Premier League: Can Chelsea achieve top-flight success with academy products?
Frank Lampard’s appointment as manager at Chelsea could point to a new focus on youth development at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues are banned from signing players until the end of the next January transfer window, meaning that Christian Pulisic – signed from Borussia Dortmund for £58m in January and loaned back to them for the rest of last season – is the only fresh face in the squad.
That squad will be without the talents of Eden Hazard, following his move to Real Madrid.
Chelsea are able to call on many of the 41 players they loaned out last season, including Kurt Zouma, who went to Everton, Tammy Abraham, who won promotion with Aston Villa and Michy Batshuayi, who was at Crystal Palace.
So is there evidence that Chelsea-produced players can have an impact on the Premier League?
How did Chelsea’s use of academy products compare among top six clubs?
Chelsea finished third in the Premier League last season, 26 points behind champions Manchester City, but just six points ahead of sixth-placed Manchester United.
Maurizio Sarri, Lampard’s predecessor, won the Europa League, but struggled to meet the fans’ demands when it came to home-grown talent.
Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are two of the hottest prospects at Stamford Bridge, but the former was limited to just four league starts, while the latter made six.
Andreas Christensen was the only other academy graduate to feature in the Premier League. However, Chelsea’s promotion of youth was not the worst in the top flight.
Among last season’s final top six, the numbers show that the higher up the table a club finished, the fewer academy graduates they used.
|Promoting youth in the Premier League|
|Club||Number of academy graduates used||Premier League position|
|Manchester United||8 (Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Mason Greenwood, James Garner)||6|
|Arsenal||6 (Hector Bellerin, Alex Iwobi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka)||5|
|Tottenham||5 (Harry Winks, Harry Kane, Oliver Skipp, Luke Amos, Kyle Walker-Peters)||4|
|Chelsea||3 (Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Andreas Christensen)||3|
|Liverpool||2 (Trent Alexander-Arnold, Rafael Camacho)||2|
|Manchester City||1 (Phil Foden)||1|
Chelsea will be expected to use more than three academy graduates next season, as Christensen remains at the club and Loftus-Cheek has signed a five-year deal, but Lampard will have to convince Hudson-Odoi his future is brightest at the Bridge, with Bayern Munich reportedly still interested in the 18-year-old.
Do Chelsea graduates have an impact elsewhere?
Since Roman Abramovich’s arrival at Stamford Bridge in 2003, the Chelsea academy has developed into one of the most prolific youth set-ups in European football.
The Blues won their first FA Youth Cup final for almost 50 years in 2009-10, before winning six of the next nine finals, including a run of five successive titles.
However, the Russian’s dynasty has been criticised in recent years because of youth players failing to step up to the first team, and consequently, moving away permanently or on loan deals in search of regular football.
The influence of Chelsea-nurtured youngsters was felt across the Premier League last season, with 15 players who have been at the Blues academy appearing for other Premier League sides – more than from any other club’s academy.
|Previously on the books at Chelsea|
|Player||Club (2018-19)||League appearances|
|Johann Berg Gudmundsson||Burnley||29|
|Neil Etheridge||Cardiff City||38|
|Patrick van Aanholt||Crystal Palace||36|
|Declan Rice||West Ham||34|
Only Manchester United had more graduates in the Premier League (20) last season, although eight of them were still at Old Trafford.
In total, players who have been at the Blues academy played 22,445 Premier League minutes for the other 19 teams in 2018-19, the highest contribution from any academy, which suggests Chelsea-produced players can have an impact in the top flight.
Which youngsters could Lampard turn to?
In his first news conference, Lampard spoke about “dangling the carrot” to motivate and reward his young players for their attitude and endeavour.
So who could emerge and bridge the gap to the senior side?
|Nationality: English Position: Midfielder Age: 20|
Central midfielder Mason Mount has recently signed a five-year contract extension, suggesting Lampard expects the midfielder to be an integral part of the club’s future.
The England Under-21 international plays in his manager’s mould with excellent technical ability and attacking prowess from midfield, scoring 11 goals in an influential role under Lampard with Championship play-off finalists Derby last term.
He also opened the scoring in the Blues’ pre-season victory over St Patrick’s Athletic in Dublin after ghosting in behind the opposition defence.
|Nationality: English Position: Striker Age: 21|
Following the departures of strikers Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain, England Under-21 forward Tammy Abraham could fill the void in attack.
The 6ft 3in striker scored 26 goals as Aston Villa returned to the Premier League last season, beating Lampard’s Derby in the play-off final.
Abraham, 21, is a less experienced option than Olivier Giroud (32) and Michy Batshuayi (25), but former Chelsea midfielder Pat Nevin believes he is only “likely to improve as those others age”.
|Nationality: English Position: Defender Age: 21|
Like Mount, Fikayo Tomori played under Lampard at Derby last season, making 55 appearances at the heart of defence.
The 21-year-old – who possesses blistering pace, a sound understanding of the game and composure on the ball – became the first loan player in the Rams’ history to win their Player of the Season award.
If Chelsea decide to keep the Canada-born England U21 defender, he will have to compete with established internationals Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz for a starting place, but his dominant performances at Derby suggest he is capable of stepping up to the Premier League.