In another episode of The Chelsea Spot Podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho), Paree (Owner – @CFCParee) & Adam (Guest – @AdamNewson) discuss the pathway from the academy into the first team after news broke of Livramento, Bate and MPH all rejecting contracts, while Marc Guehi looks set to move to Crystal Palace. They also talked about pre-season and which players could impress, as well as finishing off with a Q&A.
As reported by many and something we heard over a month ago, most of the Chelsea players begin pre-season tomorrow (5th July). We understand that the academy players are unaware of which building they will be training in as of now. Players such as Olivier Giroud and Kai Havertz who have just been knocked out of the EUROS competition will most likely have a longer break and not return to training this upcoming week, with the return date of players such as Ethan Ampadu being unknown.
In this article, we will look at some players who could feature in pre-season and potentially impress Thomas Tuchel. Obviously this doesn’t include all players, and some of these could head out of the club either on loan or permantly as they plan to have meetings with the club and manager in the next few weeks, but I’ve tried to talk about all the main ones.
Ever since his 30 odd million move to Chelsea, it hasn’t been the best of times. In his first season he was struck with injury and although he had solid performances with Atletico Madrid and the FA Cup Final coming to mind, he also had disasterclasses such as that famous 4-1 loss to Watford.
He’s been on loan to Italy since, with the football there certainly suiting him a lot more. He’s had much better seasons at AC Milan and Napoli, with the latter liking him a lot. His agent has been talking plenty in the last few months, with him clearly trying to push a move to Italy this Summer.
Although, if things don’t go to plan, Bakoyoko could have a chance to impress Tuchel. If Declan Rice is seen as a too expensive option to the Blues, and we don’t go for our other targets such as Boubacar Kamara and Aurelien Tchouameni, the French midfielder is arguably the next best option for that defensive midfield profile which our squad is heavily lacking at the moment. Although it does look like he will be leaving the club, perhaps he may want to give it one final shot.
Lewis is someone who will almost certainly be going on loan this Summer, with many clubs being interested in the technical midfielder after two very impressive seasons in the academy. He’ll be looking to follow the likes of Levi Colwill who has already headed out to Huddersfield, and is following the path of many academy players who tend to leave on loan after they are ineligible to play in the FA Youth Cup.
He also does have a contract situation to sort out, with it running out next Summer. Chelsea would have to convince him to sign a new deal before leaving on loan, so that needs to be done as I’m sure many top clubs are also interested in him permanently.
He’s one who has trained with the first team this season for a few weeks under Lampard, and I’m sure he’d want to impress Tuchel too before going out on loan.
The forgotten man? Michy is arguably one of the best finishers at the club, but it just seems that his training isn’t good enough as called out by a couple of managers. It is frustrating since you can see the potential is there, but it just hasn’t worked out at Chelsea.
And neither has it at his Premier League loans, either. He had a nice spell at Dortmund, which perhaps could make the deal for Haaland 1% easier if they were interested in the Belgian forward, but other than that he has struggled. With the striker chase for Chelsea looking very difficult at the moment and with Giroud’s and Abraham’s future at the club in huge doubt, there could be a small chance he sticks around as the third striker.
Armando is someone who’s development in the last two years has been one of the quickest I’ve ever seen. From going to a player who wasn’t even part of the U18s, to the next season starting for 6 months as the main striker at U23 level while making his Chelsea debut, and then heading out to Holland’s first division on loan the season after that, is incredible and huge praise should be sent to him.
His first loan at Vitesse was certainly a great one. He scored many goals and he would have learnt so much about the men’s game. However, I still believe there’s a lot more work he needs to do with his buildup and linking up play, although I have no doubt that this will certainly come with time and experience.
There have bee a few links of him sticking around and signing a new deal, so I guess we will have to see what Tuchel has in plan for the Albanian forward.
The man who is being talked about the most at the moment. With the club’s desire of a player like Hakimi who we missed out on as well as the possible pursuit of Adama Traore, that certainly wouldn’t have convinced the academy player of the season too much.
His contract runs out next Summer, and Chelsea will be desperate for him to sign that deal as he is very highly rated by the England camp and from clubs all across the world. Many have said ‘let him go out on loan’ which people are not realising is as easy as they are making out. Chelsea will not let him go out on loan unless he signs a new deal, and if we don’t show him any pathway into the first team then he simply won’t.
This pre-season is a big chance for him to show to Tuchel that he’s good enough for this squad, whether that’s this season or next. I’m sure he’s very much looking forward to pre-season as at it stands he’s the only proper RWB in the whole of the club available to Thomas, so he certainly has a chance. He’s definitely got a big month ahead.
I kind of lied when I said Tino was the only RWB in the whole squad – Dujon is more than definitely still around. After returning from injury and illness, he played with the 23s for just less than 6 months and found himself impressing week in week out.
There have been a few small reports of him sticking around and Tuchel wanting to see what he can offer, so hopefully he’s ready to smash it. A new deal needs to be sorted though, so keep an eye on that.
A very very interesting one. With the profile desired, Ampadu could be the perfect player for Tuchel. Despite him being one of my favourite players, I have no doubt in saying that at this very moment he is behind the likes of Declan Rice in terms of ability, but if Chelsea want to save some money then he’s absolutely right there.
It has been reported that we are looking for a player who can play both in defensive midfield and centre back, hence the links to Boubacar Kamara and Rice, and that’s Ethan’s best two positions. Although in general his two loans have been a slight failure with him getting close to little game time at RB Leipzig and going down to the Championship with Sheffield United, he still has shown potential with the Champions League game against Spurs coming to mind and in general for Wales he’s great.
He’s another one to keep a very close eye on. In my personal opinion, he should definitely stick around this squad.
Ross Barkley…it’s a weird one with him. Every pre-season he impresses and he looks like the next Frank Lampard, and not long later he looks like the next failed player who will be part of the ‘streets will never forget’ list.
He’s someone who could arguably play in that inside forward role or in midfield, so maybe he has a chance to impress Tuchel, but we’re going to need a lot more consistency from him and that comes from hard work on the training pitch.
Personally, I suspect him to leave on a permanent deal.
A player who has definitely gone under the radar. He’s another one like Ampadu who can play in both positions of defensive midfield and centre half, so perhaps also has a chance to impress Tuchel.
He had a great loan at FC Lorient in the Ligue 1 where he would’ve gained so much experience playing against some of the best players in the world, and we all know the French league is extremely physical so in that sense he’d find the transfer over to Premier League easier.
I unfortunately suspect he may want to move on and kick on at a club permanently, but who knows these days. Maybe…
Another big talking point. Marc has done absolutely brilliantly out on loan at Swansea and most Chelsea fans have wanted to see how he does. Chelsea fans saw glimpses of him with very impressive games against Manchester United and Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup before he went on loan for 18 months, and ever since they have kept an eye on him.
It’s going to be difficult though. We currently have Thiago Silva who signed an extension till the end of this upcoming season, Andreas Christensen who is expected to sign a new deal some time soon, Antonio Rudiger who’s looked like a world class centre-back for 6 months, Kurt Zouma who could leave but reports have stated we will sign someone if that was the case, as well as Azpilicueta and Reece James who have both been used heavily at RCB too.
If Chelsea were to sign someone like Sule or Kounde though, then that would surely be over for Marc’s career at Chelsea and I’m sure he’s got the brains to move to another club. For him we need to show that there is a pathway into the first team and he’ll certainly want to impress Tuchel in these next few months.
Since I mentioned Lewis, I thought I’d mention Henry very briefly too. Someone who has become too good for development squad now, he needs to look at playing professional football as with his such high footballing intelligence and versatility I’m sure many Championship and League One clubs will be looking at him.
Again, a player who Tuchel could actually like a lot with him switching between the 3 and 4 at the back formations. A few months ago when the first team was on international break, we were told that Henry trained with the first team and really impressed the coaches.
He should go on loan and get as much as a full pre-season as possible, but let’s see what happens.
It’s hard not to get sad when thinking about Loftus-Cheek and what could’ve been. Under Sarri he was playing like he was one of the best midfielders in the world, and then that terrilbe injury happened in a game which many won’t forget…
Unlike most, I think his loan at Fulham was actually decently successful. Yes, at times he looked incredibly rusty, but that was always going to be the case and the most important thing was that he got minutes and time to get his fitness back.
Reports state that he’s a player who Tuchel is really looking forward to seeing in pre-season. It’s difficult, because I still think he needs another 6 months to get back to full confidence and ability, but whether he’ll get that is another thing. With better players around him perhaps he could perform better… I still haven’t given up all hope with RLC.
Again, another sticky one. I think it’s very important he heads out on loan now and gets some professional football in his locker.
He’s arguably had a ‘season loan’ at Chelsea for one year after moving to the first team training permamently, and he certainly would have learnt so much working under Thomas Tuchel and Frank Lampard, as well as training against some of the best like Thiago Silva.
