It’s easy to get carried away after a win like Wednesday night’s 5-1 youth-inspired beatdown of Nottingham Forest, and get a little ahead of ourselves regarding their prospects. Conte did after all follow through on his proverbial Academy Day promise, not just with Charly Musonda and Kenedy, but with a trio of teenagers off the bench, who had a combined 1 appearance for the senior team beforehand.
Fortunately, Conte’s here to give out just the right amount of praise. Granted, he says the same thing about almost every player — more work! always improve! — but that’s partly because those are his core beliefs. And meeting those beliefs to his satisfaction should result in future opportunities.
“We have to be competitive in every game and if the players answer like they did tonight I will continue to give opportunities. We must go game by game but when I have this type of answer I’m very happy.”
Musonda was the star of the night, overshadowing even Batshuayi’s hat-trick or Hazard’s effortless wizardry, with the debut and debut goal, and a celebration to match, five years in the making.
“I think Charly played very well and he is trying to work a lot to improve physically because the Premier League is very strong in terms of the physical aspect. He’s a talented player and he has to continue in this way and when there is the opportunity to help us he must do this.”
Physicality is less of a concern with Kenedy, who showed two seasons ago that he can already be a useful player, even when played out of position. He now appears to be stuck in the wing-back role, but at least he’s playing and getting his career back on track after the wasted season last year and the controversy of the summer in China.
“Kenedy played very well and gave a good answer. Some players haven’t played a lot and it’s important to continue to work. I hope the game improved their confidence and they must continue in this way.
“We started to work with Kenedy last January after his loan spell at Watford. He’s working very well and improving. He has to continue and when there is an opportunity he must take it.”
The key for all is to continue putting in the work and to take advantage of the (possibly rare) opportunities when they come.
“[Ampadu is] another youngster who has the potential to become a good player but he must continue to work with humility and improve. We must be pleased tonight because we saw a lot of our young players in this game.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
That said, it wouldn’t be surprising to not see any of these players until this time next month, when we take on Everton in the next round of the League Cup. That’s just the reality of the situation, certainly as far as Conte sees it. (The following quotes are from before Wednesday’s game, but they apply just the same.)
"Every coach wants to win. I don’t care if a player is young or old. If a 36-year-old makes me happy and helps me to win I will put him in and it’s the same for a 16-year-old, I’m ready to do it. Don’t forget, my first appearance in Serie A was when I was just 16. I think I’m the first person to trust the young players if they deserve the chance and give me the possibility to win, because I want to win, not lose. "
"When you start your career with a team who doesn’t fight for the title it’s easier to find space because the clubs try to give chances to the young players so they can sell them. It’s an enormous difference to start your career with a team who fights for the title, compared to one who is fighting relegation or in a normal position."
Last season it was Chalobah and Loftus-Cheek and Aina and Ake. This season, it’s Musonda and Kenedy and a few others. Same paradigm, same approach, different names. Same results?
"Last season Chalobah had the chance to play, but don’t forget we won the league and our midfielders were Matic, Kante and Fabregas. You have to consider all of these components. Chalobah was our fourth midfielder and he had the chance to play but it’s normal that if you want to play regularly with a great club you must deserve to play. To play in Kante’s place, Matic’s place or Fabregas’s place, if you show you are better than these players I’m ready to do it."
The question of how or where they can show that they are ready does not have an easy answer unfortunately, and it might be a different answer for each and every player. One player who seems to have bridged this quicksand trap successfully is Andreas Christensen, validating the club’s approach very well so far, just as Thibaut Courtois did a few years ago.
"Now we have a clear example [of success] with Andreas Christensen. He played on loan for two years with Borussia Monchengladbach, now he’s in our squad and he’s played in nearly every game. He’s ready to play in the Champions League and play from the start with us. For young players it’s important to find the right path and have good experience to be ready to play for Chelsea."
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
While there is no exact science to this thing, days like Wednesday can only help.
Here’s to many more Academy Days, many more Charly goals, and many more wins.