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Chelsea’s victory in the FA Youth Cup is unlikely to aid the first team

The Blues were recently crowned FA Youth Cup champions.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

On Monday evening, Chelsea beat Arsenal 4-0 to finalise a 7-1 aggregate victory on their way to securing the FA Youth Cup.

The Blues, managed by Jody Morris, went into the tie with a 3-1 lead from the first leg and were able to add a further four goals in what was ultimately a one-sided final.

However, more significantly, it cemented the club’s current standing as the most dominant and prominent academy structure in England.

Victory on Monday means that Chelsea have lifted the trophy for a fifth consecutive year, a feat that has only been matched by Manchester United, who achieved the same record after they won the inaugural competition in 1952 and in the subsequent four years.

It is something that no club has come close to accomplishing in the modern era and is rightly being heralded as a significant achievement.

On a broader scale, Chelsea currently dominate the under-18 scene in academy football and they have already secured the Premier League South title this campaign.

Furthermore, they have reached the final of the FA Youth Cup Final in all-but-one of the last eight years, lifting the trophy on seven occasions, to emphasize the club’s reputation and proficiency for talent development.

However, over the last decade, the Blues have been unable to capitalise on their success at youth level and the club has a long-standing issue of facilitating the transition of youth team graduates into first-team regulars.

Andreas Christensen has emerged a regular under Antonio Conte this season, but his story is the exception, rather than the rule.

Nathan Ake, Patrick Bamford and Dominic Solanke are more fitting examples.

All were central components of Chelsea’s youth development programme, yet all failed to break into the first team picture at Stamford Bridge, eventually having to leave the club in an attempt to find regular football elsewhere.

It is a common theme and they are joined by numerous other players with less prestigious names that have disappeared into football’s wilderness following success at youth level.

In fact, you have to look back almost a decade until you find academy graduates making regular first team contributions at Stamford Bridge.

But why is this? Why do Chelsea struggle to convert success at youth team level into players that play regular first team football?

Transfer Policy

(Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

When Roman Abramovich purchased Chelsea in 2003, he altered the very nature of the football club.

The focus shifted from attempting to be competitive in the upper reaches of the Premier League, to a new-found expectation of challenging for the major domestic and European silverware on an annual basis.

Abramovich was happy to invest significant sums of money on building a team capable of fulfilling his lofty ambitions and this has been reflected in the club’s transfer policy.

Chelsea have tended to purchase the best talent that is available, opting to spend big in the transfer market on established names rather than attempting to promote youth.

It is a policy that has served the club well in terms of on-pitch success, reflected by 14 major trophies in 15 years, but has also contributed to stifling potential talent within the academy by consistently blocking any obvious route into the first team.

This was clearly demonstrated this season.

In the summer, the Blues elected to spend a combined total of £75 million on Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko in order to strengthen their midfield, despite having Ruben Loftus-Cheek on the periphery of the first team squad and seemingly ready to become a regular part of the side.

Ultimately, the youngster was loaned out to Crystal Palace in the summer whilst Chelsea invested another £15 million on purchasing Ross Barkley, in January.

Managerial Change

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The high expectations at Stamford Bridge, combined with the significant sums of money being invested in the transfer market, have created an environment where managerial change is a regular occurrence.

Since purchasing the club Abramovich has made 12 managerial appointments over a 15 year period.

Regardless of their reputation or previous achievements, managers at Chelsea are only ever half a season of indifferent results on the pitch away from being dismissed – there is no room for sentiment or failure.

This was demonstrated when Carlo Ancelotti was sacked in 2011 just twelve months after winning the double in his first season in charge.

With Chelsea operating a revolving door system when it comes to managerial appointments is it any wonder that managers choose to focus on instant success rather than investing in youth?

Why would a manager emphasize bringing academy graduates into the first team when they know that they are unlikely to see the long-term results of any subsequent success that the players facilitate?

The lack of longevity means that managers focus on the here and now, rather than laying the foundations for the future by placing their faith in youth.

Loan Policy

(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Chelsea currently operate a controversial loan policy that results in large numbers of players being shipped out around the globe to gain first-team experience.

This season, the Blues have 38 players loaned out to clubs, with youngsters plying their trade at a variety of different levels, from the lower tiers of English football with Woking to the Champions League with Juventus.

In effect, Chelsea stockpile talent and then use other clubs as a testing ground where players can gain experience and develop.

It is cost efficient, with other clubs usually paying loan fees and a portion of the player’s wages, and risk-free, with any mistakes that players make on the pitch being made far away from the first team picture at Stamford Bridge.

If a player begins to fulfill their potential, then they are loaned out to increasingly prestigious clubs until they are judged to be capable of making a significant contribution to first-team affairs, whilst those that fail to live up to expectations are sold on.

Some players, such as Matej Delac, have spent over half a decade at Chelsea without making a first-team appearance – the Croatian has had ten loan spells over the last seven years.

The club’s loan policy is summarised by Patrick Bamford.

The striker had six loan spells away from Stamford Bridge, having mixed success with five different clubs in the top two tiers of English football, before being sold for £5.5 million to Middlesbrough in 2017, having never made an appearance for the Blues.

