Most of the focus so far this summer has been on the players leaving — and rightly so, with Chelsea needing to trim the squad to a manageable size first and foremost — but we shouldn’t forget about those who are definitely staying and set to form the new core of the team going forward. Many of those players are not only tremendously talented and highly promising, but are only in their early 20s and just at the start of their careers.
Case in point: Noni Madueke.
Madueke was one of the lower-profile signings in January, but he was one of the few players to still be fully invested and giving full effort at the end of the season as we put the finishing touches on a most terrible and disappointing campaign. While many others had checked out and just going through the motions, Madueke took interim manager Frank Lampard’s words to heart, and showed the aggressiveness, the endeavor, and the desire that we wanted to see from everyone else. And Noni got rewarded for those performances with seven straight appearances to end the year, five of those starts.
The 21-year-old now looks to next season as a true believer in “The Project”.
“Everyone here has huge aspirations, individually and collectively, but I feel like the process we’re in right now is just about getting a little bit better every day, getting better every game, and growing closer. It’s for the future — we are trying to build the foundations now for a successful club and team.
“The project here was something I was very aware of and was something I thought was good. Chelsea has never really been a project club, just a winning club, but nowadays you can’t just win without a plan.
“Gone are the days when the big clubs just used to dominate all the time. It’s different, you need to strategise, and I feel like that’s what the owners and the staff and the technical staff are doing. So we as players just need to buy in and I’m sure sooner rather than later we’ll be very successful.”
Madueke’s certainly right about Chelsea not being about projects, certainly not during his lifetime. That word itself, “project”, acquired a dirty connotation when we did try it that one time with André Villas-Boas. Then-owner Roman Abramovich quickly pulled the plug, reversed course, and we went back to our prior m.o. — in rather dramatic fashion at that, by winning the 2012 Champions League.
But we all knew that wasn’t really sustainable anymore, and while the past twelve months have been very painful and much of that probably could’ve been avoided to some extent by a more gradual shift in operations and changing of the guard (on and off the pitch for the club), what’s done is done. Things have been set in motion, so we have to follow them through lest we risk getting stuck in midtable limbo.
The likes of Madueke living up to their potential and continuing to keep the faith will be key to that.
“Chelsea definitely feels like home. The boys are great and we’ve got a really good harmony in the dressing room because we believe we’ll turn it around next season.”
-Noni Madueke; source: Chelsea FC
So say we all!