Fabrizio Romano: Luton’s Rejuvenated Man Hours Away From Completing Aston Villa Transfer.

Ross Barkley of Luton Town

Ross Barkley revitalized his career at Luton Town last season and is now on the verge of transferring to Aston Villa[Fabrizio Romano].

Villa fans may recall glimpses of Barkley’s talent during his loan under Dean Smith four seasons ago. After consistently finding his form at Luton last year, it’s clear why Unai Emery wants to bring him into the squad this summer.

While it’s essential for Villa to strengthen Emery’s options, financial constraints under Profit and Sustainability Rules will limit Monchi’s spending this transfer window. Therefore, making smart decisions is crucial, and signing Barkley appears to be a wise choice for several reasons.

Barkley’s career had been in decline since leaving Everton in 2018, struggling to make an impact at Chelsea. He returned to Stamford Bridge for one more season following a loan at Villa Park, where he shone in his first six league games before a hamstring injury hampered the rest of his campaign.

He left Chelsea in the summer of 2022 and made a surprising move to Ligue 1 side Nice. Though he started only nine games in 27 Ligue 1 appearances, the stint abroad allowed him to reset before returning to England with Luton after their promotion to the Premier League.

Barkley quickly accepted Luton’s offer after a brief chat with Rob Edwards, who wanted to help the former Everton star regain the form he showed earlier in his career.

Now 30, Barkley believes he still has three prime years left and recently stated, “I want to play in the Premier League. I want to play in Europe again.”

At Everton, Barkley excelled in an advanced midfield role, often playing around a number nine, like Romelu Lukaku. At Luton, he adapted to a deeper position, influencing the game in front of the defense.

Luton’s inability to control matches meant Barkley often played deeper, where he flourished by sustaining pressure and facilitating build-up play. He frequently took on the regista role, managing the game’s tempo and moving the ball under opponent pressure.

His positional awareness allowed him to take responsibility in the first phase of possession, finding passes or driving past opponents in tight spaces, similar to Youri Tielemans in a deep-lying role.

Barkley reflected on his evolution, noting that early in his career, a broken leg and subsequent fear of challenges pushed him into more attacking positions. With experience, his decision-making improved, and he regained confidence in a deeper role.

Rob Edwards frequently used formations like 5-4-1, 3-4-3, and occasionally 4-4-2, with Barkley often operating on the left side of the central midfield, forming partnerships with Pelly Mpanzu and Albert Sambi Lokonga.

Barkley was consistently impressive last season, particularly in Luton’s draw against Liverpool, narrow losses to Manchester City and Arsenal, and the win over Newcastle.

He completed 163 progressive passes at a rate of 5.6 per 90 minutes, ranking second among Villa’s midfielders behind Tielemans. His pass completion rate was 82.6%, slightly lower than Luiz and Tielemans.

Barkley made 138 passes into the final third, more than Villa’s midfield trio. He also recorded 24 switches, fifth most in the Premier League and 11 more than Luiz.

His ability to carry the ball and advance up the pitch is his greatest strength. He completed 104 take-ons, with a success rate of 66, ranking sixth in the league.

Defensively, Barkley showed strong discipline, with more interceptions (25) and aerial duels won (42) than Luiz, McGinn, and Tielemans combined. He committed fewer fouls (25) than Luiz and McGinn and learned the importance of pressing at Nice.

Barkley expressed his gratitude for the support from Luton’s manager, highlighting the trust and communication that helped him regain his confidence and play regularly again.

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