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Ross Barkley raises Chelsea threat level to ease burden on Eden Hazard | Jonathan Wilson

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The England midfielder is running further, passing more accurately and satisfying Maurizio Sarri’s need for goals

There is perhaps no group of players so used to adapting themselves to the ways of a new manager as those at Chelsea, where the only consistent philosophy of the Roman Abramovich years has been one of perpetual revolution, but even by their turbulent standards this season has been one that has brought significant change. Everything is different under Maurizio Sarri. Eden Hazard is trusted to be the left-sided floating No 10 he has always wanted to be. César Azpilicueta has gone from centre-back to right-back. N’Golo Kanté thrusts forward from midfield rather than shielding the defence. And Ross Barkley gets on the pitch.

The turnaround in the 24-year‑old’s fortunes has been dramatic. Last season he was a spare part, an unwanted signing, the jumper given to Antonio Conte by an aunt, which he feels he cannot get rid of but gets out only when it is really cold and everything else is in the wash. “It’s not simple,” Conte said scathingly in January after a 2-1 Carabao Cup exit at Arsenal, “especially when on the bench the only substitute is Ross Barkley.”

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Related: Ross Barkley attributes improved form for Chelsea to Maurizio Sarri

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