He’s at the age where he needs to get some minutes, and if he goes to a league like the Championship he could absolutely smash it. He even started one of our Champions League games out of position and impressed, so there’s no doubt with a good pre-season and gametime he could do very well. He’s shown Tuchel what he can do in training, and now he must show the world what the talented midfielder is about.
Again, on the first eye, Gallagher’s loan to West Brom may not have been great. But, he had a full year of Premier League experience and was definitely one of their brighter players.
I actually think he’s a player who Tuchel will really like a lot. He’s someone who runs about so much and has as much energy as Mason Mount, and is as versatile with him easily playing in the 8 and 10 role, and if worse comes to worse at the 6.
Tuchel could definitely see him as a very useful utility player and I’m sure if Conor was told he would be involved in a few Chelsea games this season, he could stick around. If he does go on loan, I greatly believe it should be to a Premier League team which play a much better way of football.
Do you agree with my comments? Is there any obvious one I’ve missed out on? Let me know on our social media platforms!
Those of us who had an invested interest in the graduates of Cobham knew the deal. You’d watch as a promising group of young talents dominated both domestic and international youth football, the best of which would be “promoted” to the first team. That promotion would be met with the annual pre-season oath that “*Insert Youth Player Here* will be a very important player for us this season” as a single 20 minute Carabao Cup cameo would be swiftly followed by a silent departure to pastures new. Whilst ultimately disappointing, you knew the deal and you could accept it.
Then we had to go and ruin it by giving them a genuine chance.
The perfect storm of a transfer ban and the bravery of newly appointed coach Frank Lampard brought with it an influx of youth graduates, the likes of which had long been desired but never seen within the club. Unlike the Jeremie Bogas, Gael Kakutas and Ola Ainas of this world who were shipped out without a real look in, the new generation came in and more importantly, remained, despite scepticism from fans and media alike, including a certain Jose Mourinho.
That show of faith has proven to be the most successful gamble that the club has ever made as the class of 2019 not only helped Chelsea qualify for the Champions League against all odds, but drove the team forward to a convincing European triumph the very next year as Chelsea picked up their second Champions League trophy. The smoke cloud that surrounded the club following Sarri’s 18/19 campaign was lifted and revealed a bright new future that was forged primarily in Cobham.
I previously wrote about how the academy should be at the core of Chelsea’s financial and footballing model moving forward. Rather than spending large fees and wages on squad depth, those rotational minutes should be given to Cobham graduates. The upshot being that not only do you have players on lower wages who didn’t cost you a penny to sign, you have players with a much higher talent ceiling that can either go on to become first-team regulars or be sold for pure profit if they don’t quite make the required grade.
The positives are obvious, for every £22m spent on squad players like Zappacosta, you could have easily had a Reece James, a Tariq Lamptey or an Ola Aina. All of whom could genuinely stake a claim to have made a bigger Premier League impact. That money saved then subsequently gets spent on genuine top talents who improve the first XI. It wasn’t just the footballing exploits of Mount and Co on the pitch that allowed the previous summer’s spending, it was the positive impacts they had on the books too.
With all that said, this step into the unknown has lead us to questions we’ve never faced before. What happens when these graduates want more? What happens if another club wants to turn one of our developmental talents into a first-team regular? What happens if the youth conveyor belt moves faster than the club can manage? We got a sneak peek of this impending dilemma in January 2020 when Tariq Lamptey left for a cut-price £3m as the club couldn’t guarantee him a pathway ahead of Reece James who was only one year his senior.
Now, as we move into a summer transfer window that many expect will propel the club even further to sustained success, we’re almost certainly going to see both Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori creep out the back door. Two of the five that were instrumental in the youth revolution at the club departing within 2 years, one inexplicably left out by Lampard, the other not to the new manager’s liking. Unlike the other departures I’ve mentioned so far in this article, this isn’t a case of selling a young talent without knowing what they could contribute. These were two talents who took their chance with both hands and showed they belong before ultimately facing the same fate as those before them.
What is unclear this time around is whether this a sign is that the club is taking a step backwards and reverting to type or whether this is a necessary step forward in the development of the “new” Chelsea that many have subscribed to. The reported £25m for Tomori, whilst still feeling slightly low, is pure profit for a player that cost the club nothing and was deemed surplus to requirements in a position that has had a dramatic change in fortunes under Thomas Tuchel. The answer to that question will likely come in the form of how the club looks to replace the departing centre-back. With Marc Guehi impressing on loan and the likes of Levi Colwill, Xavier Mbuyamba and Sam Mclelland looking to make that next step, there’s a strong case to be put forward that the Tomori approach could be replicated again and again to great effect. At the time of writing, the club is yet to be seriously linked with any inbound centre-backs, which would have been unthinkable back in January but is perhaps the most telling sign yet that valuable lessons are being learned and the model hasn’t been abandoned at the first sign of success.
On the other hand, you have the curious case of Tammy Abraham. Finishing top goalscorer in the 2019/20 season with an impressive 15 goals, none of which came from the penalty spot, and joint top goalscorer in 2020/21 despite missing half the season. His exclusion from the squad has been frustrating, if not inexplicable at times, however, he is perhaps the clearest example of the crossroads the club face when a Cobham graduate is no longer viewed as just a “youth player”. Abraham has now found himself in the awkward position of being too good for a backup player, yet perhaps not good enough (yet) to be a first-choice striker for a club that now expects domestic success. There is a certain irony in the fact that one of the superstar strikers that are rumoured to replace him is Romelu Lukaku, a man who left the club in somewhat similar circumstances, all be it the Belgian proved his Premier League credentials on loan rather than at Stamford Bridge.
That comparison perfectly represents the impossible situation that Chelsea face this summer. Hindsight could tell you that the club should have stuck by Lukaku and as such, wouldn’t have to break their transfer record to recruit a striker this summer. Doing so, however, could just have likely seen Chelsea’s 2014/15 Premier League title not happen without Diego Costa leading the line, or alternatively, Lukaku’s development could have stagnated as he watched from the bench. Fast forward to today, a somewhat unexpected Champions League win has put Chelsea in an enviable position in the transfer window where they can genuinely target some of the best talents in the world, a position that is not guaranteed next summer.
It then becomes increasingly clear that a move benefits both parties. For the club, they can utilise Abraham as a pivotal negotiation tool in their pursuit of a world-class striker. They can either generate pure profit for a high potential striker who didn’t cost them a penny or equally attempt to use the player as a makeweight in a potential swap deal to reduce the financial outlays even further. For Abraham, a player who has proven he can perform at the top level, he can continue to develop even further at a club that will trust him to be their number one option.
We ultimately will not know the exact motives behind these sales, and whilst on the surface, it’s disappointing to see two of our own leave the club, there is certainly a lot of encouragement that can be taken from the situation. Two players who have come through the Cobham pathway have left a positive impact on the club both on the pitch and on the books. If reports are to be believed, the club could generate north of £70m for two academy graduates. One moved on for a profit to free up space on the production line and the other let go to assist the club in securing world-class talent. Whilst it’s sad to see these players go, it’s further proof that Cobham should be the foundation that this club is built on for sustained success in the future.
The key behind the success is in long term planning and stability, and whilst the stories of Abraham and Tomori could be positioned as positive ones for the club, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. A less successful story, at least from the viewpoint of the club, is that of Tariq Lamptey. At the point of his departure early in 2020, there was a reluctant acceptance that despite his high potential, there wasn’t going to be a space for him to develop with both Reece James and Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of him in the pecking order. Fast forward only 18 months and the club is now looking to spend big money on Inter Milan’s Achraf Hakimi to provide an attacking option at RWB in Tuchel’s system. Hakimi, a top talent in his own right at only 22 would naturally become first choice at RWB, with James and Azpilcueta providing rotational cover whilst primarily focusing on their RCB role. That RWB role, however, would have been perfect for the homegrown Lamptey who has excelled there for Brighton and caught the attention of the “big 6” with his standout performances. This not only could have saved Chelsea an outgoing £60m transfer fee but could also have seen the club generate a large incoming fee of their own if the time ever came to move Lamptey on. Whilst hindsight is 20-20, and perhaps nobody could have seen a move back to a 3ATB system (despite the remaining Conte influence on this squad), the whole situation is evidence of the negative impacts that a lack of planning can have when handling youth players.
The Hakimi situation then becomes even more interesting when you bring Tino Livramento into the mix. The 18-year-old, who won Youth Player of the Year this season with his standout performances at wing-back only has a year left on his contract and has already caught the attention of some top European clubs. The introduction of Hakimi undoubtedly impacts the minutes available to Livramento, especially with James (21), Azpilicueta (31) and to a lesser extent Hudson-Odoi (20) all providing ample rotational options. There is then every possibility that as Lamptey did, Livramento may decide to reject a new contract that would force the club to sell at a fraction of his real value.
