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A look at the academy: Nathaniel Chalobah

Nathaniel Chalobah
Nathaniel Chalobah

Prior to this season, Nathaniel Chalobah was likely a name that most of us hadn't become very familiar with. Even now, unless you really watch the reserve and youth teams, he's likely to fly under the radar a bit. Nathaniel just celebrated his 16th birthday in December, but had already dressed for the first team once at the age of 15 (he was an unused sub versus Newcastle). He also traveled with the first team twice during the group stages of the Champions League, but did not dress. He's currently the captain of the England U17 squad, despite being the youngest player in the U17 world championships (which England won) this past summer.

For Chelsea, Chalobah is utilized as a holding midfielder who tends to be brought forward as an aerial threat on set pieces. He's scored 5 goals in 19 competitions for the Chelsea youth and reserves in the last calendar year. His excellence in the holding role last year allowed Josh McEachran to drift forward more and use his excellent passing skills to lead the academy to their first youth cup in almost 50 years. For England he's utilized as a center back, where he anchors the best defense in the world at that age group. He's noted for being tall, athletic, and very strong on the ball. I've tracked down a few videos of Chalobah goals after the jump.

First, here's his goal last week versus Sunderland (Chalobah wears #8):


Here's one against Leicester City last season (He's wearing #12 in this one):


Finally, here's some highlights from the reserve game versus Liverpool where Chalobah scored his first goal at that level (he is #6 in this clip)


While the youth and reserve levels are a far cry from the Champions League and Premier League, Chalobah seems to have enough polish that he'll be one to watch going forward. The way he's used by club and country reminds me of the way John Terry was used prior to breaking into the Chelsea first team, playing defense and captaining England while playing midfield at the club level. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Chalobah eventually move to the center of the defense full time for Chelsea assuming he continues to grow. Having just turned 16, there's a lot of projection involved with any long term assumption about young Nathaniel. He's certainly one to keep an eye on, however, and don't be surprised to see him get a cameo this spring if we lock ourselves into a position prior to the official end of the campaign. If we don't see him break into the first team this spring, I think it's a safe assumption that he'll feature in both the Carling Cup and UEFA group stages next season.