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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.

Chelsea

Three key takeaways from Crystal Palace’s transfer window

The summer transfer window drew to a close on Thursday.

Max Cohen

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Palace
Photo: Getty Images

Crystal Palace finished deadline day with the last-minute confirmation of the loan signing of Jordan Ayew from Swansea City. The Eagles finished the window with four total signings, but only spent a total of £9.5 million.

The south Londoners made do with a tight budget and held on to their crown jewel Wilfried Zaha, resulting in a successful summer. Here are three things we learnt from Palace’s transfer business.

Don’t believe the tabloid hype

The Wilfried Zaha saga was perhaps the most drawn out transfer rumour of the entire window, and as many Palace supporters had expected, it was completely unfounded.

Despite the numerous claims that Zaha had rejected a contract, was eager to leave to a supposedly bigger club, or was itching to play Champions League football, the Ivory Coast international remained at Selhurst Park.

The winger still has four years left on his contract, has spoken publicly about his love for the club, and will again be crucial to Crystal Palace’s success this season. Still an Eagle, Zaha’s status reveals the sensationalist nature of many tabloids that aim to create unrest when none is present.

(Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Doing business on a budget is difficult, but not impossible 

According to The Guardian, Palace’s transfer budget was restricted due to the high wages being paid to star players such as Mamadou Sahko and Christian Benteke. Yet, in the face of these barriers, the club managed to secure a number of canny deals at a low cost.

Ayew was brought in on loan, goalkeeper Vicente Guaita and midfielder Max Meyer were free transfers, and Cheikhou Kouyate was the only purchase of the summer at £9.5 million.

Four players of top quality for less than £10 million represents astute business, and Palace should be applauded for conducting decent deals on a shoestring budget.

(Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s absence will be felt thanks to Chelsea‘s terrible transfer policy

Crystal Palace made it no secret that they were eager to bring Ruben Loftus-Cheek back to SE25 this summer, but unfortunately for both the club and player, Chelsea refused to let him leave.

On the face of it, it was an encouraging decision for Loftus-Cheek, as he would be finally handed consistent football at his parent club. Yet the loan signing of Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid further pushes the England international down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, leaving many to wonder why Chelsea barred him from a return to Crystal Palace.

In the end, the Eagles will miss his presence in midfield and will undoubtedly be frustrated to watch Loftus-Cheek wasting away on the Chelsea bench.

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One to watch: Derby County’s 19-year-old midfielder Mason Mount

Introducing The Boot Room’s 2018/19 One to Watch series…

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Mason Mount
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Mason Mount has arrived on loan at Derby County as a well-known quantity.

The Englishman spent a number of successful years in Chelsea’s youth academy, featuring under the Rams’ new assistant coach Jody Morris.

As a Blue, his progress has also been closely monitored by Derby’s new manager Frank Lampard, who was keen to bring Mount on loan after his stunning season in the Eredivisie with Vitesse.

Play Style

“He’s creative, plays from central midfield in an attacking sense, scores, and creates goals,” Lampard said after the announcement that Mount would be joining Derby on loan this season.

These characteristics will be important for Derby who will once again be chasing promotion this season.

Mount is a dynamic threat in an attacking midfield role.

His ability to make correct decisions in attacking transition phases should prove crucial in unlocking the potential of the array of forward-thinking talent Lampard has at his disposal.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The 19-year-old is always looking to take risks to advance the ball and play attackers in behind the defence.

Similarly, he ensures routinely accurate delivery from set-pieces and is capable of scoring from dead ball situations himself.

Depending on the formation Lampard will look to play at Derby, Mount could also be suited to play as a number eight – his ball-carrying quality is another one of his strongpoints that would be particularly useful in such a role.

Season Ahead

The 19-year-old has already proven his capabilities at senior level, but the Championship provides him with another chance to showcase his qualities to his parent club in a league with a different dynamic.

In saying this, Mount’s game should translate well to English football as it is not overly predicated on any particular style of football, nor is he reliant on a system being shaped around him. He is dynamic.

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Derby should target Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham, hand him the number nine shirt

Derby County are set to embark on the dawn of a new era under the management of Frank Lampard.

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Sky Bet Championship outfit Derby County recently unveiled their squad numbers for the 2018/19 campaign, on their official website, and the obvious omission from the list was the void of a number nine

The Rams have signed five new players this summer and it was thought in some people’s eyes that big-money recruit Jack Marriott, who arrived from Peterborough United, might be handed the famous shirt number

Marriott has taken number 14 and it leaves those of a Derby persuasion with a a sense of suspicion that boss Frank Lampard might not be quite finished in the transfer market just yet.

Ipswich Town striker Martyn Waghorn has been heavily linked with a move to the East Midlands, but given the money that the Tractor Boys are wanting to recoup for their star attraction, the Rams might be better off looking elsewhere to bolster their attacking ranks.

Lampard has already raided his former club Chelsea this summer to sign highly-rated youngster Mason Mount and a return to Stamford Bridge to request another favour might be in the Derby boss’ best interests, when it comes to signing a new striker.

Striker Tammy Abraham is not expected to get much of a look in under new Blues’ boss Maurizio Sarri and another loan move away from London could be on the agenda for the man who spent last season on loan at Swansea City.

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

In netting five goals from his 31 Premier League appearances at the Liberty Stadium he hardly set the league alight, but it is the form he showed during a loan spell at Bristol City that should tempt the Derby boss into a move for the talisman.

During his season-long stint at Ashton Gate he netted 23 goals from 41 games and was named the club’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year, demonstrating a devastating level of composure in front of goal at Championship level.

The Rams aren’t blessed with loads of pace when it comes to out-and-out strikers and Abraham’s youthful exuberance would make him a shrewd addition to Lampard’s new-look Rams squad, whilst a player of his ability would be more than worthy of wearing the number nine shirt.

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