What’s important is that in the midst of this unexpected success is that Chelsea doesn’t lose sight of the foundations close to home that got them there. Whilst the temptation is always to look to the transfer market for solutions, the past two years are clear evidence that keeping a pathway from Cobham to Stamford Bridge is not only beneficial for the club in the short term but critical to our long term success. It is no coincidence that it’s the academy products who are proving easy to sell, whilst the likes of Marcos Alonso and Emerson, who despite being internationals, have seemingly been priced out of a sale due to their initial cost to the club.
What the sales of Tomori and Abraham should remind us is that opportunities for these youth talents should not be viewed as having the sole aim of making them first-team regulars (despite the unbelievable success of Mount and James). Not every youth player will be able to remain at the club and whilst it’s unrealistic to expect us to consistently compete with a squad full of academy products, it’s equally unrealistic to expect us to compete, both on the pitch and financially, without them.
In another episode of The Chelsea Spot Podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho) and Paree (Owner – @CFCParee) were joined by Chelsea guru Joe (Guest – JoeTweedie) to discuss last season’s academy success especially with individuals such as Bate, Colwill, Lawrence, Lewis, Livramento. We then also look ahead to next season as to which players should be leaving on loan and who could move up into the 23s permanently.
Levi Colwill first came into the spotlight (for Chelsea fans who can only watch broadcasted matches) when he was starting in the FA Youth Cup at just the age of 16. He impressed (the game against Bradford City comes to mind) and not long after found himself starting development squad games, still at 16 years old, when Marc Guehi and Clinton Mola became unavailable. Simply – if you’re starting at this high level in the Chelsea academy at such a young age, there’s a decent chance you’re a special player. Hudson-Odoi really broke onto the public scene when he was 16 and became the star man in the FA Youth Cup run, with his top bins goal against Manchester City springing to mind, and more recently we have seen Charlie Webster and Jude Soonsup-Bell feature at this age too – the two standout players in their age group, along with by Harvey Vale.
There is just something about a left-footed player, but I can’t really describe it in words – they seem as if they play with such elegance, which Levi certainly does. He’s just turned 18, meaning he can still play in the FA Youth Cup this season, and with Lewis Bate, Tino Livramento, Myles Peart-Harris and Soonsup-Bell beside him, they certainly will be looking to get the trophy back after last season’s heartbreak loss to Manchester City in the final.
I was thinking this the other day, and without hyping him too much, Levi kind of has the perfect build for a centre-half. When you go on Pro Clubs or Football Manager and try and build a defender, it’s actually very similar to him. He’s tall (self proclaimed as you can see in the tweet below…), quick, strong, composed and has got leadership skills as shown by captaining the Chelsea academy sides on multiple occasions – I mean what else do you want?
I guess the thing which most people are interested in is how does he compare to the likes of Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori? Well, this certainly isn’t easy. I was a fan of Marc really early on and saw the potential when most were talking about Billy Gilmour and Tino Anjorin, and Fik was one of my favourite players at the club when he featured under Frank Lampard. Without trying to overhype him too much… I genuinely believe Colwill has a higher ceiling than both, and I’m not saying that lightly. Although, there’s a very good chance this may be completely wrong, as no one knows at all the way someone transitions from academy football to men’s football.
I think one of his best qualities is his game management and the way he opens up space on the pitch. Due to his composure on the ball, he has zero problems in running past the pressing attackers and then he’ll lay it off to the midfielders like Lewis to do their magic. Colwill –> Bate –> Livramento –> Soonsup-Bell is a play we’re hopefully going to see A LOT in the future. Something which I have loved about this Chelsea side under Thomas Tuchel is the way the defenders know when to hoof the ball up for Werner to run onto, and when to play it out of the back into the midfield, with this being significantly seen in the games against Liverpool and Atletico Madrid. Levi is PERFECT for this. He plays inbetween the lines brilliantly, and also has his ‘signature’ move where he shifts the ball onto his left foot and just waits a few seconds before playing it up towards Bryan Fiabema or Soonsup-Bell, who normally end up with the ball at their feet. He’s got a very similar passing range to Antonio Rudiger, and as I said before looks extremely elegant on the ball. Not that it really matters how someone looks with the ball, but for some reason fans of the game now are obsessed with aesthetics and hence think Tammy Abraham and Kurt Zouma aren’t good players.
Ever since John Terry left the club we have always tried to compare one of our academy products to him. We did it with Jake Clarke-Salter who has had some success out on loan but will probably never appear for Chelsea again, and Andreas Christensen who has been involved a lot more, but still has failed to hit the heights which were once described for the Danish defender. Can Levi be that person? The English defender certainly can be, with their natural defending instincts and ability on the ball being pretty similar, but that’s such a big comparison I’m in no way making yet.
In the last two seasons, he’s mainly played as a Left Centre-Back for the Blues. Left footed defenders are certainly admired in the football market, and it is one of the reasons there was such strong interest in re-signing Nathan Ake before he went to Manchester City. Chelsea lack a left footed centre back in the squad at the moment, and that could be a trait which gives the nod to Colwill ahead of the others around him. In the last U23s game against Manchester City we switched to 4 at the back where he started next to Dujon Sterling who is much more of a RB/RWB, and despite conceding a very unfortunate goal due to a wicked deflection, in the last few minutes of the game he scored a brilliant goal from a set piece to make it level.
I don’t actually think I’ve mentioned his defending enough. After all he’s a defender and that’s the main thing he should be good at – and he’s brilliant. He reads the game extremely well – knows when to go into the tackle or back off. His big structure allows him to get into challenges strongly and he wins a lot of headers, in both boxes. Despite being 6’3, he’s quite quick and is definitely able to make recovery tackles. Making vital interceptions is also a big part of his game, something he’s done a lot of at LCB.
For me, and many others, the games which confirmed that he was good enough was his performance in the EFL Trophy group stage, where he defended brilliantly against League 1 and League 2 forwards. He completely translated his game from the development squad into professional football, and like we’ve said with Tino Anjorin many times, he looked and played like an experienced player on the pitch at the age of 17.
My thoughts on the defender can pretty much be summed up in this tweet by @throwaway1297. The fact is that Premier League 2 is too easy for him at the moment and to really develop he needs to be challenged and move out on loan. The Secret Scout reported a few months ago that he potentially would be involved in first team training next season, although at the moment this seems very unlikely with us having four centre backs and Azpilicueta all playing regularly at the moment and enjoying life under Tuchel, while the likes of Guehi and Tomori could return from their loan spells and stay at the club from this Summer. So what next? He wouldn’t want to delay himself and wait around, so a loan deal for Levi seems very likely. If Swansea don’t get promoted, perhaps they could be an option and he could follow a very similar pathway to Guehi, or he may even look at Tomori’s success at AC Milan so far and see a foreign loan as a viable option. His future this Summer is one to keep an eye on, with his contract running out in 2023, so he’ll be looking for a clear plan for his entrance into the first team picture before potentially signing a new deal.
His character is also great. He seems someone who’s shy and humble, but on the other hand got that aggression to him. If someone goes in for a hard challenge in him in training or a senior player tries to let him know who’s boss, then bet you know that he’s not going to sit down and he will be squaring up.
I’ve written reports on Billy Gilmour, Tino Anjorin, Henry Lawrence and Lewis Bate quite early on, and since then they’ve all developed hugely, so I really hope the same will happen with Colwill. Like I say each time, although this may sound extremely hypocritical, it’s very important not to overhype them too much as they’ve all still got a lot of work to do and football is a very ruthless sport in that sense. But on the other hand, people need to start trusting our academy players, because as we’ve seen with Reece James, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham – they’re our best players and that’s because we’ve got an elite academy.
Jude Soonsup-Bell is set to be out for a minimum of another 3 weeks, The Chelsea Spot understand.
The academy striker suffered a nasty ankle injury against Everton in the first few minutes of the game just over two weeks ago, and ever since fans have been wondering on the whereabouts of the Englishman.
The Chelsea academy will certainly miss out on the striker, as in the last few months he’s pushed ahead of Bryan Fiabema and George Nunn for the centre forward spot.
Chelsea face AFC Fylde in the FA Youth Cup next Friday, and could miss up to 3 development squad games. Perhaps, he could make his return against Manchester United on the 23rd of April, the side which Chelsea beat 6-1 in December including a lovely left-footed strike from the edge of the box from Soonsup-Bell.
Hopefully this is an opportunity for Fiabema to regain some confidence in front of goal, or we could even see Anjorin feature more for the 23s.
Well, this match report is going to be painful to write. Chelsea decided to broadcast an U18 League game, something we haven’t seen them do in years, so many fans were excited to see some future stars play. But it was a day to completely forget for the Blues, as they were thrashed 6-1 to their London rivals Spurs at Cobham.
The lineup certainly was interesting. Ed Brand made 8 changes to the team, something you can’t really blame him for, as it’s not like recent weeks have been good for him either. Jude Soonsup-Bell and Harvey Vale were not involved and we expect them to feature in the 23’s tomorrow, while Bryan Fiabema and Dion Rankine dropped down from the PL2 squad. Ben Elliot, Charlie Wiggett and Bashir Humphreys were the main names missing from today’s squad.
