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Sarri on youth integration, Loftus-Cheek impact, Higuaín condition, Cahill situation

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Player assessment

Chelsea v Sheffield Wednesday - FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Now that the Kepa incident is basically over, we (and the media) can go back to concentrating on what matters most: Callum Hudson-Odoi’s future!

There’s plenty of truth in that joke however, especially with a two-window transfer ban looming. The narrative of Chelsea’s failures in youth integration may be overblown a bit — not all the talent that the Academy churns out is elite-level despite their successes in the youth teams, and that’s even more true for the Loan Army — but it’s undeniable that we’ve not made good use of our resources (both in terms of world class facilities and coaching, and player potential) over the past couple decades. Andreas Christensen is still the only Academy graduate to have made 50 starts for the club since John Terry came through in pre-Roman times.

That poor record, combined with a seemingly growing lack of patience from the next generation has meant that Chelsea have been hemorrhaging young and highly promising talent over the past few years. Callum Hudson-Odoi is likely to be next, unless we can change his mind in the next 6-9 months.

Unfortunately, Maurizio Sarri also has to think about the cold harsh reality of his own job. It’s a massive conundrum in modern football, especially at the top level, trying to combine youth development with good results. Sarri sees young players as inherently more risky than older, more experienced players, and he’s hardly unique in that sense — in fact, that’s a commonly accepted truism in all professional sports.

“Sometimes it is the media’s fault, because you put too much pressure on English young players. I can understand why, but sometimes it can be too much.”

“Every club is a business, we have to accept. I don’t agree personally, but I have to live in this world. It is normal, every club is a business, especially in the last ten years.”

Hudson-Odoi has played in 9 of the last 14 games (starting 4) since the start of January. Whether or not that’s been motivated by the Bayern rumors (probably), hopefully the trend continues and the 18-year-old decides to stay.

Another young player, a few years ahead of Callum, who’s been slowly getting integrated into the team is Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Were it not for his recurring injury issues, he would surely have more than the 1056 minutes collected so far this season (despite competing directly with Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley for playing time). RLC has only started 1 game in the last three months, but he’s been generally impressive in his nine appearances off the bench during that span, including in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Spurs.

“In the last match I wanted more physical impact in the last 20 minutes. I was afraid there might be a lot of balls in our box. I wanted more physical impact. Then we were able to defend before our box better. He entered the pitch well.”

If Loftus-Cheek can stay healthy, his minutes and utilization will surely only increase as we head into the last couple months of the season.

That’s probably not true for Gary Cahill, who seems unlikely to ever play for Chelsea again, even if he’s there training with the team every day.

“[Gary] is in the last year of the contract, there are some problems for the new contract. You have to ask the club I think.”

“He is training with the team-mates of course. In the dressing room he is very important, we use him in the right way I think. Every player, every member of the staff knows he is very important.”

Another very important player (and actually important) is the much older and equally not-assured-of-a-Chelsea-future striker, Gonzalo Higuaín. The 31-year-old is hoping to show there is still goals left in the tank and thus convince the Blues to spend big on him this summer — especially as Juventus apparently do not want him back ‘under any circumstances’.

Higuaín may be one of Sarri’s favored sons, but even the head coach recognizes that there is plenty of room for improvement there

“He contributed well. He interacted well with the team-mates. Now he needs the acceleration, he needs to improve in the physical condition, then he will improve.”

“At the moment for us it is better to think only about Fulham, you (the media) are too much in the future.”

-Maurizio Sarri; Source: football.london

The 2018-19 season has not been an easy one so far. But there is still time to turn things around, one match at a time, as the old cliche goes.