Chelsea’s investment in youth could pay dividends

by Michael Wade

Friday, October 15th, 2010

News of a six-month lay-off for Yossi Benayoun will have been greeted with groans around Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening.

Following the summer sales of Michael Ballack, Deco, Joe Cole, Juliano Belletti and Ricardo Carvalho Chelsea have a smaller and less-experienced squad than any previous season under the ownership of Roman Abramovich as they attempt to defend their Premier League crown.

The recent injury to influential midfielder Frank Lampard has been covered up reasonably well, defeat to Manchester City aside, but Carlo Ancelotti will be astutely aware that any more injuries to key players could derail the clubs sustained challenge for major honours and this is where the injury to Benayoun comes into focus.

Losing one of the few experienced substitutes available to them significantly weakens Chelsea’s ability to challenge on all fronts and highlights the lack of depth in the squad. It also presents an urgency for the host of youth players on the bench to perform when called upon.

The decision to trim the playing squad was a conscious one made by the club with two key benefits in mind and the best interest of the club at heart. Firstly, Abramovich has long held a desire to run the club self-sufficiently, whether or not this is a practical is neither here nor there, but by letting loose a few big earners on the periphery of the playing squad Chelsea were able to shave a substantial sum off their annual wage bill.

The second benefit of the remodel was an ability to promote a number of promising young players from last season’s double winning youth team. This kind of graduation has not been achieved at Chelsea under the Abramovich regime, a cursory glance at the current playing squad shows John Terry as the only academy graduate to have made this leap in recent years. Of the new generation coming through there are plenty capable of commanding at the very least a place on the bench this season and a regular starting spot in years to come.

This is a sentiment with which Ancelotti agrees hence his decision to award squad numbers to no less than nine academy graduates this season. Given Chelsea’s strong standing as double-winners last season, current Premier League leaders and the owners of a first-team squad packed full with in-form players in their prime they would appear to find themselves in the luxurious position of being able to bring the youngsters through slowly allowing their natural game to develop and flourish without being thrown in at the deep end but this is not necessarily the case.

A couple of bad results and the decision to invest in youth can suddenly look a bad one. Chelsea management and fans will need to invest the same level of patience and time as witnessed at other clubs where youth has flourished such as Arsenal.

If they are able to find a balance of bringing through young talent while retaining a trophy-winning team it is not only a victory for Chelsea but a victory for football.

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  • dexylongshot

    I admit, i think I have seen Chelsea play just once this season and have only seen the goals, how many of these youngsters have had a start this season?

  • Michael Wade

    Of the ones I had in mind Gael Kakuta has started twice, Ramires has started five times and gained the most from Frank Lampard’s injury, Van Aanholt and Bruma have both started once and come off the bench once and Josh McEachran has come off the bench four times. Not bad considering we are only mid-way through October.

  • lampard08

    even all that chelsea has a greet desire to defend their crown , i think that the coach has enough experience to put chelsea in the top , and thse young players will be the stars of chelsea soon

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