By Andrew Crawshaw and Tony Attwood
Following our detailed review of Arsenal’s youth teams and youth policy (a link to these articles is at the foot of this piece) we then took a look, by way of contrast, at Chelsea’s approach to youth in the article Chelsea lead the Premier League in the number of players that they have out on loan.
Having published that, the idea came up of taking this further by looking in a little more detail at Chelsea, starting with a review of their first team squad and those members thereof who had come up through the ranks.
The current Chelsea first team squad is:-
- GK – Thibaut Courtois, Asmir Begovic, Eduardo
- Defenders – Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, Kurt Zuma, Gary Cahil, John Terry, Ola Aina (U21), Marcus Alonso
- Midfielders – Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante, Nemanja Matic, Oscar, Willian, Nathaniel Chalobah (U21), Cesc Fabregas, Ruben Loftus-Cheek (U21), John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses,
- Strikers – Diego Costa and Michy Batshuayi
- Loan – Matt Mizaga,
The graduates from their Youth Academy are indicated in bold.
Chelsea would appear to have only 20 senior players. They have Gary Cahill and John Terry who are English and Cesc Fabregas who is ‘home grown’ by virtue of his time at Arsenal and the remaining 17 are overseas players. They could therefore increase their squad size by 5 senior players providing they count as ‘home grown’. Additionally they have three U21 Chelsea Youth Graduates players named in the squad who would all count as homegrown when they turn 21.
This is most curious. Chelsea have no shortage of money, and are as prone to injuries as the next premier league team. So why not make full use of the “25” by including at least a few more “home grown” players at least as a hedge against injuries. In the first half of last season Chelsea were recorded as having 27 player injuries – according to Sky Sports figures – six more than Arsenal, leaving them 11th in the league of clubs with the most player injuries that far into the season.
OK so Chelsea don’t have a great record at retaining their Academy Graduates into their first team so where are they?
Looking back for Graduates who have played for Chelsea over the past 10 years this is the 25 man list according to Wikipedia
|Player||Club||International Cap||First Chelsea Appearance|
|Ben Sahar||Hapoel Be’er Sheva||Full Israel Caps||Age 18 v Macclesfield Town, 6 Jan. 2007|
|Michael Woods||Hartlepool United||England U19||Age 16 v Macclesfield Town, 6 Jan. 2007|
|Scott Cinclair||Celtic||England U21||Age 17 v Wycombe, 10 Jan. 2007|
|Sam Hutchinson||Sheffield Wednesday||England U19||Age 17 v Everton, 13 May. 2007|
|Miroslav Stoch||Febernahce||Full Slovakia Caps||Age 19 v Arsenal, 30 Nov. 2008|
|Michael Mancienne||Nottingham Forest||England U21||Age 21 v Watford, 14 Feb. 2009|
|Fabio Borini||Sunderland||Full Italy Caps||Age 18 v Spurs, 20 Sep. 2009|
|Jeffrey Bruma||VfL Wolfsburg||Full Netherlands Caps||Age 17 v Blackburn, 24 Oct. 2009|
|Gael Kakuta||Hebei China Fortune||France U21||Age 18 v Wolves, 21 Nov. 2009|
|Patrick van Aanholt||Sunderland||Full Netherlands Caps||Age 19 v Portsmouth, 24 Mar. 2010|
|Josh McEchran||Brentford||England U21||Age 17 v MSK Zilina, 15 Sep. 2010|
|Jacob Mellis||Bury||England U19||Age 19 v MSK Zilina, 15 Sep. 2010|
|Ryan Bertrand||Southampton||Full England Caps||Age 21 v Birmingham, 20 Apr. 2011|
|Lucas Piazon||Fulham (loan)||Brazil U23||Age 18 v Wolves 25 Sep. 2012|
|Nathan Ake||Bournemouth (loan)||Netherlands U21||Age 17 v Norwich, 26 Dec. 2012|
|Tomas Kalas||Fulham (loan)||Full Czech Republic Caps||Age 20 v Arsenal, 29 Oct. 2013|
|Lewis Baker||Vitesse Arnheim (or Metropolitan Police) (loan)||England U21||Age 18 v Derby, 5 Jan. 2014|
|John Swift||Reading||England U21||Age 18 v Cardiff, 11 May. 2014|
|Dominic Solanke||Chelsea||England U21||Age 17 v Maribor, 21 Oct. 2014|
|Andreas Christensen||Borussia Monchengladbach (loan)||Full Denmark Caps||Age 18 v Shrewsbury, 28 Oct. 2014|
|Ruben Loftus-Cheek||Chelsea||England U21||Age 18 v Sporting Lisbon, 10 Dec. 2014|
|Jake Clarke-Salter||Bristol Rovers (loan)||England U19||Age 18 v Aston Villa, 2 Apr. 2016|
|Tammy Abraham||Bristol City||England U19||Age 18 v Liverpool, 11 May 2016|
|Fikayo Tomori||Chelsea||England U19||Age 18 v Leicester, 15 May 2016|
|Ola Aina||Chelsea||England U21||Age 19 v Bristol Rovers, 23 August 2016|
What impact do the number of loans have on the clubs they join?
As far as we can tell any Club is allowed as many loan players as they wish with a maximum of 4 from any individual source. The number of loanees from any one club was reduced a few years ago when Watford fielded a team containing 7 loan players in a Championship game v Crystal Palace. At the time Watford had a total of 11 loan players, 10 from parter club Udinese.
The current rules allow a club a maximum of five loan players in any match day squad. In League games a loaned player is ineligible to play against his parent club but they can in a Cup competition (I believe with the express permission of the parent club).
