The Chelsea FC U19 side won the UEFA Youth League last season in some style, with several exciting youngsters showcasing their ability through the course of the campaign. TheHardTackle takes a look at where you can follow the five most promising prospects amongst them this season.
2014-2015 was a season to remember for the Chelsea FC academy, with the U18 side lifting the FA Youth Cup whilst the U19s (largely the same side) triumphed in the UEFA Youth League playing against some of the top club academies from around Europe.
A swashbuckling Chelsea FC U19 team scored 36 goals in the ten games of their Youth League campaign, winning the competition in style, whilst also raising expectations from the club’s fans in terms of seeing the pick of the talent from the U19s in the Blues’ first-team squad.
Most of the prodigiously talented youngsters from that side have now been deemed ready for first-team football and have been loaned to clubs around Europe. Here are five of the best academy prospects to keep track of this season:
1. Dominic Solanke
The young Englishman is still incredibly only 17 years old, and will be spending his season on loan at Dutch Eredivisie feeder club Vitesse Arnhem. The teenager scored an astonishing 12 goals in just 9 appearances in the UEFA Youth League, including netting in every single knock-out stage game up to and including the final against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Although Solanke does not have too many fancy tricks up his locker, he is without doubt, a natural goalscorer. The 40+ goals he scored across the U18, U19 and U21 age groups for Chelsea FC last season is testament to that. The 17-year-old is an incredibly composed finisher, displaying ice-cold nerves time after time when faced with only the keeper to beat.
The England U19 international is a well-rounded striker, with the pace to run in behind defenders, but also the ability to hold up the ball and bring his team-mates into play. Given his tender age, there is obviously room for improvement – particularly in terms of his strength, which should develop naturally with time.
a CHELSEA FC (@ChelseaBlueFC) August 30, 2015
a CHELSEA FC (@ChelseaBlueFC) August 30, 2015
Playing football at the senior level at Vitesse should help in that aspect, and should also help him develop his tactical understanding of the game. Solanke scored his first goal of the season last weekend, showcasing the intelligence and composure he has in the attacking third. Although he will have to fight for his place in the side, he has every chance of establishing himself in the first team and growing as a player.
2. Isaiah Brown
The former West Bromwich Albion youngster was the captain for the victorious Chelsea FC U19 side, scoring a brace in the final to guide his team to victory against Shakhtar. An attacking midfielder capable of playing on either wing and also as a striker, his willingness to take responsibility in the final stages of both the UEFA Youth League as well as the successful FA Youth Cup campaign stood out.
The England U19 international is with fellow Chelsea FC loanee Dom Solanke at Vitesse Arnhem this season, and has already started several games for the Dutch side, including in the Europa League against Premier League side Southampton. The 18-year-old had arguably his best performance for Vitesse against Feyenoord Rotterdam this season, who are one of the better sides in the Dutch top-flight – a hugely positive sign for the future.
Brown has the technical ability and pace to play as a winger, and has scored some great goals for club and country from outside the box after cutting in from the left flank. It is in decision-making that the youngster could improve, and regular senior football can only help as far as that is concerned.
He was officially part of the first-team squad along with Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the second half of last season, and make his Premier League d but against his former side at the Hawthorns after the Blue had wrapped up the title with several games to spare.
Chelsea FC announced that Brown had signed a new four-year deal on deadline day, and he is definitely one of the players that has a chance of eventually making it to the first team.
3. Jeremie Boga
Possibly the most exciting talent in the Chelsea FC ranks, the French teenager is an attacking midfielder with pace, trickery and technical ability to spare. Boga saved his best Youth League performance for the final, grabbing two assists in the 3-2 win over Shakhtar Donetsk.
The 18-year-old’s playing style has seen him draw comparisons to the likes of Eden Hazard, given he has that same ability to drift past players effortlessly, a low centre of gravity and the strength to hold off opposition defenders. Something the Frenchman also has in his locker is his dead-ball ability. Boga is a mean free-kick taker, as he showed several times last season playing across various age groups for the Chelsea FC youth sides.
This season, the attacking midfielder is on loan at Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais, who have made a fantastic start to their league campaign and find themselves third in the league. It is the first venture into senior football for Boga and an intriguing challenge for the teenager, who will be looking to establish himself in the first team if possible.
He has had his injury worries in the past, and can suffer from a loss of confidence from time to time, but the step up to senior football will enable him to develop the mental toughness he will undoubtedly need if he is to play regularly for Chelsea FC one day.
4. Charly Musonda
The Belgian was one of the very best (if not the best) players for the Chelsea FC academy sides last season, with a stunning display in the UEFA Youth League final against Shakhtar Donestk. Primarily an attacking midfielder, Musonda also has the ability to play deeper in a central midfield role, despite his relatively slight frame. Like Boga, Musonda has the amazing ability to skip past players almost nonchalantly with his pace and trickery, but also has the ability to mix it up and do his defensive duties when playing as part of a double-pivot in the centre of the park. With excellent stamina and an incredible attitude, it is astonishing that a loan has not been arranged for him this season so far. As such, Musonda will spend at least the first half of the season with the Chelsea FC U21 side.
As if he needed any more arrows in his quiver, Musonda is also a very good free-kick and set-piece taker. Even though he is not exactly physically imposing, the midfielder is very difficult to shake off the ball and uses his muscle expertly to shield it from opposition players. It would be a travesty if the Blues were to move him on and not utilise his talent.
The 18-year-old is also a regular member of the Belgian U21 national team now, which bodes well for his chances to make the grade at the highest level. The Blues have an absolute gem on their hands in Charly Musonda and should do everything in their power not only to keep him at the club, but to ensue he fulfils his immense potential.
5. Andreas Christensen
Perhaps the most experienced of the lot, Christensen was a calm presence at the back for Chelsea FC in their UEFA Youth League win. The 19-year-old has made great strides in the past couple of years, not only establishing himself in the Danish U21 side, but also being capped for the senior side. Encouragingly, he will once again join the senior team during this international break.
The Dane is a classy, modern centre-half – calm and composed on the ball, excellent at distributing it out from the back and very good at anticipating danger and dealing with it appropriately. Despite his considerable talent, Christensen had a nightmare start to his senior league career at Borussia M nchengladbach, where he is on loan for the duration of the season.
Gladbach have made a horrible start to their campaign and Christensen has fallen down the pecking order, but the rest of the season will a good indication of how ready he is mentally to compete for a place in the first team.
His ball-playing ability has seen him being deployed as a defensive midfielder, including for his national side, whilst at Chelsea FC, he was used as a right-back by manager Jos Mourinho. His long-term future, however, probably lies in centre of defence. The teenager is another whose development the Blues should prioritise, given his level of talent.
Andreas Christensen on life in Germany and John Terry https://t.co/hI7N29rqNd
a TCD (@TheChelseaDaily) July 15, 2015
The likes of Charlie Colkett, Jake Clarke-Salter, Ola Aina, Jay Dasilva, Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek also played a big role in the UEFA Youth League win, with Loftus-Cheek now a permanent member of the Mourinho’s first-team squad.
It is abundantly clear that the Chelsea FC academy is now producing the level of talent that can genuinely make the first-team if properly nurtured. Quite simply, the Blues have run out of excuses. Mourinho now has both the quality of player as well as the time and stability to bed at least some of these youngsters in, and that is what he must do given it is arguably the most talented bunch of academy players the club has ever had.