Which academy players could be involved against Zagreb?

Chelsea’s fixture against Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday is pretty much a dead rubber – the Blues have their first position in the Champions League Group Stage already confirmed. It’ll be a chance to rest the important players ahead of the massive game against Arsenal on the weekend. More importantly though, it’s the perfect opportunity to give a few academy players some very valuable minutes.

In our 2020/2021 Champions League success, Frank Lampard gave Tino Anjorin and Billy Gilmour their European debuts in the last game of the group stages – the exact same situation as we are in now. Graham Potter is known to rotate more, and he has an even busier schedule with the World Cup looming, so there really isn’t much excuse for the former Brighton manager.

Both Tino Anjorin and Billy Gilmour impressed on their Champions League debuts a few years ago…

Rules and Context

There’s a few rules and context points which I may as well go over to clear things up.

There is a List B for UEFA competitions, which can be updated by clubs throughout the season at any point. If they want to feature in the game on Wednesday, they need to be registered by midnight tomorrow (01/11/2022):

Clubs are entitled to register an unlimited number of players on List B during the season, but the list needs to be submitted no later than 24:00 CET the day before a match.

Lewis Hall and Charlie Webster (as well as Armando Broja) have already been registered on this list, so any other academy players who are set to be involved will need to be added to this list. However, it’s important to note that Omari Hutchinson CANNOT be added to this list and therefore won’t be able to feature on Wednesday for Chelsea. The reasoning is due to the following:

A player may be registered on List B if he is born on, or after, 1 January 2001 and has been eligible to play for the club concerned for any uninterrupted period of two years since his 15th birthday by the time he is registered with UEFA – or for a total of three consecutive years with a maximum of one loan period to a club from the same association for a period not longer than one year. Players aged 16 may be submitted if they have been registered with the club for the previous two years without interruption.

The man in form Omari Hutchinson is ineligible to play on Wednesday sadly…

It’s a massive shame since he’s been by far the standout player in the academy this season, but unlike Carney Chukwuemeka he wasn’t registered on List A and won’t be able to play in the competition until the knockout stages (where the registration window opens once again for List A).

Some other general academy context is that the U21s had a game on Sunday evening, hence there was very little involvement in the first team training session today (Monday). The two pictured to have been involved were Silko Thomas (RWB/Winger) who didn’t play last night and Zak Sturge (LWB) who only got a few minutes from the bench. I suspect that tomorrow’s session will consist of more academy players, or at least I hope so.

It’s also important to note that the U19s will have a game on the same day in the UEFA Youth League, but with Chelsea already being out of the competition it’s not like they will need the experience of Webster or Hall for example, and may want to give opportunities to some of the younger players. Some of them have been on international duty with England over the last few days, so it’s going to be fascinating as to how the club manage each of the squads on Wednesday.

So…who could be involved?

I’d be pretty gutted if one of Bashir Humphreys or Alfie Gilchrist (both CBs) didn’t start for Chelsea. Assuming Azpilicueta is guaranteed to start, in either a four or five at the back formation, there’s still two CB options open. Thiago Silva and Trevoh Chalobah absolutely need a rest as any injury to them could destroy the whole season. If it’s a 5 at the back, he could play Cucurella and Koulibaly next to Azpi but the Senegalese’s defender fitness is still unknown and I think it’d be a massive risk to start him. If it’s a 4 at the back, I can’t see Cucurella playing at CB so that opens up a slot for one of Bashir or Alfie – as well as 4atb utilising the midfield and attack better where we are much more stacked. Josh Brooking is one who has trained with the first team a few times under Graham, but I have a feeling he’s got a small knock as he would’ve been in training today.

One of Bashir Humphreys or Alfie Gilchrist should be starting…

Reece James’ injury has pretty much reduced any quality on the right-hand side in both attacking and defensive sense. Azpilicueta clearly isn’t too favoured by Potter and we all know he’s a bit past it, and the Loftus-Cheek/Pulisic shifts at wing-back haven’t been too successfull either. If he does decide to go with a 5, Dion Rankine (RWB) simply has to play. He’s been excellent at wingback this season under Mark Robinson, and has really matured as a player in the last few years. It’s an easy comparison to make, but his blistering pace and some of the tricks he likes to pull out really does remind you of some of the things Tariq Lamptey was doing in our academy.

Is Dion Rankine our solution to our struggles at RB/RWB?

I don’t think we can expect many other players in the starting lineup. As much as I’d like to see more than one or two, Potter does also have to keep his squad players happy and I suspect the likes of Zakaria, Ziyech, Chukwuemeka, Aubameyang/Broja and Chilwell are all guaranteed to start while we could still easily see the likes of Gallagher, Pulisic, Jorginho and even Mount play for confidence.

There still should be some more on the bench though with a view of coming on as a substitute. Lewis Hall (midfielder) has had first team experience before under Thomas Tuchel, and his versatility (has played at LCB and LWB before) may give him the nudge over someone like Charlie Webster (midfielder), who still very much should be getting some minutes with the quality he has. Ben Elliott is a midfielder/forward who would fit Potter’s system really well in my opinion, and he’s really thrived in the 21s so far. Not being able to play for the U19s may actually be an advantage in that sense for him.

Some talented midfielers in this picture…

Predicted Lineups

Here’s just a couple of lineups that I think Potter could go ahead with. I’m going to assume Koulibaly and Chukwuemeka are both fit enough to start, and that there are no other issues:

I also very much realise Potter could do the second lineup with Loftus-Cheek or a winger instead of Rankine… :/

I don’t think there are any other academy players who I’m missing. Let me know if I am on any of our social platforms and make sure to follow us for more academy related content! I should be getting an update tomorrow on the squad for Wednesday so stay tuned…

Written by Paree

Podcast: Chelsea vs Spurs Preview & wing-back situation!

