Youthful Riches Part Trois: Attack
This is the third installment of our future series. We have been looking in at Chelsea’s youth set up and talking about what players are going to be coming down the pipeline into Chelsea’s first team squad. The future looks bright, especially in the attack. We are going to break this into two different categories, the out and out strikers who are true #9’s in the mold of Diego Costa and Drogba, and then pacey wide-forwards in the mold of Eden Hazard and Willian.
Dom Solanke had a meteoric rise through Chelsea’s youth ranks. He has a massive 6 foot 1 inch frame and is only 19 years old. After he grows and adds some muscle, he will look like a big strong striker. He has basically won every title the youth football has to offer. In 2015-16 he earned himself a transfer to Vitesse. During Solanke’s time at Vitesse he had some growing pains. He had difficulties navigating the physicality of professional football compared to the relatively softer nature of youth football. It didn’t take too long before Solanke inevitably found his feet. He ended up returning 7 goals in 25 appearances. Dom proved that he was capable of overcoming adversity to reach his goals.
He seemed to be developing right on cue; most spectators assumed he would be loaned out to an English Championship club, or a lower-tier Premier League club. Dom is set to be out of contract with Chelsea this upcoming summer. Chelsea’s board offered him a new contract, which Dom rejected. Dom wants £60k a week plus guaranteed first team opportunities. Chelsea refused to give him a loan until they reach a contract agreement. Unfortunately it appears that they have reached an impasse. Of course our opportunistic neighbors to the north, Arsenal, have made contact with Dom in attempt to persuade him to join them this summer. Chelsea has been known to let their best youth products get away. I urge the board to do everything in their power to keep Dom; I believe he can develop into a serious threat. He did score 41 goals across all youth competitions in 2014-15.
Tammy Abraham (19 years old) was Dom Solanke’s striking partner in Chelsea’s youth set-up. He also matched Solanke’s youth 2014-15 output of 41 goals. Tammy has a longer and leaner frame than Solanke. Tammy is 6 feet 3 inches tall, but doesn’t seem to have the body-type that will bulk up. Abraham is the type of player that can hold up play with his massive frame, he also has blistering pace for a man his size and can run in behind players. Tammy displays a fearless drive to win every aerial ball. The thing that I have noticed the most when watching Abraham is he has positional awareness beyond his years. Players spend their careers trying to master the ability to know where the ball will eventually end up, Tammy has mastered this at 19. To say he scores poacher goals is a short-cut to thinking.. He does score many poacher goals, but that is because he has the ability to read the game and get in position to score, he is wise beyond his years. Tammy can score with both feet as well as his head.
This season he is on loan with Bristol City and has returned an incredible 10 goals in 20 appearances. Tammy took no time getting used to the English Championship, he stepped in from the first day and looked like he was meant to be there. Lee Johnson, Bristol City’s Coach wanted Abraham on loan so badly that he courted the player and his family for months convincing them it was in everyone’s best intrest (player and clubs) that Tammy join Bristol City. Lee Johnson was right, Tammy has helped propel Bristol City into contention for promotion. Tammy looks like he will be coming back to the Bridge next summer with something to prove and aspirations of making Chelsea’s first team squad.
Traore broke through into Chelsea’s first team in 2015-16 season. By the end of the season he displaced Remy as our second striker behind Deigo Costa. Bertrand Traore isn’t your prototypical striker, he doesn’t have the massive frame that can win aerial balls and hold up play. His game is more a quick striker who is always looking to make run in behind the defense. He stands at 5’10’’ tall and has a booming left foot. Traore spent the 2014-15 season on loan at Vitesse. He quickly became one of the central figures of the club. Bertrand bagged 14 goals in 33 appearances. 2015-16 season was a solid year where Traore established himself as the second choice striker behind Costa.
This summer he was sent to Ajax on loan. I believe the reason for this loan had less to do with Traore’s performances, he did really well in summer training, and more to do with the fact that Chelsea didn’t qualify for Champion’s League. Without Champions league Traore would have to play second fiddle to Costa and Michy Batshauyai. In my estimations, Traore will be back in the fold once Chelsea qualifies for the Champions League. We will have more matches and we will need more options. Traore will probably end up playing mostly in one of the two wide attacking roles, but, he will also be able to provide cover centrally.
