The addition of Ross Barkley on loan from Chelsea last summer seemed a smart move from Aston Villa, but things haven’t quite gone to plan since.
As noted by BBC Sport, the 27-year-old joined us on a season-long loan deal, as he looked to re-establish himself and secure regular first-team football while Villa looked for more quality and end product in the final third.
There were positive early signs following goals against Liverpool and Leicester City, while Barkley helped himself to an assist in our win over Arsenal as he started five consecutive games and looked to be settling into the side well.
Sadly that was curtailed as then came the hamstring injury against Brighton in late November, forcing him to miss seven games and ultimately the England international hasn’t been the same since.
Just one goal has followed in 12 games after his comeback, while he has found himself on the bench for the last five league outings as he looks to be struggling to convince Dean Smith that he deserves a spot in his starting XI.
The hope was that Barkley would add a different dimension to our attack. Bringing his own goal threat and creativity to the side, while also lessening the burden on captain Jack Grealish to make us tick week in and week out by taking some of that responsibility onto his own shoulders while also freeing up our creative talisman to have an even bigger influence on games.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out over a long stretch, but there is hope that there is still more to come from Barkley in the remaining 10 games of the Premier League season with Grealish closing in on a return from his own injury setback this weekend for the visit of Fulham.
If Villa are to make a late run for Europe and put what have been a difficult and frustrating few months behind them, the pair will be crucial in making that a reality, but for Barkley it could be argued that more is ultimately at stake for his career in the bigger picture.
Failure to impress Smith and Villa enough to warrant a permanent move this summer and with Chelsea perhaps looking in a different direction under the stewardship of Thomas Tuchel, there is an air of uncertainty over his future both for club and country.
A string of impressive displays which help Villa enjoy a strong finish to the campaign could change all that, and so it’s certainly hoped that he can rediscover some of his early form to give us a timely lift in the coming weeks.
If his current malaise were to continue though, there isn’t a shortage of options knocking on Smith’s door looking for an opportunity to impress themselves ahead of further potential changes and additions in the summer.