Before even turning 18-years-old, Ethan Ampadu had already featured four times times at senior level for Wales. His third cap, a start against the Republic of Ireland, brought along a performance of such maturity and dominance that it became abundantly obvious why Ampadu is being played at such a high level at so young an age.
As Ryan Giggs’ Wales side romped to a 4-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland at the Cardiff City Stadium, Ampadu was central to everything that the home team did so well. He was key to his side’s almost perfect defensive performance, with the visitor’s consolation goal coming just one minute before Ampadu was substituted off to a rapturous round of appreciative applause.
For his part, the teenager was imperious in shielding the Welsh defence. In his 67 minutes on the field, the midfielder was able to make three tackles – more than anyone else on the pitch. He was also able to register two interceptions and make three clearances.
As well as effectively breaking up opposition possession, the youngster was very tidy on the ball himself. Against Ireland, he racked up an impressive pass completion rate of 88.2% and was able to complete 34 passes.
Not only was his distribution accurate, it was also ambitious. Of the seven long balls he attempted, six found their target and he was often able to put the Irish defence under real pressure with his vision and creativity. It was Ampadu’s delicate and precise little through ball, exemplifying his ability to keep a calm head in the final third, that put Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey through on goal to notch Wales’ third of the night. He would have had a second assist too had Gareth Bale’s lashed finish not been flagged offside following Ampadu’s brilliant lofted pass.
The triumph over Ireland marked the night that Ampadu confirmed himself as one of the greatest hopes for the future of the Welsh national team, and Giggs will certainly be keen to assist in cultivating the young man’s talent.
Beyond international involvement though, Ampadu ought to have also played his way into first team contention at Chelsea. Certainly, Blues boss Maurizio Sarri will be aware of Ampadu’s sparkling performance, and he should now be bold enough to include the exciting prospect in his plans at Stamford Bridge.
Starting places in the Chelsea midfield are fiercely contested at this time, however, Sarri’s squad does include a fair amount of deadwood in that part of the pitch. Danny Drinkwater and Marco van Ginkel both remain in residence at the West London club, whilst Tiemoue Bakayoko has only been offloaded on a temporary basis.
Those aforementioned stars have already proven themselves to be short of the quality required at Stamford Bridge and do not represent the future of the club. Their role of providing squad depth should now be handed over to some of Chelsea’s most promising and deserving young talents – chief amongst whom would be Ampadu.
Last season, under Antonio Conte, Ampadu was handed nine first team appearances in all competitions for Chelsea, including one outing in the Premier League. This is an area in which Sarri must seek to build upon the good work started by his predecessor.
Chelsea have become notorious for being a top side that stockpiles exciting young starlets but fails to then provide them with opportunities to break into the first team. The decision not to send Ampadu out on loan this summer, as the club have done with a host of other developing prospects, is hopefully a sign that he has been earmarked for further senior level minutes throughout this campaign.
Ampadu has already demonstrated, in the international arena, that he has what it takes to shine on the biggest stage. His rapid development, beyond being a testament to the Chelsea and Exeter City academy set ups, may also have been influenced by his father.
Kwame Ampadu, the former Arsenal, Swansea City and Exeter City midfielder (amongst others) and current Arsenal under-18s manager may well have had significant involvement in guiding his son’s path thus far.
Certainly, coming from a footballing family will have helped form and shape Ampadu’s seemingly innate understanding of the game. Above all, though, credit must go to the young Ampadu himself for the commitment and hard work that has brought him to this high point so early in his career.
If he can carry on upon this trajectory, the versatile youngster stands a good chance of becoming something rather special for both club and country.