His hand may have been somewhat forced by the absences of Willian, Oscar, Cesc Fàbregas, and Branislav Ivanović, but there’s a genuine feeling that Antonio Conte might become the first Chelsea coach in a long time to give proper chances to Chelsea Academy youngsters. On Saturday, four of them started on the bench and three made an appearance — and in the case of Nathaniel Chalobah, it wasn’t just a token few minutes; he played the final half hour after Conte made a tactical switch to add another central midfielder at the expense of an attacker. The other two subs, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ola Aina have been regulars in the League Cup so far this season.
After the match, Conte reiterated his overall philosophy when it comes to such things. It will sound familiar, both as something he has said before and as something that previous Chelsea coaches had said as well, but Conte might actually practice what he preaches in this case.
“People who know me will know I don't gift a place to anyone.”
“Only those who deserve to play will play for me. It is important for Chalobah and Aina to understand this. When I have called Chalobah he has always answered me in a positive way. If they are ready I will put them in.”
“In the future they can play from the start. Age is not important. I made my first appearance in Serie A at only 16.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Mail
I wouldn’t expect any of them to start next Sunday against Manchester United, but hopefully we will indeed get to continue seeing regular minutes handed out to the Chelsea youngsters.