After winning the Premier League title last season, it looked as though Chelsea were getting primed to build a side to last under Antonio Conte.
At the beginning of summer it was announced that Andreas Christensen would be part of the first team after a successful stint with Borussia Monchengladbach while English stars Lewis Baker and Tammy Abraham were also returning after successful loan spells.
With a demanding schedule thanks to the addition of Champions League football we all knew Conte would have to bolster his title-winning side and the hope was he may choose to do that by blooding some young talent.
Fast forward a few weeks and this isn’t the case.
The Italian has spent over £100m on Antonio Rüdiger, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Álvaro Morata; three players who each play in the same position of the aforementioned youngsters.
Abraham has gone on loan to Swansea while Christensen and Baker will likely be limited to cup starts and the odd substitute appearance.
The struggles youth players face at Chelsea has long been documented with the blame largely being placed at the door of the manager in charge.
For a while it was Jose Mourinho being attacked. He was seen as a man who would guarantee success if given a large chequebook but showed little regard for developing youth.
This was evident in his first reign in charge, where he managed six trophies between 2004 and 2007 but failed to integrate any lasting youth players.
When the Portuguese returned to Stamford Bridge he spoke of creating a legacy and began to give the likes of Kurt Zouma, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kenedy chances in the first team. This went out the window the season after when things started to go south for Mourinho and he was sacked before Christmas.
It’s all well and good blaming the ex-Real Madrid boss – it was perceived he never trusted young players who may may mistakes in his disciplined approach – but no other Chelsea manager has given the Blues’ young players prolonged exposure in the first team either.
History appears to be repeating itself with Conte.
So if not the managers, who is to blame? The easy answer is Roman Abramovich.
The Russian changed the face not only of the club, but of English football as a whole when he bought Chelsea back in 2003. He armed the side with a war chest no other club in the country could have competed with and demanded trophies.
While that seems a fair demand considering the outlay on the club, the timeframe he gives his managers to build an identity seems less so. Especially considering there have been 10 managerial appointments in the ten years since Jose’s first spell.
After the Portuguese left it seems as though there was to be a focus on youth as spending decreased under Luis Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti, with the latter masterminding another title.
As Ancelotti struggled to keep up the following season however, Abramovich hit the panic button and spent £50m on Fernando Torres.
The move was considered ill-fated, and since then there has been a revolving door of managers spending large amounts on players with their “identity” before being sacked, with the next manager inheriting players they don’t want either as the cycle continues.
Conte did great things in his first season but it’s worth considering how difficult the sequel could be – particularly with a congested fixture schedule and managers at other clubs having another year to improve.
Until this merry-go-round is halted, Chelsea’s younger players are better off continuing to go out on loan or even moving permanently to improve.
Because until a manager is given time, the youth don’t stand a chance.