Antonio Conte Is Starting To Make Use Of Chelsea’s Patient Youngsters

Antonio Conte Is Starting To Make Use Of Chelsea’s Patient Youngsters
Sep 25, 2017

Chelsea Featured

Charly Musonda Jr looked close to tears as the Belgium youngster scored his first ever Chelsea goal against Nottingham Forest last week. A moment he, and many other talented academy players, will have dreamed of and one Musonda has now lived thanks to Antonio Conte.

The Italian rotated his side for the visit of Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup with two academy players starting and three others introduced as subs. A hugely successful night for a club often criticised for their treatment of youngsters.

This summer, the Chelsea board and Conte felt they needed to shift those young players who weren’t guaranteed first team football but who felt they were good enough to make the jump. Some of those have tasted first team action at Chelsea, however, their careers at the Premier League champions have been ended.

The sales of Nathan Aké, Bertrand Traoré and Nathaniel Chalobah this summer earned the Blues a total of around £35 million alone. Moreover, the loaning out of other players such as Todd Kane, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham will have slashed the wage bill down whilst these players gain crucial minutes on the pitch.

The departures of players like Aké and Chalobah will have raised eyebrows as both were utilised by Conte last year, and it’s these sort of moves which cause the academy to be criticised. Such great players who can hold their own in the first team squad shipped out before we see their true potential.

This policy has come back to haunt Chelsea with Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne starring at both Manchester clubs already this season. However, whether this transfer policy is ruthless and unkind to youngsters who are still on the path of development, the revenue from player sales who have come from the academy is successful business-wise. The continual transfer fees raised by those who came through the academy allows Chelsea to spend on those “ready-made” players who will come into the starting 11 straight away.

The football purist will despise the Chelsea way of developing talent, with youth players treated like a conveyor belt in recent years. However, Wednesday night shows that the policy isn’t as brutal as they think. If you’re good enough, you will make the Chelsea team eventually.

Players being loaned out to gain crucial minutes is something every football club does. This summer has been no exception with Loftus-Cheek, Kurt Zouma and Tammy Abraham being loaned out to top-flight clubs including Crystal Palace, Stoke and Swansea respectively.

All three have slotted into the starting eleven for their new teams and will come on leaps and bounds over the rest of the season. Although Zouma and Loftus-Cheek have tasted first-team action for Chelsea, they have had to be moved on for now as both are currently surplus to requirements. Some may argue that there was no reason for Chelsea to buy Antonio Rüdiger and Danny Drinkwater when they had two players who can play in those roles.

This ideology on how to treat academy players or other youngsters does come to fruition later on. Charly Musonda Jr and especially Andreas Christensen are evidence of this. Christensen is one of the hottest prospects defensively in world football but has been made to do his time on loan. Two years spent at Germany club Borrusia Mönchengladbach has seen him play 62 games in Germany’s top flight whilst he has gained Champions League experience.

Although he may have felt he hard done by as he moved abroad twice, Christensen who has done his time on loan has already made 6 appearances for Chelsea across all competitions this season. Conte has felt confident with the 21-year-old Danish centre-back, playing against London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal in the league.

Likewise, Charly Musonda has often felt aggrieved at his lack of opportunities to break into the Chelsea team. Back in December 2015, Musonda was weighing up his future with his father stating that a move to Monaco was the career move his son needed. Yet, after two seasons on loan with Spanish club Real Betis, Musonda was given his first start in a blues shirt and took his chance superbly, scoring on his debut. Musonda was also used as a substitute as Chelsea lost to Burnley 3-2 on the opening day of the season.

Meanwhile, fellow academy player Jake Clarke-Salter came on as a sub for Christensen. Clarke-Salter at just 19 years of age has had to experience a loan move, moving to Bristol Rovers last season. Jake will most certainly have several loan moves in the future but Conte giving him a chance shows that the academy prospect has a future with the club. Dujon Sterling, 17, was given minutes at right wing-back even though Victor Moses was also on the bench.

Conte’s willingness to use the talented crop of youngsters on offer was highlighted in his pre-match press conference saying, “If you ask to play regularly with a great club, then you must deserve to play. If you show you deserve to play and can be better than these players, I’m ready to do this.”

Therefore, on a night where five youngsters were used by Antonio Conte, four having come through the clubs academy, it was a cause for celebration. A club often criticised and slated by fans and pundits who are bewildered at the treatment of young players through countless loan moves, the club has answered critics back. Christensen and Musonda show that although the journey may be tough, if you put in the graft and have the talent, you will have a future at Chelsea.

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