England: Preaching caution with Ross Barkley 0

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You won’t find a bigger Ross Barkley fan than me, and I was delighted to see him included in the World Cup squad.

During yesterday’s friendly with Ecuador in Miama, Barkley showed that he can be a threat at international level and that his inclusion does provide England with some much needed dynamism - but let’s not clamour for his inclusion against Italy purely based on that game.

Barkley did some great things during the game and he both carried the ball well and showed a real imagination with his distribution in the final-third.  Equally, though, there were moments when his naivety got the better of him and when - in threatening positions - he turned the ball over cheaply or took the wrong option.

That’s all natural, because this is a very young player with minimal experience at this level, but it’s important to recognise that Italy in a World Cup qualifying group and Ecuador in a pre-tournament warm-up game are two very different realities - Barkley played well, but his performance is naturally asterisked by the nature of the opposition and the situation in which the game was played.  Ecuador were as defensively chaotic as England, and the wide open spaces that Barkley thrived in yesterday will not exist against the Italians.  If anyone thinks that either he or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are going to be cutting through the Italian midfield with similar ease, then they’re in for a nasty surprise next week.

Barkley is a great option and he has the kind of self-confidence that could make him very useful in certain scenarios during the tournament, but yesterday in itself didn’t show that he’s ready to play from the start.

These warm-up games always provide a false economy with a player or two, so let’s just hold the phone on Barkley before we get over-excited.

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