Youthful Riches Part Duex: Midfield
As we take a further look at the youth development in our ranks, we look at the midfielders that are in contention for the two center midfield positions. Under guidance of Chelsea’s first team manager Chelsea have developed a system that highlights industrious box to box midfielders. Conte wants well rounded footballers who are workhorses dominating the middle of the pitch. When he was a Juventus he brought in Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba both are prime examples of the box to box midfielders that Antonio Conte prefers. Chelsea’s world famous youth set-up has an abundance of riches in the midfield. These are the youth players who I believe will be able to make an impact at Stamford Bridge as first team Chelsea players.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek. (RLC)
RLC is NOT a forward. I do not rate him as one. It’s completely understandable why Conte gave him a look as a second forward. You look at Ruben and see his massive 6 foot 3 inch frame and can just picture him bullying central defenders into submission. Unfortunately playing with his back to the net is not one of RLC’s strengths. Where Ruben excels is bursting through the midfield and timing his late runs into the opponent’s box. He has the ability to make late runs and turn them into goals like Frank Lampard. His pace and technique are well suited to the midfield. He also has the physical strength to regulate the midfield. When I look at his game, the areas where he could improve are in defensive aspects of the game. His defensive work rate leaves a lot to be desired and I theorize that this is why he hasn’t been trusted in playing in the midfield.
Chalobah has been in contention for Chelsea’s first team for what seems like forever! He made his debut on the bench at just 16 years old. After that he was sent out on a series of loans. He had a very successful loan in The English Championship with Watford. He earned himself several other less fruitful loans. Last season he spent in Serie A with Napoli, although he didn’t receive many minutes on the pitch he grew into a man while he was away. Chalobah found himself in a foreign country, playing only a few minutes sporadically. What he learned in Italy is something that you have to go out and discover. He moved away from his comfort zone, pushed himself to the limit, trained relentlessly and still didn’t get playing time. This made him hungry, he came into the preseason with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. All Chalobah needed was a chance, and Conte delivered that chance. Chalobah came in and never looked out of place. He had the most brilliant assist I have ever seen. Now Chalobah is usually Conte’s first choice off the bench. He comes into matches to play minutes in games that matter. He isn’t just handed minutes at the end of an already decided match. Conte trusts him and I understand why. Nathaniel is a box to box midfielder. From my observation he has no weaknesses in his game. The only thing he needs is more minutes on the pitch to gain experience, confidence and grow into the legend he is capable of becoming.
Lewis Baker is one of my favorite prospects. It was decided before Conte was hired that he would be going back to Vitesse on loan for the second year in a row. Personally , I had no problem with this move. Vitesse is currently built around Baker-- so it was a guarantee that he would be receiving crucial minutes. It’s rare that a club is built around a player that they have on loan, but Baker is that rare of a talent. He isn’t the fastest player, but he oozes confidence and technical ability. He is a true two footed player, who is able to score free kicks at will-- with both feet. He isn’t as refined of a passer as Cesc Fabregas but he reminds me of him because he showcases the ability to pick his head up (when he’s on the ball) from deep and spot the pass that can unlock a defense. He not only has the confidence to try and make those risky passes, he has the ability to successfully complete those jaw-dropping magical passes. The negative aspect of his game is he is not quite the industrial defensive workhorse that Conte rates so highly. Also he is below Kante, Matic, Chalobah (for sure) and possibly RLC in pecking order at Stamford Bridge. I would love to bring him back into the fold next season but I predict that he will be sent out to a Premier League team to get experience. I know Conte will be hounding him to improve the defensive aspects of his game. Personally, I believe that if Lewis Baker fulfills his potential he will develop into a Stamford bridge legend, whose name will be sung at the Bridge decades after he hangs up his boots.
Further down the pipeline we have the twenty year old Charlie Colket. Colkett was the captain of Chelsea’s academy winning side. He is a brilliant left footed midfielder. His arrival at the Chelsea’s first team is still probably a solid two seasons away but we have every reason to be optimistic about this young man. He seems to be a natural born leader, who responds well under-pressure. I admit that I have only seen a few matches he has played in, and have to analyze his play off clips that I have seen. From my observations he has potential to grow into a future captain. His technical ability is painstakingly obvious. He has a natural left foot and is able to score and assist. Defensively he seems sound, but I have not seen enough of his play to comment any further. He was overlooked for Chelsea’s preseason tour, but that may have been due to lingering injuries. Colkett was sent out on loan to Bristol Rovers. This season he has amassed 13 appearances and had an output of 3 goals and 2 assist. It appears as if his loan is going successful and he is receiving minutes and development that he needs.
So what have we got?
Chelsea has a load of talented youngsters that are hungry to get a chance. We have a youth squad that is brimming with talent, and these young players are ready to be developed. The biggest assets we have as a club is our youth set up. We can buy world class players, we have proved that time after time in the past, and we have experienced varied success in doing it. The problem with buying players on the transfer market is they are hired mercenaries. The boys that come through the Chelsea Academy are our own; they bleed blue and live for the badge. These kids are fans of the club and most of them dream to play for Chelsea’s first team. They aren’t using our club as a stepping stone to audition for Real Madrid, Barcelona Or Bayern FC. When we develop our own we get a blues solider for life, when we buy a player on the transfer market we get a mercenary.
If you enjoyed this article, check back because Part 3 of the Youthful Riches series will be up soon, and we will be covering Chelsea’ s attacking riches.