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Is Antonio Conte correct in his defence of Chelsea's youth development policy?

Is Antonio Conte correct in his defence of Chelsea's youth development policy?

Antonio Conte has defended Chelsea’s youth development policy and claims that the club face a simple choice this window – to invest in senior players in order challenge for major honours, or to sacrifice on-pitch success to develop their young stars.

The wider football fraternity has often frowned upon The Blues’ strategy of loaning out large numbers of players each season with very few academy graduates making any substantial impact on the first team.

Kenneth Omeruo became the 27th Chelsea player to agree a temporary loan switch when he joined Kasimpasa earlier this week and that figure is likely to increase with multiple other deals expected to be sanctioned before the transfer window closes.

The Guardian have reported that some supporters have grown frustrated at the club’s attitude towards young players with the likes of Kurt Zouma, Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek all being loaned out to Premier League sides.

Whilst some may suggest that such moves are beneficial for the players, who are able to gain regular game time, their departures have left the current Chelsea squad appearing to lack sufficient strength.

In addition to this, Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah were both allowed to leave in the summer after the pair grew disillusioned with the constant loan cycle.

However, Conte defended his record of providing young players with opportunities to flourish at Stamford Bridge and suggested that the club had to continue to invest in senior players if their want to challenge for the Premier League title.

“You must decide if you want to fight for the title or develop your young players. Two different ways. … The question is this: Manchester City and other clubs, are there players from the academy playing regularly [for them]?”

The Italian also firmly rebuked claims that he has failed to develop a clear pathway between the academy system and the first team at Chelsea.

“Chalobah played some games. Loftus-Cheek played some games. Ake played the semi-final of the FA Cup. Aina in the League Cup and Kenedy too. … If there are young players who deserve to play regularly and give me a good feeling, then why not [pick them]?”

However, the players that Conte named were often only offered cameo appearances last season with the majority occurring after the Premier League title had been won. Between them, Ake, Chalobah, Kenedy, Loftus-Cheek, Ola Aina and Zouma only made six league starts.

There is little to suggest that Chelsea will have any intention of altering their policy of loaning out vast numbers of young players any time soon, and the club are expected to make significant investments in the transfer window in the coming weeks.

For now, at least, The Blues will remain reliant on their financial clout to bring success rather than look towards their thriving academy system.

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