NOW WE ARE TALKING! | Chelsea 2-0 Dortmund Review The Chelsea Spot Podcast

  1. NOW WE ARE TALKING! | Chelsea 2-0 Dortmund Review
  2. Scared, Potter?

In our latest episode of The Chelsea Spot Podcast, Paree (Owner – @CFCParee) and Danny (Writer – @danny_new_) gave their thoughts of our comfortable 5-1 victory against Chesterfield against Spurs. They also look ahead to the game against Spurs on Wednesday, as well as giving their thoughts on a potential formation change and the current wingback situation. 

Click your preferred streaming platform –



Make sure to check us out on all our social media platforms, including our website, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, ITunes, Amazon Music, Google and Youtube.

Have The Academy Boys Done Enough To Earn More Chances In The First Team?

The 2-0 win at Brentford’s Community Stadium could end up being a monumental shift in the chances that academy players from Chelsea see in the first team. Jude Soonsup-Bell, Harvey Vale and Xavier Simons started the game to a bit of surprise from the Chelsea fan base. Whereas, Lewis Hall and Charlie Webster were on the bench for the entirety of the match.

Jude Soonsup-Bell

Just 17-years-old, Soonsup-Bell came up against veteran Pontus Jansson and when on the ball looked the part. Strikers in this system usually are not heavily involved and Soonsup-Bell fell victim to that. Just 12 touches in 45 mins shows the magnitude of the lack of space up front. The way Brentford sat back in the first half also gave Soonsup-Bell more problems and a team as drilled as Brentford would be capable to deal with the top strikers of the Premier League and he should not feel hard done by. His silky footwork came into action on the numerous occasion and showed glimpses of what made him a star in the U18 side.

Image Source : Twitter

I would like to see Soonsup-Bell given a chance with a front three of Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount and maybe even up top with Lukaku. Being around a more experienced attacking unit can only benefit the 17-year-old and help to utilise his unique skillset. Tuchel also said that “Jude came out of a flu” which could be the explanation for just the 45 minute run-out. A fully fit Jude Soonsup-Bell, with more first team training sessions and a higher quality team around him could cause a lot of sides problems. Chances of seeing Soonsup-Bell get some more appearances in the first team? 7/10 IMO.

Harvey Vale

Vale was playing out of position today which is important to note and also makes his performance stand out even more. Cool, calm and collected on the ball is all you need to sum up Vale’s performance against Brentford. Yes, he did squander a big chance from an Azpilicueta cross but yet again that’s not usually his job in the U23’s. Dealing with a very physically demanding back line of Brentford, Vale’s eagerness to get stuck in and battle with players 10 years older than him says a lot about his mentality.

Image Source : Twitter

Chances will come for Vale to play again in the first team, my preference and I think Vale’s also would be to see him in the attacking midfield role or even left wing back if needed. In his 65 minute stint, Vale showed he had a good understanding of the pace and physicality needed at the senior level. Same with Soonsup-Bell, more training sessions and playing with elite performers will only increase Vale’s ability. The game against Chesterfield on the 8th January jumps out when looking for chances where Vale could next start. Chances of seeing Harvey Vale get some more appearances in the first team? 8.5/10 IMO.

Xavier Simons

Simons was also playing out of his most comfortable position and would have much preferred to slot into the midfield two. You could tell he is not totally used to playing in that position and adapting to Tuchel’s right wing back system was hard for Simons. In just two training sessions, Simons came in and impressed Tuchel which led him to playing 65 minutes in his first match for Chelsea. Simons won 3/5 of his ground duels which tells you that he would be a great player to see in midfield. Simons was caught out of position a few times but with the way the game was in the first half this was expected and he made great recovery runs to prevent goal scoring opportunities on numerous occasions. His pace isn’t a main attribute that is usually on show in youth football as he normally operates in midfield, but it was used to full effect here.

Image Source : Twitter

More minutes could definitely be an option for the Chesterfield game but I hope to see Xavier Simons in his preferred position. Due to the cover we have at centre midfield and right wing back I think the chances of Simons starting another match could be on a lower scale compared to Soonsup-Bell and Harvey Vale. But, a solid performance in a relatively new position could stick in the back of Tuchel’s mind when thinking about his future squads. Chances of seeing Xavier Simons get some more appearances in the first team? 5.5/10 IMO.

Lewis Hall & Charlie Webster

Lewis Hall and Charlie Webster impressed enough after two training sessions to earn a spot on the substitutes bench against Brentford. Lewis Hall has featured in the left wing back position and in midfield this year for the U23’s at just 17-years-old. A place on the bench for Hall is just a testament to his potential and a reward for his elite performances so far this season. With just one senior player natural in the left wing back position (that isn’t currently injured), Hall could definitely be in with a chance of featuring there at some point this season. Webster has featured for the U18’s in all positions around the centre of the pitch and could be of use should more injuries or COVID-19 cases occur in the squad.

The Chesterfield game will be massive in seeing whether Hall and/or Webster can play a part in the senior side for this season. However, I believe that these two definitely have a future at the club due to their different positional capabilities.

Image Source : Twitter

Overall, this game was massive in showing Tuchel and his staff and also the fans that trusting in the youth is worthwhile. This is an exciting time for people who keep up with the Academy and with the congested January schedule there should definitely be some minutes up for grabs for the youth. Hopefully more chances for players like Dion Rankine, Alfie Gilchrist, Jayden Wareham, Joe Haigh and Josh Brooking, Bryan Fiabema and Xavier Mbuyamba could be on the cards.

Written by Frankie