Ross Barkley’s performance in inspiring Chelsea to a comfortable victory at Burnley is evidence that he is a “complete” player, head coach Maurizio Sarri says.
The England midfielder scored one goal and set up two more as Sarri’s unbeaten side moved second in the Premier League.
Barkley set up the visitors’ 22nd-minute opener, sliding a wonderful through ball for Alvaro Morata to poke past Burnley keeper Joe Hart.
He then scored himself, sending a 25-yard shot into the bottom corner of Hart’s net just before the hour mark.
Five minutes later, he registered his second assist of the match, as he set up Willian, to cut in on to his right foot and curl a shot past Hart into the same corner.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who scored a midweek hat-trick in the Europa League, added a fourth in injury time to seal the win.
Barkley, 24, joined Chelsea from Everton for £15m in January, but barely featured under Antonio Conte, playing just four games.
He has been a player reborn since Sarri arrived in July, earning an England recall and scoring in three consecutive Premier League games, the first Englishman to do so since Frank Lampard in February 2013.
“Barkley is doing very well in this period,” said Sarri. “He improved in the defensive phase, improved very much. He improved his physical condition because the last season for him was really very difficult.
“He’s a very good player from the technical point of view. Now I think Ross is complete.”
Barkley added: “I am made up with how things are going, we are chipping in with the goals. I believe we can stay in the title race.”
Chelsea are two points behind leaders Liverpool and one ahead of Manchester City, who play Tottenham on Monday night.
Burnley, who stay in 15th, barely threatened and were reduced to chasing Chelsea’s shadows for much of the game.
No Hazard, no problem
Sarri’s side were without their star Belgium forward and top goalscorer Eden Hazard, who missed the game with a back injury.
The exceptional Willian and Barkley more than made up for his loss, while Morata looked like a striker brimming with confidence.
“For 10 minutes it was difficult at the beginning but then we played very well,” said Chelsea’s head coach. “I am very happy for Alvaro Morata and Loftus-Cheek again. We played very well in full control of the match for the last 80 minutes.”
Morata could easily have had a first half hat-trick. Hart tipped over an instinctive header in the 12th minute, and after his opener, the forward ran on to a Willian pass and turned Ben Mee, but dragged his shot wide of the near post with the goalkeeper to beat.
More chances came for the former Real Madrid and Juventus striker, as he controlled a ball over the top from Jorginho and tried his luck with an acrobatic effort but sent his half-volley clear of the bar. Just after the break, he glanced over with a header at the near post.
Morata jogged straight down the tunnel as he came off in the 74th minute to be replaced by France’s World Cup winner Olivier Giroud, who looked as if he was on a one-man mission to break his club goal duck for the season.
Hart tipped his header on to the bar in injury time, and he then tried to guide an ambitious volley into the top corner.
Sarri said he was “disappointed” for Giroud, adding that “he needs to score”.
Burnley gave Barkley and Willian far too much respect as the pair caused countless problems; the only blemish on the Brazilian’s afternoon was receiving a yellow card in the first-half for diving.
An injury to Pedro in the 30th minute enabled Loftus-Cheek to come on and get some valuable Premier League minutes under his belt, while there was also time for Cesc Fabregas to make his first league appearance of the season.
Sarri said he will not rest Hazard, when the Belgium returns, but says he is unlikely to play in the Carabao Cup in midweek.
“I want Hazard in every match if it’s possible because we have a lot of very good players but Hazard, I think, is something different,” added Sarri.
“I am very happy because the team was able to score seven goals in two matches without Hazard. It’s a very good sign. I want Eden as soon as possible. I don’t know for Wednesday but I hope for Sunday [against Crystal Palace].”
Floodgates open for Burnley
The home side started the beginning of each half with intensity and took the game to Chelsea, but soon dropped off the pace as the visitors enjoyed almost 70% possession.
Sean Dyche’s side built last season’s success on their defence, but they have conceded nine goals in two games, having shipped five against Manchester City last week.
Neither Barkley nor Willian were closed down for their long-range goals, while Hart was needed to make a string of saves. Going forward, they managed just one shot on target.
Burnley continue to struggle against the ‘big six’ teams at home and have taken just two points from their past 13 games at Turf Moor against those sides, losing 11.
They did show plenty of fight, exemplified with James Tarkowski and Morata’s running battle, which resulted in the pair getting booked just before half-time.
Dyche was at least able to give 90 minutes to two players who are fit again after long-term knee injuries, as Robbie Brady made his first appearance since December 2017 and Steven Defour also played.
“On reflection, we have played two top sides back to back in City and Chelsea, who have delivered top performances and it’s hard to deal with that,” said Dyche. “It was a top side doing what top sides do; they finish clinically.
“Ever since Leicester threw the form book out of the window, the superpowers have moved forwards. They have deeper squads, and it is getting more difficult to compete. If you look at the table, the only real anomaly at the moment is Manchester United.”
Man of the match – Ross Barkley (Chelsea)
Stats – Sarri’s record-breaking start
- Burnley are yet to beat Chelsea at Turf Moor in a Premier League match – their last home league win over the Blues was in April 1983 in the second tier.
- Chelsea are unbeaten after the first 10 games of a top-flight season for just the fifth time in their history alongside 1964-65, 1966-67, 2005-06 and 2014-15 – the went on to win the title in the two most recent occasions.
- Barkley was involved in three of Chelsea’s goals in this game against Burnley – only the second time in his Premier League career that he’s been involved in three goals in a single match and for the first time since November 2015 ,when he was at Everton.
- Sarri has become the first Chelsea manager to remain unbeaten in his first 10 Premier League matches in charge of the club.
- Ten of Willian’s 27 Premier League goals for Chelsea have come from outside the box (37%); more than any other Chelsea player since the Brazilian made his debut in October 2013.
- After scoring a hat-trick in the Europa League on Thursday, Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored his second Premier League goal for Chelsea in 25 appearances, 939 days since his first against Aston Villa in April 2016.
Chelsea host Derby County in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday (19:45 GMT), before returning to league action against Crystal Palace on Sunday (16:00).
Burnley travel to West Ham on Saturday (15:00).