Since 2000, until this season, Chelsea have not had any youth team products graduate into full time members of the first team squad. Much of this can be put down to the attitude of the club, the older players and the fans in expecting to buy first team ready players, but the last summer saw a new way forward, buying young players and giving a bit of space for youth players to graduate into the 1st team. However, we don't do this near enough yet and are wasting the talent of a lot of the players that we have currently. A knee-jerk return to the bad old days of splashing into the transfer market would be a big mistake and may even see us falling out of the top tier of football in England and in Europe. More after the jump
The reason Alex Song is probably the best central midfielder in the Prem right now is because his progression wasn’t blocked by buying a player in his prime. A few yeas ago the press were persistantly asking Wenger ‘why don’t you buy a central midfielder?’ and he answered because it would ‘kill song and denilson’. We all chuckled then but who wouldn’t want Alex Song in our team right now? Anyone?
The same goes for our youth team players, particularly Josh McEachren. Putting him out on loan next year would be stupid afaic. He’s played with Chelsea from a school boy age, knows the tactics we play inside out, has been traing with the first team for the best part of 2 years and needs game minutes. If we bought players like Hamsik and Modric they would be good sure, but for 5 years rather than 10-15 years, would cost a fortune and would block the development of our youth team players.
Lots of Chelsea fans like to complain three things simultainiously:
1/ that we don’t buy a high enough calibre of player
2/ we waste money on prospects like Lukaku
3/ the youth team arent given a chance
Not all of these can be true! It’s a zero-sum game, there are only 11 starting positions available. When you buy massive names, it can spell the end of a career at the highest level for promising youngsters. We have very high potential players in our squad right now who can’t get a game either as they aren’t quite ready or as managers are afraid to pick inexperienced players. Look at Bertrand – on his first team debut within five minutes of coming off the bench he got an assist. Or Josh in the Carling Cup last season against Newcastle – he was man of the match by a distance. Both players after this were put in the basket!
By buying more players e.g. Lavezzi, Cavani, Hazard, Hummels etc these players aren’t given a chance. The only position that needs strenghtening is right back, all other positions we have excellent options who are on loan or in the reserves. Serlously we have the following playing well/excellent in the following leagues:
Coutious – La Liga
Bruma – Bundesliga
Kalas – Eresdivise
McEachren – Premier league
Kakuta – Ligue 1
Lukaku – Reserves
Islam Feruz – Reserves
Chalaboh – Reserves
Piazon – Reserves
All these players (plus Bertrand, Sturridge (second top scorer for 2011/2012) and Romeu on the edges of first team) are as good as players currently in the first team squad. I don’t think any other team in the prem can rival that pool of talent.
I’m convinced at this point that what Chelsea need to do is put more faith in the youngsters, to provide genuine competition for the first team. It’s no accident that we consistently reach the Youth cup final stages, or that our reserves usually win the league – even though we never play out of favour first teamers there. We have potentially world class players on our hands. I don’t think we should want to buy lots of high class players – one or two yes, but suggesting 5 is pointless.
What I’d like to see is:
1/ a new, excellent, right back
2/ one other mata-esque player such as Kagawa to give us a spark to the front line
3/ Squad turnover – Kalou, Malouda, Drogba (sniff), Bosingwa, Benayoun and consider any offers for Essien, Meireles, and Torres.
If we don’t open these spaces, and aren’t in the CL next year, we will begin to look like a poor option for up-and-coming young players, which will mean we need to buy players who will go straight into the first team, which isn’t a sustainable model for the long term when FFP is fully implemented.
Maybe we wouldn’t have an excellent first half of next season but melding youth team players to a much greater extent with current first team players will mean a much brighter future for the club. It took United two seasons to adapt and rebuild after Mourinho arrived in England but they didn’t do it by buying superstars and we don’t need to either.
So as fans we should try to adjust our expectations and support young players as much as we can.
By the way, there’s a great discussion of the consequences of not playing youth players as early as possible here between Nevin, Zola and Lampard – well worth a watch!