The 19/20 season was an anomaly for Chelsea in that the media really liked the Lampard depending on youth aspect. This summer window though seems to be changing the narrative in some corners..
Saying Chelsea have been fairly active in the transfer market would be an understatement to say the least. All said and done Chelsea could have signed 7-8 players by the time this window ends and Chelsea fans are currently enjoying what could be one of Chelsea’s best transfer windows ever if not the best. Ziyech, Werner, Chilwell, Sarr, Thiago Silva have all come in with Havertz nanometers away along with a goalkeeper and maybe Declan Rice targeted as well. Now all Chelsea fans are quite excited for the upcoming season but there are always some journalists or outlets who like to play devils advocate. One of the major talking points will be about Lampard’s apparent pivot from promoting youth to buying so many first team players, given the first window of opportunity. I am here to give my view and state why that is just anti-Chelsea rhetoric sparking up again.
How many top level teams actually had academy graduates with 1000+ minutes in their starting XI’s last season?
Liverpool – 1 (Trent Alexander-Arnold)
Man City – 1 (Phil Foden)
Man United – 6 (Greenwood, Rashford, Lingard, Williams, Pereira, McTominay)
Chelsea – 6 (Abraham, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, James, Christensen, Tomori)
Now Liverpool and Manchester City can be pushed to the side because when a team is winning titles their methods aren’t really questioned and that’s the case for Liverpool. Man City’s whole reputation began with their Arab investment and so the day they stop spending money will be a shock.
Now Manchester United gave 1000+ minutes to 6 academy graduates or players and that is great on the face of it. When one digs deeper though the only two that are starters are Greenwood and Rashford. United would ideally want to push Lingard and Pereira out while Williams is back up to Luke Shaw or Wan Bissaka while McTominay is 3rd in line for a CDM position behind Matic, and Fred. If by some chance Jadon Sancho is bought this summer then Rashford or Greenwood would also drop to the bench.
When it comes to Chelsea all of the players mentioned were starters at some point during last season and either were moved to the bench on poor form, or went on to establish themselves. Tammy started the season brilliantly and for the first 6 months was essentially the 1st choice striker. Tammy is not on his way out and is very much a first team player. Mason Mount was one of the players who played the most minutes last season and Lampard stuck with him even through a poor patch. Many people are wondering what Havertz’s purchase does for Mount and I am here to say it does nothing. Our midfield next season will essentially be Kante, and Havertz with either Kovacic or Mount and I think Mount will be chosen ahead of Kovacic for most games. Loftus-Cheek is back fit but his fitness is the big mystery while Barkley could be on his way out. Havertz himself can play in numerous positions and given how many injuries we tend to have our squad depth has only improved. Hudson-Odoi will be fighting it out with Ziyech, Pulisic, and at times Werner but as of now he is very much looking like the person who will start on the left given Pulisic’s injury. Reece James is nailed on to start at right back in the coming season as he continues to take the reigns from Azpilicueta. Christensen will most likely be fighting it out with Zouma, and Rudiger on who is to play alongside Thiago Silva. I would ideally want to sell Rudiger and keep Tomori but it is looking increasingly likely that Tomori will be loaned for the coming season.
The 20/21 season is going to be jam packed for these players and I don’t think there is a weekend up till next summer when they are not playing football at some level. Many weeks will see a minimum of two games for most teams and so rotation will be huge for all teams and that is why squad depth will be a major factor. Even so Chelsea have so many players that will continue to head out before the window ends, Michy, Emerson are for sure on their way out with possibilities of Alonso, Barkley, and Jorginho also being sold. Many more players will be given more minutes with Gilmour sure to be involved while Ampadu should also be back. Clarke-Salter might be kept around as a centre back option as well.
Time and time again Lampard has stated that his starting XI is based on meritocracy, and he showed that last season. If you played poorly no matter who you were you would be dropped to the bench. There are a number of factors that people forget to take into account chief among them being how long these signings will take to settle in. The other is that in the 19/20 season there were times when we had Hudson-Odoi, Pulisic, and Pedro out, leaving Willian as our only winger. Now we have the firs two along with Ziyech, Werner, and Havertz who can play in that position not to forget Mount who can also fill in. Tammy might not be nailed on to start but he could easily start 30 plus games next season and that’s not considering the fact that we could also play a front two of Werner and Abraham at times. This obsession with Chelsea and the fact that Lampard should focus on youth is silly because literally no top Premier League team does it unless it is necessary. Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal gave the most minutes to academy graduates last season but arguably all those graduates struck gold with the fact that those three first team squads were extremely poor. The Premier League isn’t the Eredivisie or La Liga, Ligue 1 etc where one can just coast through on their academy graduates. Ajax are very much a selling club while Bayern, Dortmund etc acquire young players from all over the world instead of producing their own. Barcelona flew the La Masia flag high but have lost their way in recent years while Real Madrid have always been a buying club.
Lampard and Chelsea are not giving up on youth in anyway, while it is true that most of our signings our starters the signings themselves are not replacing any youth players. If there was one player who would find himself in the cross hairs positionally it would be Tammy Abraham but even then he should have plenty of opportunity and game time next season. Squad depth is going to be key next season and Chelsea’s squad is looking like it could compete on all fronts after a very long time.