There are many unknowns surrounding Tiémoué Bakayoko.
How bad was his knee when Chelsea bought him? Did he aggravate it when he was rushed into the lineup against Tottenham in August with scarcely any training, turning in an excellent performance in midfield?
Has he been nursing niggling injuries all season, playing because Conte needed midfield bodies? Is that why he has struggled to duplicate his Monaco form for Chelsea this season?
And finally, what exactly was the ailment that kept him out of the squad since February 5th? Was it physical? Mental? Both?
Watford was inarguably Baka’s nadir this season. It seemed like every pass was to an opponent. He saw two yellow cards and was sent off within just 30 minutes as Chelsea crashed to an ignominious 1-4 defeat at home. A section of the Chelsea support in the stands began abusing him with an obscene song.
Since then, no sightings. Not on the training field, not in the manager’s comments. All Conte would say is that he was out.
On Friday Chelsea’s manager said he was back. And Conte seemed to suggest that Baka’s ailment was both physical and mental.
On the physical;
“Now, yeah, he is training with us for one week, his physical condition is not bad.”
That would imply that the Frenchman was being given ample time to heal whatever chronic injuries he’d been carrying.
On the mental;
“I have to see a positive aspect about his injury because he had a lot of time to metabolize (digest) the bad performance against Watford.”
Translation: he needed time to recover. From everything.
Which is what you’d expect from a young player struggling to adapt to a new league, a new country, a new language.
“Don’t forget Baka, Baka is only 22 years old (ed.note: 23), he’s a really young player, in this season, also we are paying a bit (for the) lack of experience of many players but Baka he has the right personality to become an important player for Chelsea, I hope in the present but for sure in the future.”
It’s been mentioned many times that even such illustrious Chelsea players as Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard took some time to adapt to their new club. And we should remember that neither was as young as Bakayoko when they donned the Blue.
They both got their chance to establish themselves. Conte says Bakayoko will too.
“Yeah for sure only because, don’t forget in the squad there are four midfielders, I have to trust, I must, in my players and I have to continue to assist with these players.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Evening Standard
Could his inclusion in the squad against Palace be an omen?
Baka has scored two Premier League goals in his career. The first? Against Crystal Palace.
Saturday would be a fine time for the young man, mentally and physically rejuvenated, to deliver an encore performance.