Barkley: Chelsea squad need to step up and score goals to replace Hazard
Ross Barkley has called on his Chelsea team-mates to chip in with goals to replace those lost following the summer departure of the "exceptional" Eden Hazard.
Belgium international Hazard scored 21 goals and provided 18 assists in his final season at Stamford Bridge before his big-money move to Real Madrid over the summer.
New Chelsea manager Frank Lampard will have to figure out how to replace that contribution given he is operating under a transfer ban, with only January signing Christian Pulisic and the returning loan players added to last season’s squad.
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Barkley is one of the players who could be looked upon to step up after Hazard’s exit and the England international scored a first-half free-kick in Sunday’s 4-3 away win over Reading.
The former Everton midfielder believes it is incumbent on the whole squad, and not just Callum Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic, to compensate for the goals lost by Hazard’s sale.
"You have to fill in," Barkley said at the Madejski Stadium. "Everyone in the squad understands that he (Hazard) was a great player, but he is gone. He has new challenges now and we have to replace his goals and create the chances. We have that much quality in the squad we will all step up to the plate.
"Last season when Eden wasn’t playing we still won games, we still created chances. We know he is an exceptional player, but we have exceptional players in the squad. We have young ones that will step up and produce the goods as well.
"We have Callum coming back from injury and we have signed Christian Pulisic, he is an exceptional talent. We have wingers who can create from tight positions, players who can shoot from distance and strikers – young and experienced – who are hungry for goals.
"We have all come back from pre-season hungry, especially under the new manager. We are all working hard every day in training and doing double sessions all the time, getting ready for the new season.
"There is a lot we can improve on – you could see that against Reading as we conceded three goals. We scored four so there were positives, too, and I am looking forward to the season."
Chelsea’s win at Reading saw them score four for the second time in pre-season, while Barkley was netting his second goal in two games after scoring a fine effort in the 2-1 win over Barcelona in Japan.
Barkley is now 18 months into his spell at Chelsea and wears the same No. 8 shirt which Lampard wore with distinction during his own time at Stamford Bridge when he scored a club-record 211 goals. Barkley played with Lampard for England and acknowledge that his new boss was one of his idols as he came through the Everton academy.
"Yes, he was one of my idols as a kid," Barkley added. "I was always watching Match of the Day as a kid, you always saw him every week scoring goals. That’s what you like to see and now he is our manager, it is brilliant for all the players in the squad.
"He’s got all the respect from the players for the player he was and the person he is. Every day, whether it be around the building or on the training pitch, he is speaking to everyone trying to give them tips on how to improve.
"He will help all the midfielders. He is a legend of the game, the highest goal-scoring midfielder in Premier League history, so we are going to take all he has to give us and the experience he has from the past on board.
"We will keep improving and he will help us. It is a new manager and a new formation – we’ve had to adapt to the different systems we are going to play. [It’s about being] hungry for goals, just have the desire to get in the box.
"At the minute I have been playing a bit further forward, to think like a striker, especially as a No. 10, but try to help out defensively and work hard off the ball."
Chelsea now face Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Monchengladbach in their final two pre-season games ahead of their opening Premier League fixture away to Manchester United on August 11.
Lampard has afforded extra playing time to youth and loan players ahead of the new season as the club contend with a transfer ban. Often ignored or loaned out, homegrown academy players like Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori are getting a chance under Lampard's coaching team.
Barkley says that the new direction under the Chelsea legend has increased competition for places during pre-season and is impressed with the club's young talent.
"The likes of Tammy, Mason have scored goals in pre-season and you can see the hunger in them. I was the same," Barkley concluded. "I went out on loan and then I got my chance at Everton.
"When you get your chance, you just have to be ready and believe that chances will come, that you are going to step forward and produce. When you have that extra bit of quality, you can see the belief. The players that are getting a chance now are really confident lads.
"They believe that they’re meant to be here. You can see that in the training sessions and the games. I’m sure they will get opportunities during the season and will show what they’re capable of.
"It’s Chelsea and you will always have competition for places here. You have to work hard and your chances will come."