It wasn’t a great start, as Chelsea managed to concede inside 6 minutes. Tottenham worked it well down the left hand side, and the overlapping player crossed it into the far post for Lusala to tuck it into the corner, while no Chelsea player picked him up. A few minutes later we tried to bounce back as Fiabema had a shot on the edge of the box, but skied it way over the bar, which pretty much sums up his last few months in Blue as he has struggled to find the back of the net and is clearly lacking confidence.
Not long later Chelsea found themselves 2-0 down, after 2006 born goalkeeper Ted Curd gave the ball to Brodi Hughes under pressure. The defender, who actually had quite a good game, was fouled in his box but somehow the referee didn’t give a free kick, and Spurs ended up having a very simple tap-in converted by Scarlett.
Chelsea still had chances after a lovely backheel from Fiabema, but Joe Haigh was unable to find the back of the net and somehow Silko Thomas couldn’t score from a few yards out after some wonderful defending from the Lilywhites. Around the 20th minute, Spurs had complete control of the game, and former blue Roshaun Mathurin scored a wonderful free kick just on the edge of our own box to make the scoreline 3-0.
Charlie Webster, a player Chelsea fans should definitely keep an eye on, looked the most comfortable on the ball in the first half for the Blues, as on a couple of occasions he played some lovely lofted balls to Brooking and Rankine, but both were unable to make anything out of their chances.
Before Charlie’s ball to Rankine, around the 30th minute mark Josh Tobin lost the ball in an extremely dangerous area and the opposition had a 2v1, but Brodi Hughes made an outstanding tackle and stopped the scoreline from being 4-0.
Not for long though, as straight after half time when you’d hope to see some more fight from the Chelsea team, Tobin gave away a sloppy penalty and they made it 4-0. Now, I’m not going to lie, I went to go and get a drink of water after that goal, and I come back and see the scoreline to be 5-0. So, I don’t know how we conceded, but I know we did in a few minutes and the team completely collapsed.
Ed Brand decided to bring on Leo Castledine and Ronnie Stutter, with the former changing the game. He brought energy and quality in midfield, as he picked out a nice pass to Rankine who cut back to Joe Haigh who finished calmly to give Chelsea a consolidation goal. A few minutes later once again Leo put in a beauty of a cross, but Joe was unable to get contact with the ball.
Around the 75th minute, Castledine got fouled but once again it wasn’t given, the ball was easily turned over and Mathurin scored a screamer of a goal to get his hat-trick, flicking the ball over two players and finishing sweetly. The game died down from then onwards and it was a very disappointing morning for the Blues.
The last few weeks haven’t been easy for the academy, as most of the time the 23s and 18s have played the better football but haven’t been able to grind out the results, but today was just embarrassing. When the 23s played Spurs a few months ago we found ourselves 2-0 down, yet we still showed character and desire and managed to make a remarkable comeback and won the game in what was one of the best victories in the PL2 this season. Whereas today, there was absolutely nothing effort wise from most of the boys, and you wouldn’t think it was a London Derby.
No doubt, they will come back. After all the Chelsea academy is one of the best in the world, and it’s these tough spells which will separate the players with the strong mentality from the players with the weak mentality. But we need to see more effort and desire, and then we all know the quality these guys have. If Tino Anjorin and Billy Gilmour are to play with the 23’s even more, we could see the likes of Soonsup-Bell and Harvey Vale feature more for the 18s, hopefully giving them a helping hand through this tough situation.
Chelsea U23s face Brighton tomorrow, and they also will be looking to get back to getting 3 points, something which we haven’t seen in a long while. They have played some incredible football at times, but struggled to find the back of the net.
Jude not playing today suggests he’ll feature tomorrow, which certainly will help as Fiabema and Nunn have struggled up top. Henry Lawrence should be set for a return after a few weeks out injured, as his cousin revealed to us in an exclusive interview all about Henry. Whether Billy and big Tino will be involved is something to keep an eye out on, as they certainly did make a difference in our draw to Leicester the other week.
In another episode of The Chelsea Spot Podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho) and Paree (Owner – @CFCParee ) talk to Henry Lawrence’s cousin George (@@george_cee16)! The boys talk about Henry as a kid, the setbacks he’s had to go through, scoring at Stamford Bridge with Hudson-Odoi and Reece James, training with the first team and how Zouma helped him, and so much more!
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While some of the current Chelsea players on loan didn’t necessarily get a chance and/or fit the systems used by Frank Lampard, the arrival of German manager Thomas Tuchel now opens the door. Through his unbeaten run as Chelsea coach, Tuchel has utilised his favored 3-4-2-1 system the majority of the time. This system, which features wing backs that operate as wide midfielders in attack, opens opportunities for different profiles of wide players and central midfielders, which has seen the reintegration of players such as Marcos Alonso who had great success in a similar system under Antonio Conte. In this article, I will assess the chances of Chelsea’s Loan Army soldiers’ chances of finding a similar renewal in 2021.
Victor Moses – RWB, Chance: Low
While Moses enjoyed a decent spell in an otherwise up-and-down and mostly disappointing Chelsea career, the Nigerian winger probably doesn’t possess the technical ability and tactical knowledge that Thomas Tuchel desires in his system. Tuchel has instead used Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James in this position, a trend that will likely be unchanged for the foreseeable future.
Robert Kenedy – LWB, Chance: Medium
Kenedy last made a Chelsea appearance (and headlines) in our 2017 pre-season tour of China. He was sensationally sent home following a series of disrespectful videos posted on social media towards the Chinese. Despite all of this, Kenedy remains a Chelsea player four years later and although he seems like he’s been around forever, he just turned 25 at the beginning of February and his skillset is more suited to the LWB position than Ben Chilwell and Emerson, and he’s much faster and more athletic than Marcos Alonso. Jose Mourinho has also trusted him to start as a natural left back before. If his contract is extended, he deserves a pre season to prove himself at least.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Midfielder, Chance: High
Our RLC has endured a free-fall from grace suffering his Achilles injury when being inexcusably used during a friendly in the United States. After successfully recovering, he did not successfully return to form under Frank Lampard and looked very much a confused player at the beginning of the 20-21 season. It’s worth noting that prior to this season he was actually decent before and after the COVID-19 restart. In 2018-19, he scored 10 times in 40 appearances under Maurizio Sarri, which will surely entice Thomas Tuchel. Currently, the team are getting absolutely zero from the central midfield in the attacking third and Loftus-Cheek even on a bad day could offer more. He could also possibly fill in up top and on the right in attack, similarly to Kai Havertz. As long as he maintains some level of form at Fulham, expect RLC back in blue later in 2021.
Tiemoue Bakayoko – Holding Midfield, Chance: Medium
With Chelsea void of any players capable of playing as a holding midfielder bar N’Golo Kante, Bakayoko would offer Thomas Tuchel at least some tactical flexibility in the team. While Bakayoko lacks technical ability as we’ve seen in a handful of dismal performances in a Blues shirt, he offers tenacity, consistent defending and pressing, physicality and size to a very small and generally weak midfield. I’d rather give Baka another shot than Danny Drinkwater, and if the board want to sign Erling Haaland it’s unlikely they’ll have sufficient enough funds remaining to afford a holding midfielder better than what we already have.
Marc Guehi – Central Defence, Chance: High
While the appointment of Thomas Tuchel has seen the integration of Antonio Rudiger back into the team, we’ve seen Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma extremely rarely and Cesar Azpilicueta playing on the right side of the back three. Not to mention, Rudiger is mistake-prone and that will leave either side of the back three up for grabs while Thiago Silva will continue to hold down the middle for the time being. Guehi meanwhile has been nothing short of spectacular for Swansea City and will surely be eager for the opportunity to nail down a place at Chelsea. Look out for him during the pre-season.
Ethan Ampadu – Defence and Midfield, Chance: Medium
Having been buried beneath a poor brand of football, Ampadu has had a lot of time to work on his defending and learn the tricks of various Premier League attackers. With no disrespect to Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United style of play is totally opposite to that of Chelsea and Ampadu’s skillset could be better used at the Bridge. His return largely hinges on the departures of players like Andreas Christensen and Jorginho, where he would directly slot into their roles with the skillset he has. It’s more likely he gets a pre-season just to see his developmental progress and then send him out on another loan.
Conor Gallagher – Midfielder, Chance: High?
Like Ethan Ampadu, Gallagher’s chances of making the first team also hinge on the departures of other senior first team players. Gallagher offers Tuchel fantastic work rates, pressing, defending, passing and attacking qualities which would make him the ideal compliment to Tuchel’s “dream” N’Golo Kante. Together the two would be the ideal box to box pairing; both with great energy while one has better attacking qualities and the other defensive. It would behoove the manager to give Gallagher an opportunity to make the first team next season.
