It's not been an easy year for Chelsea Director of Football / Evil Genius / Evil Idiot / Scapegoat / Source of All Problems (cross out as appropriate) Michael Emenalo.
The brains / dunce behind the whole Chelsea Loan Army operation has recently seen some of his good transfer work undone in controversial fashion (Lukaku, De Bruyne to name the obvious ones), seen some of his bad transfer work make headlines in expected fashion (Djilobodji and others), and the rest mostly not really work out as well as we may have expected (Salah, Cuadrado, etc.). Of course, how much he's personally responsible for each Chelsea transfer (or non-transfer, as it were) is a bit of a mystery, but as the Director of Football, the ultimate responsibility does eventually rest on his shoulders. What we do know is that the approach over the Mourinho years seems to have gone from buying-for-the-future to buying-for-the-present and so we're once again facing the prospect of at least a partial rebuilding project.
THE SCHOOL OF EMENALO
THE SCHOOL OF EMENALO
Fortunately, the academy (and the loan system) is still very well stocked with talent. But as we know all too well, all that talent and all those successes are largely inconsequential unless we actually manage to integrate some of these kids into the first-team. But to hear Emenalo tell it, that's a problem that's not exclusive only to Chelsea. Take Spurs, for example.
"In reality it is just the one key player, Harry Kane. Dele Alli they bought, Eric Dier they bought; Tom Carroll is a fringe player. So with all the hoopla about Tottenham, it's just the one player."
Then again, one player is better than no players!
"So with all the hoopla about Tottenham, it's just the one player so we try to remind them it's not just a Chelsea problem. We want them to be patient because they (the parents) want it quicker than the boys want it or the boys are ready to take it."
Emenalo and Mourinho may not have agreed on everything, but they both preached patience and an age-based development scheme for the youngsters that would see them integrated only at 21 or 22. Other teams might aim to do this sooner or in a less rigid fashion, or they may not. If there was one foolproof way to go about youth development, everyone would be doing it like that.
"Christensen will be a superb player. I see on a regular basis that Jake Clarke-Salter and Fikayo Tomori are going to be outstanding players. They are young and I don't know if they decide to get fat. There's nothing I can do about that. If they continue the way that they are, they will make it because they have great talent, there's no doubt about that."
"There is a co-ordinated effort from everybody to want to make this happen. Not just because it feels good, and it is nice to have a backbone the fans can relate to and support. But with the investment we are making and where we think the game is going and the competition that we have, you can't just buy your way out of trouble all the time".
"We have a philosophy in the academy to teach them to play the right way, the way we think a big team should play. And ultimately the only way they can play that gives them a chance to play for our first-team."
-Michael Emenalo; source: Mail
So I guess the key takeaway here is that our approach will not be changing. Buy low, sell high, keep the best. The people in charge are firm believers in this approach and while it has yet to produce results for the Chelsea first-team, it's producing results at the youth level, both in terms of trophies and development.
So as Chelsea, with players who are almost all eligible for England and have been with the team for several years already (many from before age 10), gear up to defend yet another FA Youth Cup title, just a few days after defending our UEFA Youth League trophy, hopes remain high that we will indeed see the "next John Terry" emerge and start to become part of the next homegrown Chelsea backbone.