Nathaniel Chalobah Under the Spotlight
Under the Spotlight
Chelsea Football Club: one of the richest clubs in modern football, Premier League Champions in 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2015, Champions League winners in 2012 and one of the greatest youth academy’s in world football.
Our youth teams can boast winning 4 of the last 5 FA Youth Cup trophies yet the last player to come through the ranks at Chelsea from the youth academy was 35-year-old John Terry. Where has it all gone wrong? And can any of the newest crop of exciting youth break into Antonio Conte’s revitalised Blue Army? This week I take a closer look at one of Chelsea’s brightest young talents in many years… Nathaniel Chalobah.
A Talent Is Born
Nathaniel Chalobah was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the 12th of December 1994. His family relocated to England in search of a better life while Chalobah was only 7. Chalobah was identified as a talent at the age of 10 and was snapped up by Chelsea Football Club. Chalobah excelled in youth football and was apart of the reserves team in the 2010-11 season while still a schoolboy. It was quite clear even then that Chelsea had a special talent. Chalobah regularly captained both youth and reserve sides and in 2012, he lifted the trophy in a successful FA Youth Cup campaign.
His loyalty to the club paid off and at the age of only 15 he appeared on the bench in a Premier League game against Newcastle. Chalobah signed his first professional contract in 2012 after turning 17 and traveled to Munich with the 2012 Champions League winning side under Roberto Di Matteo. In 2013, Chalobah signed an improved contract lasting 5 years and stated that he wished to stay at Chelsea for the remainder of his career.
A Lifetime On Loan
Like many Chelsea youth, a hopeful Chalobah would have to prove himself on loan before being trusted in the first team side and in the 2012-13 season he was sent on loan to Championship side Watford. Nathaniel flourished in the attacking Watford set up making 38 league appearances and scoring 5 goals from a defensive midfield position. Chalobah’s first appearance for Watford was as a 73rd minute substitute coming on for Fernando Forestieri on the 18th of September 2012 against Brighton & Hove Albion. Chalobah was a beloved figure at the Hornets and even scored 3 days after his 18th birthday with a fine volley from the edge of the box. The highlight of this loan move was perhaps the Championship playoffs where Chalobah shined and helped the team all the way to the final where they were unfortunately beaten 1-0 by Crystal Palace.
Four more loan spells within the English system ensued though Chalobah was never quite as settled in at Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Burnley or Reading as he was during his spell at Watford. Chalobah’s most recent taste of the loan system took him to Napoli during the 2015-16 season where he found it hard breaking into a star-studded line up and only made 5 appearances all season. In the 2016-17 season, Chalobah returned to the club under the new rule of Antonio Conte who decided to take him to America on the pre-season tour and gave him a fair shot to prove himself. Chalobah must have impressed Conte as the club went on to reject loan offers from the likes of Leicester City, Sevilla and Napoli, telling Chalobah that he has a role to play in the first team squad this season.
For Club And Country
Chalobah, though only being 21, is one of the most capped outfield players in England youth history. To date, he has made a total of 89 appearances for the Three Lions at various youth levels including U16, U17, U19, U20, and his current U21 level. Chalobah is known for his versatility on the ball while also being a tall and extremely athletic player. He can operate either in the midfield or in a defensive setup and is also notably quick in the tackle.
It might not have been a surprise to many people to hear that he is one of the first names on the team sheet for the current England U21’s and often captains the side. Chalobah made his first appearance for the U21’s on the 13th of November in 2012, coming on as a 76th minute substitute for Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson. Chalobah was also offered to represent Sierra Leone at international level (the country of his birth), but instead chose to represent England stating he feels a strong connection to the country of his upbringing.
2016-17 Season So Far
Chelsea’s track record for bringing youth prodigies into their first team isn’t fantastic, but credit is due to Antonio Conte as he has involved more Chelsea youth products than the last 2 managers before him this season. For the first time in Chelsea history, the club saw 3 youth academy graduates come off of the bench against Leicester City in Ola Aina, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Nathaniel Chalobah. It would seem that Chalobah is in Conte’s plans this season as he has now appeared in the Blues’ last four games, looking more and more like a first team player.
Chalobah impressed fans in the game against Leicester City and he pulled off a marvellous bit of skill to back heel a pass to Victor Moses who score the Blues’ 3rd goal in a 3-0 victory. Chalobah also featured in this week’s 4-0 smashing of Manchester United where he looked more than comfortable in a Premier League midfield. Chalobah is expected to feature in the midweek game against West Ham at the Olympic Stadium in the EFL Cup.
About the author
By: Steven Clarke, @StevenClarkeCFC
Steven Clarke is currently a student at the Western Australian University of Murdoch. A devoted Chelsea fan since the late 90’s, and the proud owner of 15 signed Frank Lampard Chelsea shirts.