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Ethan Ampadu suffering from literal and metaphorical growing pains

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The teenager has not featured much for Chelsea this season and was forced to withdraw from the Wales squad

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea - Premier League 2 Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images

Ethan Ampadu’s travails this season have flown a bit under the radar thanks to the high(er)-profile concerns around Callum Hudson-Odoi’s prospects and playing time, but the young midfielder’s (defender’s?) career-stagnation this season is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. He came out of nowhere to feature a few times under Antonio Conte last year, but he has not really built on that under Maurizio Sarri.

The 18-year-old is hardly alone in getting the cold shoulder from the head coach — he’s played more than Danny Drinkwater or, prior to his loan, Victor Moses (though not less than Gary Cahill, who hasn’t been seen in months) — but unlike in the older players’ cases, these missing developmental minutes could have far larger repercussions down the road.

Wales national team head coach Ryan Giggs isn’t too happy with this situation either, even if he understands the factors that have lead to its creation.

“It is frustrating. He’s at that age where it’s in between his age group and the first team. So a lot of the time he’s travelling with the squad. I went through it a little bit, when you don’t play, then you go back to your own age group. It’s just that balancing act because he’s not getting the minutes that lesser players would get because of his quality.

“He’s played the odd Europa [League] game or cup game for Chelsea and, because of that talent, I can see Sarri wants him around the first team. But it’s just been a bit stop-start, together with the injuries, which is frustrating because he is an amazing talent and he’s shown that in the games he’s played.”

In part due to those match fitness issues, as well the actual growing pains of a still developing 18-year-old, Ampadu has been forced to withdraw from the Wales squad ahead of their 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago in a friendly last night. The official reason is a back injury, though Giggs seems to hint that it’s an issue more general in nature.

“He reminds me of Steven Gerrard because he’s still growing. They pick up these little knocks and strains.”

-Ryan Giggs; source: Evening Standard

It’s unclear if Giggs means Ampadu’s like Gerrard purely in terms of his growth spurt and the subsequent physical discomfort, or if he’s also like Gerrard in terms of skills and style. I’ll take the latter interpretation, thank you very much.

Play the kid!