Malang Sarr – Left Defence, Chance: Medium
The Frenchman Sarr has been more or less ineffective as a left back for Porto during his loan spell there, but I believe Tuchel and others see him as a natural left footed central defender. As a defender, its not a surprise to see his dull performances at left back, given he has no real attacking qualities. Upon Sarr’s return from Porto, Tuchel should be intrigued to add a true left footed central defender to the mix, and not experiment with the likes of Emerson at the back.
With the imminent departure of Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea, the lack of young defenders from the academy ready for first team football is sparse. The likes of Xavier Mbuyamba and Dynel Simeu have been proven at the U23 level, however their lack of first team football and senior experience greatly reduces their chance at featuring for the first team in any capacity. Chelsea have four centre backs in the senior squad for now and the formation we are now playing in seems to include three centre backs. Azpilicueta has been featuring in the right centre back role, which sums up how much Tuchel trusts his centre backs to do a job. A player with experience at a fairly high level and with bundles of talent could be the spark needed to encourage performances to improve.
Marc Guehi fits the spectrum of this kind of player perfectly. The 20 year old is currently on loan to Swansea, who impressively sit 3rd place in the Sky Bet Championship. This season Marc has played 25 times for Swansea in the league (starting all of these 25 matches). Helping the Swans to 12 clean sheets as of this moment. Guehi has also amassed 1.7 interceptions per game, 1.8 tackles per game and 2.8 clearances per game. The Englishman is unlike the other loanees from Chelsea in the championship regarding minutes. Compared to Jake Clarke-Salter, who is also on loan in the Championship with Birmingham, Guehi has played over 1600 minutes more. Guehi only featured twice for the senior blues before his move and he started and played 90 minutes in both of these appearances. Although these games were in the EFL Cup last year, he proved he could perform at the highest level as he played admirably against Manchester United in a controversial 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge.
Guehi is on the shorter side of centre backs in comparison to the rest of the Championship and for most leagues in general. Standing at around 5″10, Marc definitely is not known for his size and aerial abilities. However, for what he lacks in height he certainly makes up for it in speed, anticipation and versatility. His concentration and awareness are main parts of his game and severely outweigh his lack of aerial dominance.
Marc’s tactical versatility and ability to play anywhere across the backline could be of massive benefit to Chelsea. At just 20 years old, the range of different positions Guehi has featured in throughout his career is astounding. This season, Guehi has been featuring mainly as a left sided centre back in a 3 at the back formation. This is impressive as Guehi feels comfortable and is trusted enough on the left side of the defence, despite being right footed. Being able to play a wide variety of positions is useful to everyone and proves that he has the ability to play right at the top level.
At Swansea, Marc is being managed by Steve Cooper. Steve was Guehi’s manager for the infamous England U17 World Cup winning team in 2017. Cooper has a great understanding of Guehi’s ability and puts a lot of trust in these skills. Guehi also scored the final goal in a 5-2 drubbing of Spain’s U17 in the final to secure the trophy.
Having played 28 times this season in the Championship, Swansea have conceded the fewest amount of goals this season at just 15 and also have the most amount of clean sheets, also at 16. A whopping 57% of Swansea’s matches this season in the championship have resulted in a clean sheet for Swansea. There is no doubt that acquiring Guehi on loan this season was tremendous business by the Swans as he has helped massively by starting in over 88% of their Championship matches.
Guehi has played with numerous different players within the two other centre back slots this season. Steve Cooper is very indecisive about his defensive options and struggles to pick the same three centre backs consistently. However, Guehi has solidified his place in the starting lineup due to his impressive performances. Guehi’s defensive partner at the start of the season was Joe Rodon. He found a move away from the Swans to Chelsea rivals Tottenham. Rodon has found himself on the brink of starting and has featured in the Premier League 7 times this season. Marc has also featured alongside other Premier League veterans in Ryan Bennett and Kyle Naughton during his ongoing spell at Swansea. The experienced gained from long time professionals and defenders with Premier League game time could be vital to Guehi’s development and future as a Premier League defender.
Marc Guehi will be coming back from Swansea with a wealth of great experience and solid minutes in a tough league under his belt, hopefully gearing him up for fighting for a place in the Chelsea team. Many people seem to think that Marc Guehi is “the best defender in the Championship” and it will be an exciting challenge I’m sure he’s ready for, to compete in the biggest league in the world.
We can assume that Ethan Ampadu, currently on loan at Sheffield United, will also be returning to Stamford Bridge along with Guehi and I personally think they have a high chance of playing some regular football next season. Ampadu has also been utilised in the left side of a back 3 (similarly to Guehi) this season after a dip in performances in the defensive midfield role.
Tuchel has already proven 3 games into his reign that he is not scared to play the youth and introduce them when he feels they are ready. Tuchel was a main part of Christian Pulisic’s uprising at Dortmund and hopefully he can utilise the talent that Guehi evidently has and turn him into a great Premier League centre back. Guehi’s ability on the ball could also be a driving factor in the amount of minutes he plays as Tuchel has made it obvious that he is not a fan of Zouma’s technical ability, especially on the ball.
It will be important for the club and Guehi himself that we avoid another Fikayo Tomori situation. Losing another young, promising centre back that excelled in the championship could be a big blow to a whole range of factors. Many of the centre backs coming through the ranks in our academy will feel that they are not going to get the chance to play for the first team regularly if we fail to incorporate Marc into our first team setup, following the demise of Tomori at Chelsea.
Guehi’s loan at Swansea expires at the end of the season, hopefully giving him the chance to adjust to Tuchel’s philosophy throughout pre season and get used to his team mates. If Chelsea fail to sign Upamecano, Boateng or fail to recall Tomori, Guehi should definitely be given the chance to prove himself in the Premier League.
In another episode of The Chelsea Spot Podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho), Paree (Owner – @CFCParee ) and Dan (Admin – @DanBarkerCoach) talk to The Chelsea Spot Writer Zac Soonsup-Bell (Writer – @ZSoonsup) about his very own brother, Jude. From talking about Jude as a kid, playing in midfield, moving to Chelsea, Tyrone Mings’ father scouting him, his 4 goals against Barnsley in the FA Youth Cup, him training with the first team and so much more!
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Multiple transfer outlets have claimed that new Chelsea gaffer Thomas Tuchel is set to raid his former club Paris Saint German and pinch 18-year-old French-Moroccan starlet Kays Ruiz-Atil on a free transfer.
The midfielder was born in Lyon, France and is of Moroccan heritage through his father, making him eligible for both national sides currently. He featured for France at U19 level most recently, however also has had spells on the pitch for Morocco at youth level. While he’s yet to declare his international allegiance officially – it looks likely that his future will be in the France jersey and Les Bleus, in my opinion, will be lucky to have him if he can reach his full potential.
Almost every young, technical footballer coming through the ranks has been described as the “new Messi” at some point it seems and it usually piles unnecessary pressure onto young shoulders, however Kays Ruiz-Atil’s comparison to the Argentine magician is more justified than most. Atil was one of the hottest prospects in Barcelona’s ‘La Masia’ academy and progressed through the ranks much quicker than most. Aged just 7, Barcelona made an offer to Ruiz-Atil and his family packed their bags and made the trip to Catalonia where Kays continued to develop, becoming a super-technical and highly impressive midfielder, as you’d expect if you throw North-African football heritage and a La Masia education into a mixing bowl. Ruiz-Atil‘s stocks continued to rise and at the age of just 12 he was signed up by Adidas as one of the youngest footballers on the sport-giants roster. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave Barcelona after being released due to the club breaching regulations in regards to signing U18 players, which lead to their transfer ban back in 2015. PSG were quick to snap him up though and he’s gone on to successfully reach senior level in Paris.
Ruiz-Atil’s idol is another former Lyon man in Karim Benzema, but unlike the Real Madrid legend, Atil does his work in the middle of the pitch – predominantly as a central midfielder (although he has also operated in the ‘number 10’ role with success in the past). There is a very limited sample size to judge him off at senior level since he only debuted for PSG this season, making 7 appearances and featuring for less than 200 minutes, all of those coming under Thomas Tuchel. However, I’m sure lots of fans are digging up ‘welcome to Chelsea’ YouTube compilations already. I won’t pretend I’ve seen much of Ruiz-Atil, but I’ve seen a solid handful of Paris youth games over the last two seasons and it’s fair to say he’s been up-and-down. It’s clear to me when watching him that his technical ability is leaps and bounds ahead of most others on the pitch, and his vision to thread the needle with a cute pass or fancy flick is seriously impressive.
Despite his clear quality, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Kays at PSG. He was a regular under Thiago Motta but once the Italian departed he has found himself in-and-out of the side and struggling for form at times. He’s always been described as hard working, though, and didn’t let his struggles get to him. Just before lockdown in March 2020, he managed to fight his way back into the side and impressed against former-club Lyon before football was suspended. He doesn’t strike me as somebody who will ever be a regular goalscorer, and I don’t think he’d rake up assists in the mould of Cesc Fabregas either, but I’d compare him slightly more to the likes of Thiago Alcantara as someone with immense ability in the centre of the park. You’re likely to find Ruiz-Atil slightly further up the field than Alcantara, though, as more of an #8 than a #6.