There is no clear pathway at Chelsea between the academy structure and the first team squad with the vast majority of young players becoming lost in the club’s expansive system of loans.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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Chelsea

Newcastle United can do better than Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham this summer

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Rafa Benitez will have been disappointed to have seen his January signing of Islam Slimani end in complete and utter failure with the Leicester City loanee spending more time in the stands than on the pitch and now he is focused on bringing in an improvement to St. James’ Park for 2018/19, but Tammy Abraham is not the answer.

TEAMTalk say that the Spaniard may return to the striker, who was strongly linked with a move to the north-east last summer, according to the Daily Mirror.

On that occasion, the report indicated that a deal could not be agreed to satisfy Chelsea, but having struck a deal for Kenedy since then the relationship between the two parties may be better and make a move for Abraham smoother.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Then, Abraham was hot property having set the Championship alight with Bristol City, but his loan spell at Swansea has been less convincing. Having scored just five goals and registered three assists in 39 appearances for the Swans, Abraham has made only two Premier League starts in 2018 as doubts continue to emerge about his ability at this level.

What is clear is that he is not ready to walk into Newcastle and be the solution that Benitez needs. In part, that is because Abraham would not be an alternative to the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, impressing in the second tier himself now, or Slimani, given that whilst he is tall and physical, his game is about much more than simply being a target man.

The Newcastle boss is clearly looking for a way to add goals to his team, but Abraham, whilst promising, may not be ready for such pressure after a frustrating season in difficult circumstances in south Wales and would be a cheap gamble if Newcastle were to opt for him as their main addition up-front.

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Isaac Christie-Davies joining Liverpool highlights Anfield as the ideal platform for youngsters

Josh Kerr

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Isaac Christie-Davies
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Liverpool are set to sign Chelsea midfielder Isaac Christie-Davies on a free transfer, according to reports from ESPN.

The 20-year-old talent was not offered a new contract by Chelsea and the Reds swooped in earlier this year to offer him a trial ahead of other interested clubs.

If the move goes through, Christie-Davies will become the second young player, after Dominic Solanke, to join the Reds from Chelsea in just two years.

Davies joined Chelsea’s academy from Brighton and progressed from the youth ranks to the under-23s, winning the FA Youth Cup in 2015 and 2016 as well as the UEFA Youth League in 2016.

The teenager impressed during his trial period at Liverpool with the Merseyside outfit set to offer him a contract.

The youngster will look to his former Chelsea teammate and World Cup Golden Ball winner Solanke for inspiration, who finally showcased his talents in his previous outing at Anfield.

(Photo by Paul Ellis/Getty Images)

The 20-year-old striker finally notched his first senior goal for the Reds against Brighton on the final day of the Premier League, when the England international rifled a shot just under the bar to break his Reds duck.

The move for Christie-Davies represents yet another promising player trading London for Merseyside, and it could be Liverpool taking advantage of further academy talents.

Christie-Davies is likely to head straight into the Liverpool Under 23 squad as he follows the path of former teammate Solanke to Anfield.

Despite the youngster being unlikely to influence the first team next season it still could prove to be a nice bit of business from the club.

Although it was Chelsea’s decision to let the former Brighton youngster leave Stamford Bridge, Davies will look to the likes of former Blues, Solanke and Rhian Brewster as inspiration that it is still possible to reach the top.

Liverpool’s under 23’s finished 2nd in Premier League 2 this season, and standout players such as Harry Wilson even endured successful loan moves in the Championship, which could be the motivation Davies needs to make the grade at Anfield.

Also, the fact Liverpool quickly gambled on the midfielder reflects the qualities that are evidently present with Christie-Davies. If the youngster makes the most of his new move he could be another former Blue to thrive from a London exit.

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Mauricio Pochettino would be mad to leave Tottenham for Chelsea

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There could be one of the most sensational managerial switches of the Premier League era if Sky Sports are to be believed as they claim that Chelsea are pondering over making a move for Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino to replace Antonio Conte after a disastrous attempt at a Premier League title defence.

The Italian’s days are clearly numbered and his departure after the FA Cup final this weekend looks inevitable, but Mauricio Pochettino would be making a serious mistake if he were to take the opportunity to move to Stamford Bridge.

After four years in the dugout, at both White Hart Lane and Wembley Stadium, Pochettino has got his team playing his way. The Argentine has always worked under limited resources, at Espanyol, Southampton and even now at Spurs, and whilst the offer of money to spend at Chelsea may be exciting it would also mean an increased responsibility and a very different challenge.

(during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium on May 13, 2018 in London, England.

Tottenham fans and board have complete faith in their coach and are prepared to invest in him to take their club to the next level, something which will come soon with the building of their new stadium, and feel that he is the right man to lead the club in the long-term.

A move to a club with such a short term view in the form of Chelsea would be to sacrifice all that Pochettino has achieved in his spell in north London to date, bringing through young talents like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier who are now beginning to reach their peak and shine under the coach.

With stability at a club on the up, Pochettino would be foolish to be distracted by the bright lights and glamour of a dysfunctional club like Chelsea.

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