The 4-0 stomping of Aston Villa two weekends ago raised expectations. The 1-0 defeat to Swansea City this past weekend dashed them. Chelsea's unbeaten run was ended at 15, and we were once again confronted with the harsh realities of this season's failures.
In both games, manager Guus Hiddink decided to give some of Chelsea's young players a chance. He's hoping that even in defeat, they are learning valuable lessons and gaining invaluable experience.
"I said after the Aston Villa game that it was a good win, but we have to take into consideration that the opposition was, with all respect to a big club like Aston Villa, different to what you are normally confronted with in other games."
"I said we should see what we can do in bigger games and it was a bigger game [against Swansea] because of the importance of the game for Swansea. Then you can make a good judgement about any player who is playing and who came in."
"I hope [the young players] don't get used to [losing]. They must get used to winning and try to be in a winning situation always. In the long run of a competition you have a defeat, but there must also be a reaction. You can almost see, in big games and after big games, how they react."
Besides starting young players such as Matt Miazga and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the Swansea game, Hiddink also selected three Academy players to help fill the bench in defender Ola Aina and midfielders Kasey Palmer and Charlie Colkett. While none of the three got to make their Chelsea debut, having them available for the first-team is only a natural step after getting them to train at the same level of our veteran players.
"Traoré could have gone on loan in the winter and I talked to him and said it would be better to stay half a year and he wished to do that. We made a programme with him and he responded very well and made good progress."
"First, in training you must make this progress because if the gap is too big I don't want to put him in a big pond and he is drowning. He has to keep up to that level. [Ola Aina, Kasey Palmer and Charlie Colkett] are the same - they are now participating as much as possible in our training sessions."
-Guus Hiddink; Source: Chelsea FC
Injuries to several key veteran players has played in a big part in the sudden emphasis on youth from Chelsea, but as we often see in these situations, being at the right place at the right time can be more important than any amount of success in training, youth games, or loan spells. But with nothing left to fight for this season -- would it really matter if we lost our last six games? -- it would be nice to see the manager continue to select the youngsters, and maybe hand out a few more debuts to the likes of Charlie Colkett. There's much to be gained and very little to lose.