Friday, 12 April 2013

Chelsea Youth Academy : Failing or Thriving ?

Chelsea FC have, currently, roughly 25 players on loan to other clubs. This is a staggering number, unmatched by most clubs. Most of these on-loan players represent the youth, more or less, and most have, at one point or another, been billed to be in the future reckoning for the first team. But it doesn't happen this way, does it?

Chelsea have made it a usual coming-of-age ceremony for young players to show that they can thrive at multiple loans before they are given a chance at the club to see whether they actually cut the mustard or not. In this process, several 'gems' have slipped out of our hand. The names of Jack Cork, Scott Sinclair, Miroslav Stoch, Gokhan Tore, Nemanja Matic and the amigos at Hamburg spring to our mind when we discuss the 'gems' we missed out on. But were they good enough?

Possibly, for the exception of Matic and to a lesser extent, Cork, I believe none of them offer an upgrade to Chelsea at the moment. While I would love if the Blues run out a team of eleven homegrown players like Barca did recently, I'm not exactly desperate for it. Quality of the players you have, in my mind, always trumps the sentiments attached to them. Chelsea might never run out an attacking band of three having three homegrown players in the near future, but would I be sad? Not at all, as long as the holy triumvirate of Mazacar are strolling around humiliating opponents. But I would love if Piazon comes up and pushes Oscar into midfield, or if Kiwomya makes sure Hazard can be sold, when his calling from Real Madrid and Barcelona comes, without having much of a drop in quality.

Miroslav Stoch and Gokhan Tore represent two players whom Chelsea sold for a healthy profit. Both of them, at best, would be good enough for a place on the roster of a mid-table team in the EPL, having a good shout for a start. Same for Cork, who might have been good depth for Chelsea in this current fixture congestion. Matic is, in my view, currently one of the Liga Portuguesa's best midfielders. But he was traded in a part exchange for David Luiz, who at that time represented a player who very much filled a need. He might just be good enough to have a seat on the Chelsea bench. Looking at the Hamburg boys, I doubt any of Mancienne, Rajkovic or Sala would ever be good enough for Chelsea. FWIW, we also have a buyback on Rajko.

Does all this represent a failure for the academy? Not exactly, as they were never expected to be the first successful crop of the new Cobham. I firmly believe our best crop yet is very much becoming ready for harvest, when you look at the likes of van Aanholt, Kalas, Kakuta, Chalobah and the others shining brightly in their respective loans. Furthermore, the likes of Baker, Boga, Kiwomya, Swift, RLC and Feruz are fast making a mark at the junior levels. Ake is already racking minutes(though meaningless) with the first team, Lukaku, being The Kraken, is destroying the PL defences like he nearly did to Argos. Most of these players were bought from other clubs, but the fact that Chelsea played some part in their development makes the point stand.

In the times of EPPP, Chelsea will be constantly bringing in new kids, like Kasey Palmer was brought in from Charlton this week, and money is needed. So while those youth players who don't really serve a future first team purpose get an offer, they get sold. This additional influx of money helps balance the books for the club. Think about this, a sold Scott Sinclair enabled an Islam Feruz purchase to have no bearing on the books. While Sinclair is rotting on the City bench, Feruz is already punching above his weight and looks set for a good career, which he hopefully gets.

Does all this represent a success for the academy? More or less, yes. As the academy's main purpose is not just to supply players to the first team, but also to help the players develop well enough to establish good careers for themselves. Cork, Matic, Tore, Stoch etc are settled and should find better clubs in the future, and if they do, we won't sit back and regret, but rather smile and wish them the best for the future, as they're our kids and their success, for any club, is ours.


  1. A great example of how our academy has done is the sheer number of current and former Chelsea products are in starting roles throughout Europe - look at how crucial Michael Mancienne has become for HSV. So, while we are not producing a Premier League-ready player every year, we are still consistently producing useful to good players

  2. I liked this very much. The Chelsea academy is not a failure... it's not even remotely close to being a failure.

    I try convincing friends of mine that the Chelsea academy is doing just fine but their ignorance, coupled with their allegiance to the team they support, prevents them from understanding how well Chelsea is doing.

    Nice write up, Rama.