Luton star Barkley reveals Arsenal star who begged him to ‘stop running at me with the ball!’

Joe Williams
Ross Barkley and Arsenal midfielder Martin Odegaard
Ross Barkley takes on Martin Odegaard during a match.

Luton Town midfielder Ross Barkley has revealed that Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard asked him to “stop running ” at him during their recent Premier League match.

A last-gasp goal from Declan Rice settled a thrilling 4-3 victory for the Gunners against the Hatters earlier this month with Luton impressing against Mikel Arteta’s men.

Former Everton midfielder Barkley scored Luton’s third goal to put them 3-2 up just before the hour mark with the 30-year-old showing the kind of form which saw him earn 33 England caps earlier in his career.

Barkley, who joined Luton on a free transfer in the summer, has been causing plenty of problems for teams this season at Kenilworth Road and he claims his direct running against Arsenal had Odegaard pleading with him to give him a break.

In an interview with The Times, Barkley said: “Odegaard did say, ‘You have to stop running at me with the ball!'”

He added: “Declan [Rice] is physical. Odegaard is less physical but world-class on the ball.

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“When I had the ball, I knew I could move the ball away from him.

“Teams expect Luton to be more direct. With me, I try and bring calmness to the middle of the park, suck a few players in and give other players more time on the ball.”

On which footballer he looked up to as a kid, Barkley continued: “Zinedine Zidane was my idol when I was younger. He was exquisite, poetry on the ball, elegance and calmness. He brought others into the game. He controlled the game.

“At Everton, I played near enough every game so it was easier for me in my mind to be free. When you then go to a club like Chelsea, there’s a lot of competition for places. At Chelsea, I had my handbrake on a bit. I’d play two games well, then be on the bench the next few games and [then] it’s hard to be at your best.

“I need to find my rhythm because I’m a big lad. I’m not a slim, lean lad who can come in and be explosive from the get-go.”

Barkley chose to leave Everton in the summer of 2018 to join Chelsea as he looked to progress his career and the former Nice midfielder claims he received threats for making the move to another Premier League club.

He explained: “I did get threats. It’s part of the game. I expected it. It shouldn’t be. Home-grown player came through, loved the club. My dream as a youngster wasn’t to be an England player, it was to be an Everton player.

“Once I’d played for Everton it was my dream then to play for England and I achieved those dreams. I came to Chelsea to challenge myself and better myself and play with the top players that had won the league the previous year.

“When I went back [to Merseyside] I used to get fans shouting from the cars, calling me names. I used to just laugh. Fans are passionate and if you’re one of them they feel you’ve let Everton down. They’d shout ‘money grabber’. The fans called me a ‘rat’.

“My mum stayed so she found it difficult. Whenever she’d go out people stopped and asked, ‘Why did he decide to leave?’ My mum’s tried to keep a low profile and just go about her business.

“That’s one thing she hated but within a year or two it settled, it was fine. Now, when I go back to the city, everyone’s got over it. The fans last year when I was on a free wanted me to go back.”