Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has hailed the impact Ross Barkley has had since his arrival from Chelsea.
The 26-year-old has impressed in midfield and scored twice in his three appearances for Villa since joining the club on a season-long loan deal this month.
He was instrumental, linking up seamlessly on his debut with Jack Grealish, in Villa’s sensational 7-2 dismantling of Premier League champions Liverpool, scoring his new side’s fifth goal early in the second half.
Barkley, who is under contract at Chelsea until the summer of 2023, also scored an injury-time winner at Leicester in Villa’s 1-0 victory.
Smith believes that Barkley’s performances for his team reflect his ambitions to be part of the England squad for next summer’s European Championship.
“He’s someone I felt we needed,” said Smith ahead of Villa’s Premier League game at home against Southampton on Sunday.
“I look at the Premier League and you need legs in your midfield area because you’ve got to cover a lot of ground in a game. Ross does that.
“He’s got ambitions to get into the Euro squad at the end of the season. With the quality Chelsea have got, they couldn’t guarantee anyone minutes.
“His work ethic and attitude has been tremendous. He brings us that added bit of quality that we needed.”
Villa have made their best start to a season since 1930 but lost their 100 per cent record last week with a 3-0 defeat to Leeds at Villa Park.
Smith has said he is confident of a reaction from his players but he acknowledges the threat posed by Southampton – particularly through their strike duo of Danny Ings and Che Adams, who have six goals and four assists between them so far this season.
“They’ve got goals in the team with Danny Ings and Che Adams – two strikers that can stretch the game – and we have to be wary of their strengths,” said Smith.
“They’ve got a really good systematic approach that works for them. We’ll have to be at our best.
“They were good against Everton last week and had a really good comeback against Chelsea (in a 3-3 draw) the week before as well.
“They’ve been a team that you can look at since ‘Project Restart’ that have been really strong, solid and reliable.”
Smith has an unchanged squad for Sunday’s game. Bertrand Traore, Ahmed Elmohamady and Conor Hourihane are available as options if he wants to freshen up his team following the Leeds loss.
However, the Villa boss has made only one change to his starting line-up in the Premier League so far this season – when he took out Hourihane and handed Barkley his debut against Liverpool on October 4.