The 522 minutes that Danny Drinkwater played for Chelsea in the Premier League cost the club more than £ 50 million over three years. At least, the club’s equally lavish investment in its academy pays higher dividends. During the eventful holiday season, Frank Lampard dived again into the club’s under-23s to debut 19-year-old right-back Tariq Lamptey.
After two decades with barely a local player to keep John Terry company, a dozen Chelsea Academy products have appeared on the Lampard team this season. Fikayo Tomori (22), Reece James (20), Mason Mount (21) and Tammy Abraham (22) all returned from excellent league loan seasons to play in the Premier League, reuniting their former under-23 teammate Callum Hudson -Odoi, still only 19 himself.
Chelsea have loaned 26 players, including valuable assets such as Ethan Ampadu (who struggles to play more at RB Leipzig than at Chelsea), Tiémoué Bakayoko, Kenedy and Victor Moses, who is now on his fourth loan – this to Fenerbahçe – after playing 87 league matches in eight years at the club. This group of lenders now includes U23 captain Marc Guehi, a central rather than dominating backstad born in Ivory Coast, joined Chelsea at the age of eight and is now an U21 graduate in England. . Guehi signed a loan for Swansea City this week and will receive his first serious taste of senior football in the championship.
The emergence of players from the Chelsea Academy coincided with the club’s transfer ban. With this ban now lifted, Lampard could be tempted to close the window of opportunity for academy players. But its management team is filled with former academy coaches – including Jody Morris, Eddie Newton, Joe Edwards and Chris Jones – who are fully aware of the club’s talent.
The club’s under 23s are also in familiar hands. These kids are nurtured by Andy Myers, whose own career provides a good example of how to progress at the club. Myers joined Chelsea as a boy, progressed through the academy and made more than 100 appearances for the club, winning the FA Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup in the process.
His new look under 23 team currently leads the Premier League 2. They beat Tottenham 1-0 last week at Stevenage, where Henry Lawrence was as good as anyone on the field. Lawrence excelled in the rear right against the Spurs, climbing up and down the flank impressively, sprinting quickly to defensive positions, making good decisions, intercepting well and tackling hard. The 18-year-old is now muscular, but his frame suggests that he will gain weight quickly. Naturally a midfielder, Lawrence replaced Lamptey at the rear right and looked happy to have the whole right wing for him when Myers rose to three at the back. Having only turned 18 in September, he has already played for those under 18, 19, 21 and 23 this season. The last step is the biggest, of course.
The first half of the match at Stevenage was anemic, characterizing the worst aspects of elite football. Two technically strong but light teams played sterile football in a dull atmosphere, watched in close silence by friends, family members and scouts. There was no intensity observed on the same field a few days earlier, when the last EFL club, Stevenage, struggled with 10 men to earn a point against Colchester, not to mention the drive or vision required to gain a look-in with Lampard or Spurs. the boss José Mourinho.
Central midfielder George McEachran, even lighter than his older brother Josh – who has played 11 league games for Chelsea in five years and is now in Birmingham City – seemed to have no intention of hitting a Spurs player without even tackle.
Myers knew the game needed a kick and made a difference by hiring Jon Russell. Larger and heavier than most of his opponents, Russell looked like a man among boys – as Ruben Loftus-Cheek did when he played for the second Chelsea team five years ago – throwing his weight behind the first two. His repeated faults earned him a yellow card but this aggression brought more passion to the game and his physique upset the Spurs midfielder. Even McEachran started charging around the midfield and flying in tackles.
Russell and Lawrence combined with Armando Broja – Chelsea’s most promising forward, an 18-year-old from Slough with Albanian roots – in the lower right for the winner from Chelsea.
Lampard made his first team debut with a series of Academy players, including former Rangers midfielder Billy Gilmour, English under-19 midfielder Tino Anjorin and Dutch defender Ian Maatsen. Meanwhile, 19-year-old exciting midfielder Conor Gallagher is in high demand due to his excellent form loaned to Charlton. This is an extraordinarily productive period for the Chelsea Academy, which is going far to catch up on two barren decades.
Mauricio Pochettino left Tottenham but Maurizio Pochettino did not do so. Poch’s son remains on the Spurs U-23 team but is struggling to save time under coach Wayne Burnett. He was left on the bench during Tottenham’s defeat to Chelsea last week, a match his father missed for understandable reasons.
Pochettino, a broad midfielder, was born in Barcelona when his father was in Espanyol, then accompanied him to Paris and Southampton. A first-year professional, he played for the under-18s in the club’s first new stadium game. Now listed as Pochettino-Grippaldi on the team page, life can be easier without his father training every day on adjacent court, but the competition is still fierce.
The FA Youth Cup returned last week after a three-week hiatus. There are no more non-league clubs in the competition, all leaving the third round just before Christmas. Burnley defeated Curzon Ashton 5-0 at Tameside Stadium, where the Burnley U-23s play. Barnet conceded four goals in 14 minutes in the first half at Bournemouth, then scored three goals in six minutes after the break, but could not tie.
Alternative thoughts however for Croydon, who was hammered 8-1 at Wigan, and South Shields, whose reward for a trek of nearly 600 miles at Motspur Park was a 10-1 annihilation by the best under 18 team Years of the country, Fulham, bringing an end to the Mariners’ wonderful seven-game adventure.
Producing players who are good enough to enter and stay on your first team is a difficult task. Just ask the Liverpool Academy coaches. When Trent Alexander-Arnold played his 50th league game for the club last year, he became their first local player to take this step since Steven Gerrard made it 20 years ago.
The performance of their young players against Everton in the FA Cup – including midfielder Curtis Jones (18), right-back Neco Williams (18), winger Harvey Elliott (16) and Algerian left-back Yasser Larouci ( 19) – suggests another name. could join this list soon. Local guy Jones and Welshman Williams impressed enough in the fall cup games to be on the bench for Jürgen Klopp in December.
This week in… 2015
Stars from the past and the future participated in an under-21 derby between Charlton and Millwall. Charlton’s front line included 17-year-old Karlan Ahearne-Grant and Tony Watt, the former Celtic striker who signed this week with Standard de Liège. Grant’s first-year fellow Ezri Konsa was sidelined in favor of former Milan central defender Oguchi Onyewu.
The players on the field that day are now scattered far and wide. Watt is now with CSKA Sofia; Grant is the star striker from Huddersfield (and surely the best Scottish player without a cap); while Konsa has a lot of defensive training with Aston Villa. Onyewu, who won 69 caps for the United States, retired after playing in 12 clubs, appearing more than two dozen times for just one of them: Standard de Liège. The Millwall team was chaired by Neil Harris and led by Ben Thompson, the only field player on the Millwall team who still plays in the Football League.