With the majority of loans being to clubs lower in the football pyramid, the effect is generally to enable clubs to have access to better players than they have within their own youth team set ups. Clubs with Category 1 Academies tend to attract the best players through their own scouting of the other clubs. These Academies comprise 15 Premier League and 9 Championship Clubs.
PL – Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Leicester City, Liverpool, man City, Man United, Southampton, Spurs, Middlesbrough, Swansea, Stoke, Sunderland, West Brom, West Ham
Championship – Derby County, Reading, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Brighton, Fulham, Newcastle, Norwich, and Wolves.
But the loan system has changed this year, with the much abused emergency loan system now stopped by order of Fifa. The emergency loan system allowed lower league clubs to keep on boosting their squad all the way through the year. It’s abolition could have a huge impact this year.
What impact do the loans have on the players?
To a degree this question depends on the reason for the loan. Using the 5 Loan types as defined in Part 1 of The Chelsea Way, we can see it this way…
A Type 1 Loan – young player needing regular experience of playing football in a competitive league. Assuming the player actually gets the playing time (and that is by no means guaranteed e.g. Arsenal player Gnabry at West Brom last year) then they will either prove that they can compete or that they can’t. With over 100 loans each year across the Premier League the number that succeed is relatively small.
Type 2 Loan – Player coming back from injury who needs game time to regain match fitness and confidence. Currently with loans only available during the July/August and the January transfer windows these are likely to be relatively rare and I could identify none of the 38 Chelsea players with this kind of Loan. I would suggest that Wilshere on loan to Bournemouth is probably one. Again the impact on the player will depend on the game time he gets. With the changes to the PL 2 football – now open to U23 players rather than U21s it is probable that for most players returning from injury this will become the preferred route back to first team football.
A Type 3 Loan – kick in the pants. Historically I suspect at Youth level these transfers are littered with failures where the player is incapable of taking the hint and continues to underperform. At around 17/18 years old young men typically become distracted (cars, alcohol, friends outside football, girls etc). Only those with the strongest characters (not necessarily those with the best footballing ability) manage to retain their focus. If the loss of focus happens at the parent club it is probably unlikely that a transfer to another environment will necessarily break the spell.
A Type 4 Loan – First step out of the door. The aim is to present the player where he can effectively showcase his talents and enable the player’s agent to organise a transfer to another club. Clearly with the salaries that are prevalent in the PL this can still cause problems for all but the wealthiest clubs in other leagues. Chelsea wages may also be too high for clubs in the middle or lower tiers of the PL.. E.g. Loic Remy is believed to be on £85k per week. It is unlikely that Palace will be meeting the full extent of these costs under the terms of his loan deal. Loic will still be able to play at a high level (although not in European competitions) and, assuming he is able to influence games for Palace, should provide his manager with something to work on.
A Type 5 Loan – one for the future but not yet ready for the parent club. This probably the most difficult for a player. If from outside the EU and they don’t have a UK Work Permit then their loan spells are likely to be extensive as a residence of about 3 years in an EU country with the more relaxed type of immigration rules (typically Spain or Portugal) is normally needed (at least that’s how long it took Arsenal player Wellington). Players who have to go out on loan year after year are likely to become increasingly frustrated with their parent club and will be more likely every year to want to stay at their loan club instead.
Lucas Piaizon (on loan at Fulham) is probably typical. This is the fifth successive year he will have been on loan. In 2012 he was in Spain at Malaga where he played 14 times; in 2013/14 he was at Vitesse Arnheim where he made 31 appearances and scored 11 goals; 2014/15 saw him at Eintracht Frankfurt 23 appearances and 2 goals and last season he was at Reading, 22 appearances and 5 goals. He was quoted in the Metro on Monday as saying :-
“I’m tired of moving abroad. One, two or three loans, maybe that’s enough. Its time for me to stay somewhere longer than one year. It makes no sense to go on loan all the time. It is not good for any player in my experience – or the experience of the other boys.
I don’t see it as a positive thing any more. To be in a different place every year isn’t good for me at 22.
It is difficult to get a place in the team. They have their own players. You do your best, try to get a place in the squad, minutes on the pitch, score and create goals. That’s all you can do.”
So investigating Chelsea we have a double puzzle:
Puzzle 1: Why have they only got 20 registered players instead of 23 to 25 players? We know that it is because they can only take some more home grown players – but why haven’t they brought in some home grown players? Are there really none to be had? Or is it that other PL clubs won’t sell their Englishmen to Chelsea?
Puzzle 2: Why are they putting so many players out on loan? It seems not to bring them back to play for Chelsea, nor seemingly to “farm” them and sell them on for a profit. Why keep them? Why not just sell them? Surely this is giving Chelsea a bad name among youngsters who are offered terms at Chelsea.
This whole situation looks extraordinarily odd. Of course it is easy to put it down to incompetence, but it could also be that Chelsea has a different sort of plan. It is just one that we can’t quite work out at the moment.
With the conundrum of Arsenal’s under 18s performance against Arsenal’s under 23 performance, and players playing out of position, we did offer a possible logical explanation. But we are struggling here to find one for Chelsea.
The Untold Review of the Under 18, Under 19, and Under 21 squads.
Part 1 – The teams’ performances
- Arsenal Under 23 and under 18, what on earth is going on
- The Arsenal Youth System – Part 2 Comparisons with other clubs
- The Arsenal Youth System – Part 3 Questions and (some) Answers
- Top of the league and bottom of the league. Is Arsenal’s youth system working properly?
Part 2 – The players in detail