Chelsea left it late to secure their place in the semi-final of the League Cup last night, conceding a last-minute Dan Gosling equaliser before Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata marauded up the pitch to net the winner just seconds later. Amid an evening that didn’t give too much else to write home about, though, it was the performance of 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu that particularly stood out.
It was a shaky start for the young Welshman, who received a booking in only the second minute for a nasty challenge on Bournemouth’s Jermain Defoe. But that early warning appeared to kick Ampadu into gear and the rest of his performance – especially in light of playing 88 minutes with a yellow card – was incredibly mature for a teenage centre-back.
Indeed, Ampadu showed his defensive qualities with two tackles, two interceptions, two blocks and seven clearances – returns imperative in stopping Bournemouth from finding the net until the closing stages as Eddie Howe’s side began to put pressure on the hosts. But what likely impressed Antonio Conte more is the willingness and responsibility the youngster showed on the ball; he finished up with the most touches of any Chelsea player and a passing accuracy of 99%.
That level of confidence and consistency in possession, alongside resolute defending, is vital for success in Chelsea’s central defensive slot, anchoring the wide centre-backs on either side. And looking ahead with the complexion of the Blues’ first-team squad in mind, that could well spell bad news for David Luiz – but good news for Arsenal.
The Brazilian was Chelsea’s defensive lynch-pin last term but has been usurped by 21-year-old Andreas Christensen this season, and now there’s an even younger sweeper candidate impressing in the first team as well. It coincides with reports of Arsenal considering a surprise January swoop for the former PSG man and should the Gunners table their allegedly planned £30million bid, the ease in which Ampadu stepped up to senior level last night may just convince the west Londoners to sell.