Where does Ross Barkley fit into the Aston Villa team?

Following the announcement of Ross Barkley's move back to Villa Park on a permanent basis we look at where he is likely to fit into Unai Emery's plans.
Aston Villa v Luton Town - Premier League
Aston Villa v Luton Town - Premier League / James Baylis - AMA/GettyImages

With Ross Barkley back in Claret and Blue for the next few years we look at how he is going to fit into the team and how much importance he will hold in Unai Emery's plans.

Barkley has signed for the club on a permanent basis following a loan move back in 2020. Barkley played for Villa at a time where fans were unable to attend matches during the COVID pandemic and the player himself has already said how he can't wait to perform in front of the fans at a packed out Villa Park. His loan move four years ago did not turn out as successfully as all involved would have hoped and so what improvements can Barkley make to the Villa squad in 2024?

""The last time I came I didn't play in front of the fans, so I'm really looking forward to that. The atmosphere at Villa Park is great and I'm looking forward to that on Champions League nights""

Ross Barkley

The departure of Douglas Luiz has left a rather large hole in the Aston Villa midfield. Luiz was a critical part of the system that Unai Emery introduced at the club and therefore replacing him will be very difficult. It is unlikely that Ross Barkley has been signed as a direct replacement for Luiz but rather a squad player that will be used to rotate across the different competitions Villa will compete in.

Barkley had a superb season at Luton Town prior to his move to Villa Park, mainly playing as a deep midfielder. The role he played for the Hatters is very similar to that of Luiz at Villa. The play often went through Barkley in order to get the ball progressed up the pitch, similar to Villa with Luiz. Despite being in much better shape physically than he was back in 2020 it is unlikely at the age of 30 that Barkley is going to start week after week.

However, I think with Luiz having left the club and Boubacar Kamara unlikely to be fit and playing again until at least October Barkley will have a very big part to play in the first couple of months of next season. Villa have signed Enzo Barrenechea from Juventus, a holding midfield player with huge potential, but he will likely need patience from the fans as he finds his feet in a new environment. As someone with a huge amount of Premier League experience Barkley is likely to find himself starting games at the beginning of the season.

""For me, the ambition is to win a trophy""

Ross Barkley

Other than his obvious importance in getting Villa to tick, Luiz was also critical from set pieces for Villa. A man that produced a huge number of goalscoring opportunities from dead ball scenarios is something Villa will need to replace. Barkley himself also has a high level of skill from free kicks and corners and will likely be in control of those situations when on the pitch. Luton Town boss Rob Edwards has admitted that Barkley believes a move to Villa Park will help him to return to the England squad and he will therefore be keen to impress.

Now that the PSR deadline has passed and Villa are in the clear with regards to potential financial trouble and/or punishment, they can look to expand their squad more freely. The club have already signed Barrenechea, Samuel Iling-Junior, Lewis Dobbin and Ian Maatsen alongside Barkley in the first two weeks of the transfer window. It is likely that Villa's spending will continue over the next few weeks in order to add more quality to a squad preparing for Champions League football. Midfield is an area that will be at the heart of Emery's thoughts as they seek another man to replace Luiz.