Sarri impressed by Barkley's defensive improvements

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Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri has praised Ross Barkley for the improvements he has made to the defensive side of his game.

Barkley arrived at Stamford Bridge in January 2018 from Everton but was restricted to only a handful of appearances in his first campaign due to a series of injuries.

He has been in fine form this season, though, making 40 appearances across all competitions for Sarri's side and demonstrated his progress on Monday, scoring twice in England's 5-1 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Montenegro.

And now Sarri has hailed the 25-year-old for taking steps to become a more rounded midfielder.

"He has improved a lot tactically," he told a media conference ahead of Chelsea's visit to Cardiff City on Sunday. "Also, physically, I think.

"Fortunately, now he is doing very well with his leg and he has improved a lot during the season. He is a very, very good player. 

"I think that he has improved a lot in the defensive phase because technically he is a very good player.

"In the offensive phase, he can score seven or eight goals every season. Now I think he is also a good player in the defensive phase. He is not a defensive midfielder, of course, but he is good enough now."

Barkley made just four appearances for Everton and Chelsea in an injury-ravaged 2017-18 season and Sarri has revealed that he needed some time at the start of this campaign to restore his confidence.

"At the beginning of the season he didn't have a lot of confidence because last season was really very hard for him," he explained. "Then after four or five matches in the team, he changed. Now he is a very important player for us."