Barcelona and Arsenal have also been linked to Kays Ruiz-Atil who is set to become a free agent this summer having failed to agree new terms with PSG as he’s seemingly decided to end his 6-year stint in the France capital. Chelsea currently looks like the most likely destination for the midfielder though and he’d most likely slot into the clubs PL2 side initially with the view of eventually training with the first team. He’d have some serious competition for places though, with the ever-improving Lewis Bate already at the top of the food chain in Chelsea’s U23 midfield.
Would he ever become a Chelsea first team regular? Who knows. He definitely has the ability to do so but with so much competition he’ll certainly have to fight off some fellow youngsters to make it in London. He strikes me, personally, as somebody who’d continue to develop at Chelsea and he’d likely have a few loan spells away before he and the club ultimately decide his long-term future.
I was fuming. Absolutely fuming and I’ve only just started to calm down. I found out quite early that there would be no chances for any Chelsea debuts against Morecambe on the weekend, and that really was disappointing. This pretty much is going to be a rant as to why including none of Lewis Bate, Henry Lawrence and Tino Livramento in the squad was an absolute disgrace. I do understand that there were reasons and context as to why not all of them couldn’t make it, but, if I’m honest, most of the arguments were pretty weak in my opinion. I will try and balance it out, especially towards the end of this piece, but I’m still confident that many wrong choices were made on the weekend. I know most of you have already read the first paragraph and think I’m just overreacting and moaning for the sake of it, but please do read right to the very end.
I think one thing to point out before we get started is that I absolutely love the academy. I watch every single U23s game and as many of the U18s as possible, and I’m not afraid to admit that I am biased towards them. When I was writing the plan to this article, the thoughts just kept on coming and that is simply because the youth team is an area I’m so passionate about. So yes, I will probably be quite one-sided here, but I don’t think that takes anything away from the fact that Sunday’s squad selection was not good enough, whoever’s fault that is. Before we get started, I do have to give credit to Frank Lampard and the staff members that I am even having this conversation. No manager other than Lampard has brought in the youth like he has, giving multiple debuts last season and trusting them, so I guess I’m only frustrated because I expect Frank to match those amazing opportunities he gave last season. Let’s get into it.
Chelsea got drawn against Morecambe in the FA Cup third round, and as soon as that got announced, I had been looking forward to this fixture. The last two weeks I genuinely have never been as excited for a game in a while, as I and many others expected to see 2-3 debuts from players I had been watching and raving about for ages. The week before the game, I heard that Bate, Livramento and Lawrence were all training with the first team – brilliant. A few days later, Jude Soonsup-Bell & Marcel Lewis made it an academy team of 5 – even better. When the number reached five, I was confident we would see a few of them make the squad. The whole of Saturday I was texting people asking which players have made it to the squad. None. What? Huh? I already counted Anjorin as first team as he is that good and fully deserves to be in that picture, but it was just shocking to see no other players involved in the squad. I was not asking them to start the game, which I’ll talk about later, but are you really telling me Henry Lawrence couldn’t be on the bench with Reece James out and that Lewis Bate couldn’t get ahead of Jorginho or Kovacic for an FA cup game against League 2 side Morecambe?
I saw so many people say it would have been too much of a risk for Lampard to include them in the squad. Wrong. So wrong. If you said too much of a risk to be starting, you could have a point, yet I’d still heavily disagree with you as I’m about to explain, but in no way was it a risk putting them on the bench. None at all. One competition that Chelsea participate in, the EFL Trophy, consists of the best U21 teams coming up against professional sides in the third and fourth tiers of English football. It’s a brilliant experience for the young lads as they get to experience the real game for the first time and our kids are more than good enough to put up a real fight. Earlier on this season our U21s faced Bristol Rovers in one of the best games of the season and we unfortunately narrowly lost 4-3. Despite the loss, the players were still extremely impressive and should have been very proud of their performance. Three days ago, Bristol Rovers only just lost to Sheffield United – a Premier League team! Now, I know football doesn’t work this way, but if you use a bit of logic that’s only going to suggest that our U23’s would put up a real fight against a Premier League team, and although we probably would lose, it just shows that our boys are good enough. Our side against Bristol Rovers basically consisted of 10 kids + Danny Drinkwater, so to start/involve 2-3 of them against a side in the division below Bristol Rovers in Morecambe with world class players around them really wouldn’t have caused any harm. Here’s the thing about these players: they are more than good enough, and that’s because we have one of the best academies in the world. Throughout the game against Morecambe, I couldn’t stop thinking about how slow Azpilicueta was, and although he’s a good squad player to have as well as being a Chelsea legend, he simply does not have the brain of an attacking fullback, and I can pretty much guarantee that Lawrence or Livramento would not have done any worse either from the bench or the start, as well as it being a huge learning curve for them. No risk whatsoever.
Against Morecambe, especially in the first half, we looked short of ideas and the intensity was lacking. However, it was absolutely no surprise to me that our three best players were all academy products – Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour. I’ve said it so many times, but these are the guys who will put so much desire and effort into this club and would do anything to put the Chelsea shirt on, compared to signings who just want to play in the Premier League (of course they like the club, but no way near in the same way). Another thing which frustrated me even more was how Anjorin was treated in the game. He definitely had a case to start, although I understand that it was good to give Hudson-Odoi confidence and Ziyech some match fitness, leaving Anjorin on the bench. We were 3-0 up around the 50th minute, and everyone was waiting for Anjorin to come on and impress. But no, we had to wait another 30 minutes and he was given 10 pity minutes where he probably touched the ball about 5 times and was brought on after Christian Pulisic, who we’re trying to protect from injuries! Not only that, but he also came on the pitch playing as a right-sided winger, a position he has very rarely played, in a new formation that we were trying out and you could see he was playing way too close to Kai Havertz at times – can we please see Tino in midfield, just once? My point is, give these players chances, even better a proper chance, and they will turn up. Billy Gilmour got given that chance vs Liverpool last season and his career arguably changed due to that game, same with Anjorin after being arguably the best player on the pitch against Krasnodar in the Champions League, and I’m sure very similar things could transpire with the likes of Lawrence, Bate and Livramento if they were given a proper shot.
The worst part is that last season we were known for giving opportunities and now this season it all seems to have been thrown out of the window. Aston Villa (albeit due to a coronavirus-struck senior squad) fielded a full academy team against a very strong Liverpool side, and really put in a good shift as some players impressed the world. Manchester City and Spurs included young kids in their squad, the main name being Alfie Devine who scored at the age of 16 for Tottenham. Just a few weeks ago, Chelsea U23’s played Spurs U23’s in a thrilling match, where Devine got sent off and Livramento, Lawrence and Bate were all better players on the night, yet it was the much lesser-experienced Devine who was given the opportunity to make his dreams come true by José Mourinho, of all people! In the third round of the FA Cup, pretty much every side gave minutes to some kids and we didn’t, which is really frustrating for the fans as we literally have one of the best academies in the world and arguably the best in the country. What makes it more annoying is that Lampard gave debuts to players last season, and the likes of Maatsen, Broja and Guehi have all developed heavily since (which Frank can take huge credit for), but we’re not doing the same thing. Even worse, these guys are going to go to their England camps, and despite being some of the better players there, they’ll be the ones with the least number of minutes in professional football.
And that’s just not going to make the youth players happy. They will see players in their age group playing senior football and getting opportunities which will just be disappointing for them. The best example has to be Jamal Musiala. The ex-Chelsea man is best mates with some of our guys in the academy right now, and it is very likely that if he stayed here, he would still be stuck in the U18s or U23s. Yet, he took the risk of leaving and going to Bayern Munich and is now recognised as one of the best youngsters in the world. His mates will be looking at him and surely be thinking why that couldn’t be them too, especially with Germany being a very appealing option for English youngsters at the moment. Callum Hudson-Odoi’s camp tried to do the same thing by forcing a move to Bayern Munich, Charlie Webster has been linked with Dortmund in the past, and these examples will keep on coming. After all, other clubs will be seeing Chelsea not giving many opportunities and will be licking their lips as they’ll simply just try to seize one of our incredible talents. On top of that, the guys in the 18’s and even lower will be keeping an eye on how the youth is used in the first team to see whether they have a future at the club. I don’t want any academy prospect to leave, nor do I necessarily think they will, but they will certainly be assessing their options based on what goes on around the first team in terms of opportunities for youngsters.
