With Chelsea now under new management, one wonders if the club’s famed youth academy will have any impact on their season.
The Blues are notorious for shunning youngsters, and while players like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Bertrand Traore did get minutes last season, that hardly makes up for it.
New boss Antonio Conte has spoken on the matter, and by the looks of things, he could give the youth a fair chance at Stamford Bridge during the upcoming campaign.
Sitting down with ESPN‘s Gab Marcotti, the former Juventus manager expressed bewilderment at the team’s reluctance to blood youth.
“I don’t know why in the past a few players have played with the first team,” he said. “But I think that the academy is a great source for the manager of the first team.
“I haven’t any problem with the choice to take a young player in the starting 11. For example, Pogba. Pogba arrived at Juventus and he was only 18 years old and after three months he played in the starting 11.”
So which youth prospect stands the best chance of breaking into the team?
We rate five players’ chances out of 10
5. Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 6/10
The midfielder scored twice for Chelsea last season, and has notched a goal this pre-season, having scored in Chelsea’s friendly against RZ Pellets.
While he is undoubtedly talented, Chelsea already have the likes of Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas, Oscar and the freshly signed N’Golo Kante who can all contribute in central midfield.
Conte, though, has said that the 20-year-old could feature further forward, even as a striker.
Still seems far fetched, and Loftus-Cheek will certainly get minutes during the season, but we can only give him a six out of 10.
4. Ola Aina – 7.5/10
English full-back Ola Aina has been one of the most impressive youngsters for Chelsea during the pre-season.
With Branislav Ivanovic to probably miss the start of the season through injury, and Baba Rahman yet to convince Conte, things are looking up for this 19-year-old talent.
3. Nathaniel Chalobah – 6.5/10
Nathaniel Chalobah has made a great impression as well, scoring Chelsea’s best goal of their pre-season in that match against RZ Pellets, weaving through several defenders before tucking away an expertly taken shot.
What Chalobah has going for him is versatility. The 21-year-old can play a variety of positions in defence and in the midfield, and judging by his recent strike, probably forward too.
Because of this, Conte could find him a place in the side if he continues to play well.
2. Bertrand Traore – 6/10
Traore, 20, played some great football at Chelsea last season. He grabbed his opportunity with both hands, following his inclusion in the team by Guus Hiddink, scoring four goals in 17 outings.
He could find his chances limited next season, despite performing well and scoring a goal for the Blues in the pre-season.
Chelsea have Diego Costa, Michy Batshuayi and Loic Remy vying for the forward positions, and are still in the hunt for a striker, which has been brought to light by their bidding for Spain international Alvaro Morata.
Traore will get his minutes next season, yet it doesn’t seem like he will play a major part in Chelsea’s endeavours.
1. Kenedy – 7/10
Another versatile player, the 20-year-old Brazilian demonstrated his ability to play in midfield, as well as left-back last season. He made 18 appearances for the club, scoring twice in the process, and looks raring to go next term.
Kenedy showed industry and willingness from his very first game for Chelsea, qualities which Conte should welcome. He will be thrust into the side from time to time, and if he continues playing in such fashion, he will certainly cement a place, albeit not necessarily next season.