Last week, PFA chief Gordon Taylor had some comments in The Mirror about the Chelsea loan system, which were critical of the number of players that the Blues have on loan. Here's what he had to say about the Blues' army of youngsters:
"It's a bit of a worry with so many Chelsea players out on loan. It's almost a warehousing of players. You wonder whether it brings into question the integrity of the various competitions. From a player's point of view, you can see they would want to go out on loan if there is not a first-team place available. But Chelsea have an academy so you have to wonder how it is they have such a phenomenal number of players out there."
"Players want to play and the loan system gives them that chance. But then there are players at these clubs in Europe who are denied the chance because others are coming in with their parent clubs paying their wages. It makes that option more attractive."
"So then it is not about the best team winning a particular competition, it is about who has the best relationship with the biggest clubs. It's not so much something that we've been alerted to. It's something that you can't fail to notice because it has been such a phenomenal number of players out there."
On Friday, Michael Emenalo responded, defending the program, while noting that the FA are perfectly fine with Chelsea's actions:
"The loan programme is one that I can predict confidently that others will follow suit and start doing the same."
"There is a gap in the players who have come through and been developed by the academy up to the age of 18 and 19 who now needs to step up into the first team. But we are not talking about any first-team, this is Chelsea Football Club first-team - which means you are going to have to win games to win titles."
"You are going to play in games that mean something. There is no room for errors. This is a huge demand for young players. You cannot expect 18 and 19-year-olds to come in and be ready."
"We have had conversations with the English FA and we know that they are very happy for us to have some of these young players go abroad and get some of these experiences that which they are not available in Championship or Premier League teams."
Emenalo does a nice job of pointing out that Chelsea's academy products likely need some minutes at a lower level before being ready to contribute to a title-chasing side, without really taking a dig at the competitiveness (or lack thereof) of the U21 Premier League. I'd imagine anyone who watches U21 matches regularly wouldn't need that explanation, however, as the pace of play isn't anywhere near what these kids will see in the Premier League.
That said, the way Chelsea's first team are currently playing, it might not be as difficult for some of these youngsters to earn minutes as it once was.