Marko Mitrovic and youth skipper Conor Clifford’s goals helped Chelsea come back from a goal down and win 3-2 on aggregate against the Villains at Stamford Bridge. It is certainly a positive step for a club who maintain that their days of big spending are behind them and are willing to build from the bottom up.
Chelsea have established themselves as a big club after their recent successes, continuing Champions League tradition and have made progress in promoting their brand in the world’s largest markets Asia and the USA, but they have not produced a talent from within since John Terry and it is an issue Roman Abramovich wishes to address.
The Russian billionaire brought in Frank Arnesen from Tottenham in order to help find the best young talent available and bring them through the academy and reserves. The Dane has an impressive CV and discovered players like Arjen Robben and Eidur Gudjohnsen during his time at PSV Eindhoven and it now looks as if his work with the Chelsea youth is starting to pay off following their recent silverware.
Arnesen is now the Sporting Director at Chelsea and is more involved with the first team and supporting manager Carlo Ancelotti, who has stated that at least five of his young stars will feature regularly in the first team squad next season (Gael Kakuta, Jeffrey Bruma, Patrick van Aanholt, Fabio Borini and Nemanja Matic).
For a fan there is nothing better than cheering on a guy who has come through the ranks of your club and producing a star. As a Chelsea fan I am used to rival fans mocking our youth system and they are right to an extent, if the Blues want to be regarded as a ‘big club’ then with the money they have at their disposal they should be able to bring through young stars. But these things take time and the aforementioned young Chelsea players look the most likely to break through and they are just a sample of a significant batch of talent (Sam Hutchinson, Miroslav Stoch, Michael Mancienne, Conor Clifford, Jacob Mellis, Nathaniel Chalobah and Josh McEachran all have potential).
Chelsea are have often been criticised in the past for not bringing talent through and trusting them enough, but Arnesen argues that this is not such an easy thing to do at Stamford Bridge. Arnesen said:
“It’s not easy for the coach to bring players in [to the first team]. “A club like Chelsea is all about winning. You can’t have young players in the team and not be winning.”
Ancelotti has intimated a wish to approach next season’s Carling Cup in a similar way to Arsene Wenger who plays his famous ‘Young Guns’ in the competition. England’s lesser domestic cup is the perfect competition to play young players to see how they fare, whilst also resting the squads most key players. In the Carling Cup this season I groaned every time I saw us field a full strength team and in the quarter final Chelsea fielded XI full internationals none of which were under the age of 22. It’s a waste of time to play strong teams in what is essentially a ‘Mickey Mouse’ cup and when I attend its games I would rather see our young players tested (probably in the early rounds of the FA Cup too).
Some may argue that the sudden urgency from Chelsea has more to do with new Premier League rules which state that eight homegrown players (players trained for at least three years in England or Wales before their 21st birthday) must be in the 25-man squad. But even if their hand is being forced a little it could only be a good thing for the club and the league as a whole.
The attention surrounding Chelsea will be heavily focused on a possible Premier League and FA Cup double, but as old heads look to move on in the summer their FA Youth Cup victory hints at a positive step towards their future.
Conor Clifford on winning the FA Youth Cup:
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