Saturday’s victory over Premier League strugglers Sunderland proved that this season there is going to be a focus on young and exciting players who are ready to take the place of the stars that have been so comfortable for so many years.
The so called “Abramovich era” has no doubt made Chelsea into a global club and attracted some of the world’s best players who have often been unsuccessful and moved on at a significant loss for the club. Previous mangers have looked to experienced and established players to help do the job, however this season it looks as though the future is a key priority.
Perhaps the clearest indication of a focus on the future was that the Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas, who is no senior citizen himself at just 33 years of age, opted to start with 22-year-old Daniel Sturridge over the current World and European champion Fernando Torres, a proven goal scorer that Roman Abramovich was willing to pay £50 million for in the January transfer window.
Of course Torres’s time will come, a player of his stature doesn’t just lose their ability to play football overnight, but for the time being it looks like he is slowly dropping down the pecking order that was adequately improved during the transfer window with some of Europe’s top up and coming talent.
Romelu Lukaku is just 18, yet he is already seen as a ready made replacement for Dider Drogba due to his strength and physical style of playing. Juan Mata was linked to several Premier League clubs during the window including Liverpool and Manchester City and the deadline day signing of Portuguese international Raul Meireles has helped bolster the midfield with the injury to Michael Essien, who when not injured was arguably one of Chelsea’s best performing players over the last few seasons.
The intent on creating a younger squad has been there for a while now. In January, David Luiz and Torres were purchased and the addition of a new manager has sparked a flurry of new signings. There is no doubt that it had to be done. The blistering start to the season that both teams from Manchester have had, can be in many ways be down to the young players that both teams have bought.
In particular at Manchester United, there is a high percentage of young and English talent currently breaking through to the England senior squad – And there are similar hopes at Stamford Bridge for Josh McEachran. The Oxford born teenager started to get himself noticed towards the end of last season, and now with a new manager at the helm, he will hope to be able to get a chance to prove that he can fit in.
This season could be a defining one for Chelsea and with the Champions League, Premier League and domestic cups all on the usual wish list it is sure to be difficult, but if there was ever was a squad at Chelsea that showed promise and ambition to win everything that is put in front of them, then it’s this one.
By Jamie Bassett