’s not that easy because we have a lot of players for his positions.”
Tuchel also admitted that he was disappointed with Barkley’s performances at Villa in the last campaign, and suggested it is his attitude rather than his technical ability which needs to improve.
“Normally you expect – and this is not a secret – somebody to go on loan from Chelsea to Aston Villa that he is the main guy at Aston Villa and then he comes back and takes the next steps,” he continued. “This has not happened, so maybe there is a long way to go, but you never know.
“He has the ability. I absolutely mean it. He can train with this group and he has the ability to train on the same level. But this is not enough – I saw so many players who can train on certain levels, but there is so much more to it, to becoming a regular Premier League top player.
“So let’s see. It’s never too late and I will give him the support that I can. We need to wait and have patience.”
Barkley will almost certainly yet again fail to make the squad against Villa as Chelsea look to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
With N’Golo Kante suffering a knock while on international duty with France, Saul Niguez could be in line to make his debut.
The good news for the Blues is that Romelu Lukaku looks to have made a full recovery from the injury he suffered for Belgium.
But they will be without wing-back Reece James, who is suspended after being sent off against Liverpool before the international break.