We began our annual exercise of ranking Chelsea's top prospects three days ago, looking at Josh McEachran, Jeremie Boga, Lewis Baker, and Patrick Bamford. Two days ago we moved on to Todd Kane, Wallace, Nathan Ake, and Christian Atsu. Yesterday we finally cracked our top ten, examining Andreas Christensen, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Bertrand Traore, and Patrick van Aanholt.
As mentioned several times previously, this isn't a scientific process at all, Most of the staff simply chimed in with their feedback, and we've compiled a ranking based of that.. Before we started this exercise, we needed to settle on the criteria we decided on for a youngster to be classified as a prospect. We came up with a trio of requirements which needed to be met. Those requirements are:
- The player must be under the age of 23 on the first day of the 2013/14 Premier League season
- The player must have made less than 10 career starts for Chelsea on January 1, 2014, not including friendlies
- The player may not have occupied an FA roster spot with Chelsea for any period after he's no longer considered a U21
With that in mind, here are the next four prospects in our 2014 list:
Number 8, Kenneth Omeruo
Omeruo has been with Chelsea for two years now, the first 18 months of which were spent on loan in the Netherlands. Omeruo was widely expected to take on a domestic loan assignment this fall, but a shoulder injury which required surgery forced him to remain with Chelsea instead. Now healthy, the Nigerian has been loaned to Middlesbrough to get playing time ahead of the World Cup.
Omeruo is still a bit raw, but is an excellent athlete with decent size. He held his own at right back while adjusting to European play, though he's clearly best suited in the center of the defense. Omeruo just needs experience at this point, as his reading of the game is still lagging a bit. There's little reason to think he won't be of Chelsea quality very soon.
The next six months will be huge for Omeruo, as the Championship will be an excellent test ahead of a likely starting role at the World Cup. He reportedly had offers from a Premier League clubs already, and top level football will almost certainly await if he has a strong spring and summer.
Number 7, Thorgan Hazard
Many fans hadn't heard of the younger Hazard when we signed him a year and a half ago. Most assumed the signing was done as a favor to older brother Eden, who surprisingly chose Chelsea over both Manchester clubs.
Thorgan trained with the U21 side for a bit before his first loan, but has spent the bulk of the 18 months since he signed on loan with Zulte Waregem. He looked very good right from the start for the Belgian side, and played well enough that he even earned a callup to the National team. I think most were surprised when he returned to the Belgian club this summer, expecting a more aggressive loan.
Thorgan plays a similar role to what we've seen from his brother, though he initially played a bit deeper than Eden and was asked to contribute more defensively. He's been in sensational form this season though, and he may well be playing his way into the conversation for a World Cup spot.
Where Thorgan will spend the Spring is still a bit up in the air, even though Chelsea agreed to a full season loan with Zulte Waregem this summer. The player's agent has apparently been trying to secure a move to Anderlecht for Thorgan, and large portions of the Belgian press seem to believe that move will come to fruition. That really shouldn't be a big concern for Chelsea fans either way though, as he'll be starting regularly against the same competition at either club.
Number 6, Nathaniel Chalobah
Chalobah is one we are all likely familiar with at this point. The young Englishman has been a highly touted prospect since he broke into the youth side at the age of 15. Now 19, he's looking for a new home on loan after a relatively disappointing spell at Nottingham Forest.
At this time last season, many of us were clamoring for the club to bring Chalobah into the first team. He was sensational with Watford last season, and was a key cog in the side that nearly earned promotion.
The player reportedly drew interest from several Premier League sides over the summer, but Chelsea's insistence that any club taking him on loan pay his hefty wages (relatively speaking) made finding a suitor very difficult. That resulted in a very late loan to Nottingham Forest, where he struggled to find his footing after missing the preseason and dealing with early injuries.
Chalobah showed his youth when he managed to get on the pitch this fall, often seeming to play more aggressively than he needed to and picking up needless bookings in the process. That performance certainly wouldn't have earned him a place in this season's top ten if not for his wonderful showing at the same level last season. The hope is that a new loan will allow his tremendous ability to blossom once again.
Where Nathaniel will spend the Spring is still up in the air at the moment. Quite a few Championship sides have shown interest, but Chelsea haven't been in a rush to choose a destination. Hopefully they choose a good one, as Chalobah has shown the ability to be brilliant when he manages to get a regular run of games.
Number 5, Tomas Kalas
The first member of this season's top five has been with the club since 2010. At the time he signed, clubs all over Europe were interested in his signature. Luckily, Chelsea beat out clubs like Arsenal and Barcelona to land the player.
Kalas is actually a very similar player to Kenneth Omeruo, a very athletic center back that's capable of playing wide as well. He's probably a bit more polished than his Nigerian teammate at the moment, having quite a bit more experience playing centrally at the professional level.
Kalas was kept with the first team squad this season, but John Terry's return to form combined with some relatively good health across the board have led to very few opportunities for the young defender. He's likely to head on loan before the January window closes, though it would not surprise to see him remain with Chelsea until Branislav Ivanovic is cleared to play. I'd put my money on a loan to a Championship side, though seeing him loaned to a Premier League club wouldn't shock me either.
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