I don’t think it is anywhere near yet turning into this case, but could we be returning back to the old cycle of not using the kids? This is especially if Frank Lampard does end up leaving the club sooner rather than later – if Lampard can’t give minutes to the younger lads, who will? We know Frank has been brilliant with the youth in the last 18 months, so with another manager the situation could obviously be even worse. Is there a pathway from the academy into the first team? Or does it look like being loaned is the only option and following the likes of Marc Guehi and Conor Gallagher? Don’t get me wrong, both players’ development away from Chelsea has been absolutely exceptional, however I can fully understand why some players wouldn’t want to take the risk of going out on loan when things can change so quickly, and before you know you’re in the constant cycle of being sent out season after season, which really can hinder development. This links to my next point in that the academy players need to feel rewarded after staying at the club and for playing so well, and currently they are not. For playing so well in the U23s right now and to an extremely top level, they are being rewarded with…absolutely nothing. For example, Henry Lawrence just signed a new contract at the club, has trained with the first team multiple times this season, been the most consistently excellent player for the academy for a full year and a half, yet he has just missed out on so many occasions. What more does he actually need to do to make the bench against Morecambe when someone in his position – Reece James – was injured? Then, there’s players like Marcel Lewis (one of my favourite players in the academy who is criminally underrated) who has been brought into the first team bubble recently, how’s he going to feel? His contract runs out in the Summer and I’m sure we’re trying to convince him to sign an extension, perhaps before going out on loan. But, from his point of view, why should he sign a deal when he’s seeing his mates not get an opportunity (he’s probably even further behind the others mentioned in this article too)? The players aren’t stupid and they’ve seen what’s happened in the past.
Now, obviously, there will always be players who will leave the club at a young age and we cannot do anything about. That’s absolutely fine. For example, we would have tried our best to convince Musiala and Illing-Jr to stay at the club, but if they still wanted to leave, there’s nothing we can do. Same with Tariq Lamptey – there unfortunately wasn’t anything else we could do to keep him at the club. Talents will always leave, but it’s about reducing the amounts that are even thinking about it. We have to do our very best to keep them at the club, especially with this very special crop of players coming through (Colwill, Bate, Livramento, Lawrence, Simons, Soonsup-Bell, Webster etc). And that starts right from the very top.
But, despite all the criticism I have given, you do have to remember I am talking about Jody Morris and Joe Edwards who are in the coaching staff, probably the two best academy coaches the club has ever had, and they surely know what they’re doing, right? Which probably means I should shut up. Lampard also has a very large squad and perhaps politically he is being forced to play some of them or keep the squad players happy – I do understand that. There was context to the kids not starting. Hopefully the game did a world of confidence for the likes of Werner, Havertz, Mount and Hudson-Odoi. Hopefully the victory improved the morale around the club, and we can go on a running form. That still won’t take away the disappointment I had when I saw that not a single player would be making their debut against Morecambe.
Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe I’m being biased. Maybe, in six weeks’ time, I will look like an absolute idiot when these kids get their chances against Luton in the FA Cup, or in the very heavy schedule. Then again, we would be treating the 23s better in 6 weeks than we are now if that were the case, and that’s simply all I’m asking for. Deep down I do believe that they will be given their chances in the next six months. Some need to be if we want to keep them around. That’s the way football works nowadays. Play the kids, or they leave, because our boys are damn good enough.
What did you think of the article? I know it’s an extremely controversial topic criticising Lampard on the way he’s using the youth after he’s done so much for the academy lads, but let me know your thoughts on our social media!
In another episode of The Chelsea Spot Podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho) and Paree (Owner – @CFCParee) were joined by fellow writer for The Chelsea Spot Zac (@Zsoonsup – Jude’s brother!) to discuss the U23’s incredible comeback against Spurs including Cech’s return and the two red cards, the absolute destruction of the Manchester United team as our U23’s side beat them 6-1, including a goal from Zac’s brother. We also talked about the disappointing results against Everton and Wolves, as well as looking forward to Monday’s game against West Ham United.
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Kingsmeadow saw the return of its very own king this week in the form of Chelsea legend Petr Cech, and if you weren’t fortunate enough to catch the action from Monday night I’ll do my best in summarising it for you now (although I might not be able to do it much justice).
No matter the age group, Chelsea vs Spurs is always a heated display and the fixture between both sides on Monday reinforces that notion tenfold. Chelsea were going into the game with the chance to go top of the league while Spurs were sat on 14 points, in need of a win after only one in their prior four.
Spurs seize the first half
Despite Chelsea needing a win, they started the game on the back foot. Andy Myers’ boys went behind after just 3 minutes of football and it came from a misplaced Cech pass that subsequently resulted in the corner that lead to the goal. Not the start that Petr would’ve hoped for.
Things seemed to go from bad to worse for the young blues as Dane Scarlett, the in-form 16-year old, scored with a fine header after a wonderful cross from Harvey White. The attacking prowess that Chelsea often display didn’t come into fruition for the vast majority of the first half, as Spurs stayed compact and disciplined enough to withstand what Chelsea were throwing at them.
This caused for a tactical change from Myers which would prove to be the turning point in the derby. Around the half hour mark, the blues changed into their favoured 343 setup which meant the likes of Livramento could push forward and cause their usual havoc.
For the remainder of the first-half Chelsea saw more of the ball and found themselves breaking down Spurs and having some promising passages of play but it all comes a bit too late as Tottenham were saved by the whistle.
Chelsea find their groove
After what I can only assume was a half-time masterclass from Andy, Chelsea came out of the tunnel like a team possessed. Two changes saw Thierno Ballo and Dion Rankine off for Jude Soonsup-Bell and Myles Peart-Harris; with Nunn moving to Left wing back and Soonsup-Bell leading the line. Chelsea started the opening 10 minutes of the half as they finished the first with more positive and quicker passages of play, now finally utilising the abilities of Tino down the right flank.
Finally, after a long period of domination we get awarded a penalty after some brilliant play from George Nunn. He manages to somehow get in front of the Spurs defender in the 18-yard box which resulted in the defender barging Nunn over. Clear as day. The substitute Peart-Harris remains ice cold as he dispatches the spot kick, sending the keeper the wrong way. Now it was starting to look more like a Chelsea vs Spurs game.
With the momentum now with Chelsea, Livramento brings down a perfect pass from Lawrence with an equally good touch so he can drive past former Chelsea player Lavinier and pick out Marcel Lewis for the finish. The touch from Livramento was gorgeous; most players are having that bounce awkwardly off their hip or thigh but he adjusts with the outside of his left foot as he’s running to touch the ball just out in front of him so he doesn’t break his stride. People are right to be raving about him, it’s almost laughable how he terrorises team’s week in week out.
Not so much as 5 minutes after the equaliser a chance fell to the 16-year-old debutant Soonsup-Bell where the keeper has scuffed one into him on the edge of the box. He brings it down and looks to go round the keeper but the Spurs number 1 recovers well and manages to swipe the ball from Jude’s feet. Despite that chance going begging, they were coming thick and fast for Chelsea now and so it felt like only a matter of time before we nicked a third.
As the game entered its closing 15 minutes, it took a nasty turn as Tottenham player Alfie Devine put in a horror challenge on Danny Drinkwater. Drinkwater then proceeds to kick out at Devine after the challenge which isn’t something you want to see from one of our senior pro’s which subsequently results in a brawl between both outfits. The ref seems to let them have it out for five or so minutes before he finally regains some control to send off both Devine and Drinkwater. Myles Peart-Harris and Levi Colwill were all also booked as a result of their involvement in the incident.
Now with pride and bragging rights on the line, the game began to enter it’s conclusion. Two chances came Chelsea’s way in quick succession, the first being a free kick won on the edge of the box by Soonsup-Bell with some great pressing and quick passing. The chance leads to nothing however as Marcel Lewis fires over. Henry Lawrence was next to come close with a cannon of a strike from 25 yards out and it looked in all the way but somehow it hits the side netting. Felt almost reminiscent of the (almost) goal from Sterling against Italy back in 2014.
Closing in on the 90th minute and the dev squad were still pushing for that winner to take them top. Finally, in the 88th Myles Peart-Harris converts a marcel Lewis cut-back to complete an astounding comeback. To overcome a two-goal deficit against any team at this level is something but to do it in a London derby is unheard of; one for the ages.
Despite the six minutes added time, Peart-Harris’ second and Chelsea’s third was enough to secure the win that puts them top of the PL2. The tactical changes saw the game turn on its head as Spurs couldn’t deal with Chelsea had going forward when they play that 3-4-3. A great advert for development football and a huge win for Andy and the Blues.
Danny that was dire
An amazing game is slightly tarnished by some of the on-field antics which is a shame. The tackle from Devine was shocking and a deserved red and Danny Drinkwater was well within his rights to be upset but surely as a seasoned professional and Premier League winner you know better than to kick out at youth players? Danny wasn’t having a particularly bad game which makes it even more of a shame. I feel for Danny as he obviously just wants to be back playing and the tackle was horrible but you have to wonder at one point is it too much that he only plays development football and takes up a huge sum on the wage bill? Just some food for thought.
