The Barclay’s Premier League is all but done and dusted now with the trophy now bound for the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet. With Chelsea storming away to the title this season, Jose Mourinho’s side will be looking forward to testing their young guns in the final three matches of the campaign.
This also provides an excellent opportunity for the ‘Special One’ to test the squad depth and give game-time to the players who have been on the fringes of the squad throughout the season. The Chelsea U-21 team has successfully achieved the League and FA Cup double this season, and some players have also featured on the bench for the senior squad.
Jose Mourinho is not one of those managers who is known to give youth much of a chance. However, since returning to Chelsea, his aim has been not only to shower the Blues with trophies but also give its youth academy a chance to flourish. Mourinho has returned to what he calls his ‘home’ with a much wider perspective. With Chelsea being linked with huge stars in the transfer market already, the Financial Fair Play could also mean Mourinho entrusting some of his youth players with bigger responsibilities.
There are three players who have caught the eye of every Chelsea fan and could feature in the remaining league games. So let us get acquainted with these players who could potentially light up the Premier League in the near future.
The young Englishman was first seen on the pitch for the senior squad when he replaced Cesc Fabregas in the game against Sporting Lisbon. Playing in front of the home crowd, Loftus-Cheek showed some exciting glimpses from midfield. The 19-year-old central midfielder is exactly what Chelsea need at the moment. Calm on the ball and tenacious in winning it back, Loftus-Cheek is one of the most versatile midfielders in the Chelsea youth set-up. His lung busting runs through the middle of the pitch reminds those of Ramires and his great positional awareness reminds one of Matic. Not only this, but the youngster has been the lynchpin for his side in his youth games, always available to receive a pass. He is also not afraid of putting in a tough tackle when the team needs it and has been in an excellent physical shape to track back and halt the counter-attacks.
Loftus-Cheek is as versatile as one can get. He can not only put shifts in midfield but can also play as a more defensive minded winger. However, he still has much to learn about the attacking side of the game having scored just 1 and assisted only 3 goals for the youth team this season. However, with creative midfielders like Fabregas, Hazard, Oscar and Willian by his side, he would only improve under their tutelage.
Where Do Chelsea Play Him?
With just 3 games left in the season, Loftus-Cheek can be used as a central midfielder with either Matic or John Obi Mikel beside him. Chelsea’s set up requires two central midfielders. One midfielder is usually more adventurous whereas the other sits back to protect the defense. Loftus-Cheek can play both the roles depending on the needs of the team. Another position where Loftus-Cheek can be played is on the right if Chelsea uses a 3-man midfield. He would provide cover for the full backs and also drive forward during an attack.
A battled hardened central defensive midfielder, Nathan Aké can also play at the heart of the defense. With John Terry on the wrong side of his thirties and Kurt Zouma being slowly incorporated into the team, Aké could well prove to be the 4th center back that Chelsea need. The young Dutchman’s style of play has been compared to ex-Chelsea and Dutch legend, Ruud Gullit. Aké’s strength lies in his physical prowess and the ability to head the ball. His ball handling is surprisingly good for a defensive player, and he can also spray passes accurately to start an attack.
Aké is one player who likes to build from the back and is often a threat from corners. Also, he is not afraid to throw himself at the ball. Being a left-footed player, Aké also enjoys the role of a left back. He has searing pace and is quite effective putting crosses from wide areas. Aké’s versatility can be compared to that of former Chelsea defender David Luiz.
The only complaint about Aké is that he more often than not gets too eager to win the header and ends up misplacing it. However, with Terry by his side he can learn a thing or two from the former England international.
Where Do Chelsea Play Him?
Aké was on a one month loan at Championship side Reading and has come back at an exciting time for Chelsea. With the title now done and dusted, Aké could try to play at either of the full back positions or as a deep lying defensive midfielder. This would give much-needed rest to Azpilicueta, Ivanovic or Matic.
The 17-year-old striker comes with a great goal scoring reputation. Solanke has scored 20 goals in 25 games for the U-18 Chelsea side in the 2013/14 campaign and also spearheaded England in the European Youth Championships in 2014 by being the joint top scorer. He has all qualities of a great striker, and even Mourinho has lauded the young lad by claiming that he has a great future in the English national team.
Solanke is a true goal poacher. His positional awareness helps him to take up perfect goal scoring positions. Not only this, but Solanke is also a nuisance in the box as he can shoot with both feet. His style of play can be compared to that of Diego Costa. However, Solanke being just 17, lacks the physical ability which the Spaniard possesses. Despite this, Solanke is a decent header of the ball and has been in top goal-scoring form this season. His highlight of the season was scoring the third goal in the FA Youth Cup final victory.
Where Do Chelsea Play Him?
Solanke is one of the most versatile forwards in the Chelsea Youth setup. He can be deployed on the wings as well as a target man. Not only this, Solanke can also play the number-10 role in the team. With club strikers Costa and Loic Remy out injured and Drogba reaching the end of his career, Solanke could be used in the remaining games. He could well prove to be the third choice striker Chelsea are looking for and could be in the senior squad sooner rather than later.
With just 3 games remaining in the season, it is about time Mourinho gives these talented young players some game time. Not only could he save millions but he could also find a diamond hidden within the rough.
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Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni