A new dawn has arrived at the Bridge. Spearheaded by Frank Lampard and Jody Morris, two men whom the Chelsea faithful adore, these are exciting times for the club’s youngsters. The Blues’ young players have been mostly stripped of the opportunities to impress.
While Lampard has spoken encouragingly about his eagerness to provide opportunities to all, he has also stressed that such opportunities may lie elsewhere for some players.
Ethan Ampadu is poised to become the latest member of Chelsea’s loan army as Lampard explained his absence from the next stage in the Blues’ preseason. He said, as reported by Metro,
“Ethan is not here as we’re looking at the possibility of him going on loan for the season. I tried to sign Ethan on loan at Derby last year, so I’m a big fan, but with the minutes he played last year, I have to think of the bigger picture and the interests of Ethan and of Chelsea.”
“The idea that he could play a lot of games somewhere is good for him and we haven’t brought him here while that is up in the air.”
The 18-year-old’s ascension from academy graduate at Exeter City to a vital international player has been meteoric, but it’s demonstrative of the leadership and maturity that characterises the Welshman on the pitch.
Unexpectedly, given that he was signed initially for the development squad, Ampadu amassed seven appearances under Antonio Conte’s leadership during his first season at the club. That progress was stifled somewhat by Sarri last season as the Welsh international made a measly total of five senior appearances. Such involvement is scarcely sufficient for a team that played 63 times throughout the season.
His recent lack of involvement is the best justification for a loan move, but the Blues must reverse their trend of sending players to the second tier of English football. Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount have all been sent to Championship teams before returning this summer to compete for a place in Lampard’s team. Abraham and Tomori’s first loans were with Championship sides (Bristol City and Brighton).
Unlike those Chelsea teammates, and unlike many that have come before him, Ampadu is a uniquely equipped individual. Not many players, particularly ones available for loans, have amassed eight international caps at 18. He earnt his first cap aged 17 against the world champions and has featured (and held his own) against the likes of Spain, Denmark and Croatia.
Having dictated proceedings in Wales’ 4-1 Nations League triumph against the Republic of Ireland – where he provided a delightful assist to Aaron Ramsey – Ryan Giggs lauded his young star. He told Sky Sports in September 2018, as reported by Goal,
“Ethan is a talented player. Even more so than that, as a person he is so balanced, so mature, for such a young player – he’s going to be magnificent.
In his absence, Wales are notably worse in midfield and do not possess equal presence or authority.
No matter how often I say it, I'm still amazed by Ampadu's composure. He was superb when he came on. His vision and passing are also excellent. In hindsight, he should have started. #Wales #Cymru #CFC
— Llion Carbis (@carbislli) June 8, 2019
Interestingly, the Welshman is competent as a central defender, the position he has played throughout his career and in his Premier League debut in a 3-1 victory against Huddersfield Town in 2017.
During his tenure as Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte spoke effervescently about the teenager’s qualities and his potential. As ESPN quoted in January 2018, the Italian said,
“He deserves to play. He’s showing in every game that I made this decision with him…that he’s ready. That he’s ready to face this type of game. To play with the right concentration. To be ready physically and tactically. To play at this level.”
“This [physical and tactical quality] is unusual for a player who is only 17 years old. But that shows, at the same time, that age is not important.”
“We are talking about a really good prospect for Chelsea, for the present and the future.”
Given that Ampadu earnt Conte’s approval at 17 – a difficult challenge for most players – a loan move to the Championship would fail to further his progression meaningfully. This isn’t to infer that a Championship loan would be a fruitless endeavour, but the Welshman should be playing at the highest level.
Maturity is discussed as the Welshman’s foremost quality. When watching Ampadu play, he exhibits a tremendous understanding of the game, and he’s regularly communicating with more experienced teammates, instructing them where to pass or repositioning them. Such experience and knowhow are reminiscent of players approaching the pinnacles of their career, not a teenager.
Ampadu possesses tremendous technical skills, be that his superb range of passing, his willingness to dribble or his ability to retain possession in testing situations, the Welshman is astutely intelligent. He is also mightily determined and fearless, as his altercations with Kasper Dolberg and Sergio Ramos attest.
It’s for these reasons that a move to the Championship wouldn’t befit a player of his monumental potential. Aston Villa have already shown interest in the Welshman, per The Guardian, and having thrived on the international stage, a loan move to a Premier League side would be most appropriate to facilitate additional development.
For Chelsea, Wales and Ampadu himself, it’s time for the teenager to feature and impress consistently at the highest level.