Other than that it was a complete performance where anybody could be singled out for playing well. After the tactical change at around the half hour mark Chelsea dominated and each player started to come into their own. The midfield worked tirelessly through Bate and Drinkwater to win back possession and create in the second half and the defence remained impenetrable thanks to the likes of Simeu, Colwill and Lawrence. Nunn also came into the game on the left flank, a position he was tested in when Chelsea played Brentford in a recent friendly. After his second-half performance it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw him play there more often.
Valentino Livramento deserves a special mention as I am continually finding myself more and more impressed with him each time I watch him. His athleticism is second to none and both his defensive and attacking output is pretty staggering. He works hard for the full 90, getting assists but also doing all the dirty work down the right flank. He’s starting to look like a top-class modern-day full-back and he can only get better; a scary talent.
Myles Peart-Harris, the match winner, bagging a brace as a substitute can’t go unmentioned. The 18-year old was everywhere when he came on as he’d obviously decided to take it upon himself to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Dispatching the pen and the sweeping home the winner means he’ll get the plaudits tonight, and rightly so. Marcel Lewis was also amongst the especially notable performances as he got a goal and an assist to help reignite the comeback.
A small mention to the 16-year old debutant Jude who more than held his own when coming on at half-time. Managed to compete up front for the whole 45, remaining composed and decisive in the final third. Well in Jude!
I genuinely feel for those of you that missed this game, it literally had everything even from a neutral perspective. Five goals, 10 cards (8 yellow and 2 red) and some rousing football played by both teams made for a proper game of youth football. With us now sitting top of the league in the PL2 you can begin to see why Chelsea’s academy is being hailed as the best around.
Three points in the bag and back to it at Kingsmeadow on Friday where we face 6th place Manchester United who will be looking to stop Chelsea increasing their lead at the top.
In another episode of The Chelsea Spot podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho) had the very fortunate opportunity to talk to current Chelsea U18 captain, Charlie Wiggett! Before that, Orlando was joined by Paree to discuss very quickly Chelsea’s win over Leeds and the upcoming Champions League game against Krasnodar, but Charlie talked about the Chelsea philosophy, captaining a Chelsea side, playing against the likes of Willian and Pedro in training and much more!
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Yesterday’s game certainly is going to back up a lot of what I’m about to say.
Last night’s challenge against Rennes clearly highlighted the problems we have in midfield. To an average Chelsea fan, or a supporter of another club, many would see the abudance in midfield and question me heavily as to why I’m complaining. After all, we did spend £100 million on Jorginho and Kovacic, the best part of another hundred on Kai Havertz and sent Loftus-Cheek and Barkley out on loan. However, the problem is that with the new way we’re playing, Jorginho and Kovacic are going to struggle.
A topic which has been widely discussed so far this season is the different formations we’ve used – mainly 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. With the 4-3-3, we currently only have two ‘proper’ number 8s in Mason Mount and Kai Havertz, and with the 4-2-3-1 we are lacking a player who can play next to Kante, as none of the midfield partnerships in a midfield pivot are working at the moment.
Mateo Kovacic has played as a number 8 in the last few games, and has impressed, but he still is learning a lot about the position and it isn’t his natural place to be on the pitch. For Jorginho, as much as I love the man, I think it’s very clear that he doesn’t fit in this system and when he plays we are extremely weak defensively. I mean, just have a look at this…
This, is where I feel Billy Gilmour will help the team so much, and potentially Tino Anjorin too. However, this article may surprise a few people who haven’t watched Gilmour as much, especially when talking about the 4-3-3. Let’s get into it!
Gilmour in the 4-2-3-1
I think the first thing to mention with the Scottish midfielder is that he is just returning from a bad injury, and that it will take him time to get back to his best. He has played for the development squad in the last two weeks, where he looks close to full match fitness and also scored a screamer from the edge of the box against Manchester City. It hopefully shouldn’t take him too long to get to full sharpness, but it’s just something to keep in mind.
A lot of last season, and even this season, we have tried to find our best midfield pivot in a 4-2-3-1. And the matter of the fact is that we still haven’t, because they’re all pretty bad. A Kante-Jorginho midfield is very slow, a Kante-Kovacic midfield is not offensive enough and a Jorginho-Kovacic may look aesthetically pleasing, but as I showed above, that type of defending happens many times a game which often goes missed.
Could Gilmour be the perfect person to play next to Kante with Havertz in front? I certainly think so. Billy offers so much on and off the ball, as he holds an exquisite passing range and is very sound defensively. Everyone knows about his passing abilities, both short and long, and some of his best defensive work came against Liverpool in the FA Cup last season where he got stuck in and was able to keep up with forwards such as Mane who were running in behind – something which Jorginho would see but not be able to catch up, and which Kovacic would be quick enough to run but would simply stare at oppositions midfielders running past him. One of Billy’s underrated qualities is definitely his dribbling, something which I will talk about next when discussing his role in the 4-3-3.
Sounds great then. Havertz as the 10 would be able to drop deep and link the play between the midfield and attack; Gilmour could play slightly just ahead of Kante who can sit deep and still have the reassurance that if he wanted to go forward, there would be someone who would be able to temporarily defend.
Gilmour in the 4-3-3
Having said all that, it’s been pretty clear so far this season that Frank is pushing towards the 4-3-3 when all our players are fit. As I said before, this is where most people who haven’t watched Gilmour as much will be surprised.
Last season when Gilmour featured towards the end of the season, he was playing instead of Kante, in the deeper number 6 role. Don’t get me wrong, he can do a very good job there as we saw, and he would be the backup option for Kante until we get Declan Rice either in January or the Summer. But I actually think the best place for him in this system would be playing as number 8, slightly ahead of a sitting midfielder.
When he played in the academy, he was almost always playing as an 8. Most of the time it was George Mceachran who was sitting the deepest, a player quite similar to Jorginho in terms of their style, and Billy in front, with someone like Tino Anjorin or Conor Gallagher to the other side. As an 8 I think he’s got it all – passing, running, dribbling, an eye for goal around the box and most importantly he’s an aggressive player off the ball despite his physique.
Like I said before, at the moment we really only have two natural number 8’s, them being Kai Havertz and Mason Mount. Chelsea have an extremely tight schedule coming up and both players will be needing rest, so Gilmour would be the best player to come in for them.
The last thing to say about the 19 year old is that we have brought in world class players, and they are only going to make him better. He’s going to have one of the world’s best centre-backs in the last two decades behind him telling him where to be and what to do, a generational young talent right next to him, some utterly disgusting pace in front of him as well as a magician. We genuinely could see some huge developments in this game this season making him one of the best young players in the world, I’m sure of it.
I wouldn’t expect Anjorin to feature heavily soon for the first team, but he’s certainly one who we could see on the bench for a couple games, especially having already qualified for the Champions League knockout stages. Tino has been playing for the development squad this season after returning from an injury, and he’s almost back to his very best. I said at the beginning of the year that he was going to be too good for the U23’s, and he hasn’t proven me wrong. Even against men, he looked the most comfortable on the pitch, scoring a brace against League One team Bristol Rovers in the EFL Trophy (or the Papa John’s trophy – whatever you prefer). He definitely needs a challenge, whether that is with the first team or out on loan, because it’s too easy for him at the moment.
For me, his chance is just lurking around the corner. I’m not sure what is happening with the COVID bubbles and whether he’s actually allowed to play with the first team, but if he is, I can see him getting a shot very soon. He trained a lot with the big boys towards the end of last season and if it wasn’t for his injury during Project Restart he almost definitely would have featured. He also received many loan offers in the Summer, but wanted to stay and make himself available to Lampard, and I would assume one main reason behind that was seeing the departures of Loftus-Cheek and Barkley.
In the whole of the club, he is definitely the next most natural 8 after Kai and Mason. Not only that, he can easily play at the 10, fitting the gaffer’s formations perfectly and potentially making him a great asset in the future. We don’t really have someone like him in the main squad, although it could be argued that he has a few similarities to Havertz – they both play in similar positions, have a great eye for goal and are extremely clinical. The main difference between the two is quite obviously their physical status, with Anjorin being one of the strongest guys around, yet still being quick (don’t get me wrong, Kai is still extremely fast.)
Anjorin is more of a bogey player and one to keep an eye out for, as I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets promoted to the first team camp allowing him to feature for the first team, or if a loan deal gets agreed to a Championship or European team.
Do you agree with the idea of Gilmour playing as an 8 and Anjorin possibly featuring for the first team? Make sure to let us know on our social media platforms and my own personal account!
In another episode of The Chelsea Spot podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho) had the very fortunate opportunity to talk to former Chelsea player Ruben Sammut. where they discussed for just under an hour a whole range of topics, including training against Eden Hazard and under different managers like Sarri, Conte and Mourinho, the lack of intensity in the first team training compared to the academy, the 5 trophies he won during his time here, playing with the likes of Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham and a lot more!
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