Bamford had a great loan-spell at Middlesborough where he was crowned Championship Player of the Year in 2014-15. He scored 17 goals in 38 appearances. Since then he has been on 3 different Premier League loans and none of them have gone well. He spent time at Palace and had conflict with Alan Pardew, his loan was ended early. Then he went to Norwich and couldn’t help them avoid relegation. This season he is at Burnley. Out of all three premier league loans he has amassed 18 appearances and has yet to find the goal. My theory is that Bamford has the skill and ability to make it, the problem is he has lost his confidence. Bamford looks like a shell of the man he used to be and until he finds his confidence, I don’t think things will be getting better for the guy. I hope he finds his way because his talent is undeniable.
Charly Musonda is labeled by many the crown jewel of our academy. To say expectations for Charly are high would be the understatement of the century. The kid just turned 20 in October and is talented beyond his years. He oozes confidence on the ball, and has technical ability that often get compared to a young Eden Hazard. The comparison to Eden may be bred out of the fact that both players are young Belgians who are technical gifted, fast athletes who are strongest when they are on the ball. Musonda has the ability to pick the ball up and run at defenders. He has confidence on the ball and ability to dribble that will be useful in our fist team.
In January of 2016 Musonda (who was barely 19 at the time) was loaned out to Real Betis, the La Liga squad was just a couple of points above relegation. The team was in a slump and relegation looked to be a serious possibility. Musonda quickly established himself as a first choice winger, and injected Betis with a new lease on life. Musonda rose to become a cult hero among the Real Betis faithful. With Musonda’s help Betis finished safely above relegation, and Charly was given another year loan to Betis. Charly is a gifted passer and one of the most refined dribblers. Areas where he could focus on improvement would be in his finishing and defensive aspects of his game. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Charly in contention for Chelsea’s first team in the next two seasons. If he reaches his potential, he will be at Stamford Bridge for the next decade.
Kasey Palmer rose quickly through the Chelsea youth ranks and it’s no surprise. He possess the ability to play across the attacking line either as a wide forward or slotted in behind the striker. Kasey is a skilled dribbler who is able to create space in tight areas. His passing ability is tremendous and he has vision to spot a pass that many players never develop. The area of Palmer’s game that set him apart from the rest is his booming shot. He has this Paul Pogba-like confidence to take a booming shot from 30 yards out, and often-times it will find the back of the net. Kasey Palmer earned himself a loan to Huddersfield Town. To this point he has racked up three goals and three assists in twenty appearances. Huddersfield has been deploying him as a #10 tucked in behind the striker, and Palmer has been a creative hub for Hudderfield this season. I look forward to seeing Kasey back at Chelsea. I am projecting he is still two seasons away from being a first team regular.
If I could use one term to describe Jeremie Boga I would choose tenacious. The 19 year old is already one of the more highly coveted youth players in our system which is jam packed with talent. Boga is electric on the ball, and when he isn’t on the ball he is always pressing. He operates mostly as #10 creating behind the main striker but has been used as a wide forward on both sides as well as an out and out striker. His dribbling and distribution unlock stingy defenses with ease. Boga has impressed so far on loan at Granada FC, he has scored a goal and created an assist in his ten La Liga appearances. Jeremie Boga has the ability to create on the ball and is quick to press once he loses the ball. Boga has the work ethic and work rate that Antonio Conte desires in his players. If he continues to develop he should be in contention for a place at Stamford Bridge in the next two seasons.
While researching this piece I started to notice a pattern in players that Chelsea recruit. I believe that Roman Abromavich (Chelsea’s owner) directed his sporting director and Chelsea’s board to specifically recruit players that fit into a certain mold. Defensively we tend to look for big large athletic center-back who are capable of playing the ball out of the back. Most of our young defenders are above average in their distribution ability. Then in midfield, our players are often attack minded midfielder who are capable of unlocking a defense with momentary brilliance. Then if you look at our attacking options they are all creative outlets, who are electric on the ball and technically gifted beyond belief. My assumption is that Roman has directed his people to recruit these types of players because he desires Chelsea to play an open, expansive, free flowing, excitement filled style of football. Antonio Conte is the perfect manager to deliver this vision to Roman. Conte has highlighted that if you as a squad are confident as a defensive unit, the squad will thrive in attack because the players know their teammates will cover them defensively. This is an exciting time to be a Blue; we have world class talent already in our first-team and a pipeline of never ending youth talent to fill the gaps. We also have a board, owner and manager who seem to be on the same page for the first time ever, since Roman bought the Club. I am excited to see how the future will shape up for us as a club, and I am excited to see some of our youngsters breaking through into Chelsea’s first team.
Fortune Favors the Bold - I am making a bold prediction: Chelsea will win the Champions League in the next four years if Antonio Conte is allowed to finish what he has started at Chelsea.
Thanks for taking a look and as always UP THE CHELS!