Chelsea Football Club have started bringing in a lot more young players of late and with the academy in the best shape it has ever been, Chelsea look set to have a great home-grown team. However, Chelsea tend to sell on their young players and buy in new ones. So, who are Chelsea's top 10 youngsters (21 and under, excluding Oscar) and why?
10. Matej Delac (20)
The 6ft 2in Croatian is a solid keeper. He made 23 appearances for Inter Zapresic before joining Chelsea in 2010. He possesses great reflexes and has great command of his area, but other than this, I have not seen much to judge him by.
9. Gael Kakuta (21)
The exciting French winger offers pace and exuberance that Chelsea lack at the moment. He is clinical on the break and he possesses a wicked cross when he is playing well. Being 5ft 9in allows the Frenchman to weave in and out of defenders, causing hell for flat-footed full-back.
He was involved in a controversial deal, which put Chelsea under a transfer embargo. His first touch is fantastic for a youngster; he has experience in the Premier League, though he failed to make an impact at either Fulham or Bolton. He has made 17 appearances for Vitesse (a Chelsea-affiliated club), scored one goal and gained six assists.
However the Frenchman lacks consistency and lacks the attitude to make it to the very top. If all goes well, he could be a good player at a top seven side in the Premier league, but it is more likely he will end up in France playing for a mid-table side.
8. Jeffrey Bruma (21)
The 6ft 1in Dutch defender has shown serious signs of progression with his loan spell at Hamburg. Last season, he made 23 appearances for the German side scoring two goals, and has so far made 14 appearances for the side Rafael van der Vaart joined in the summer.
His strength and aerial ability makes him a fearsome foe for any striker, and he also possesses decent passing ability, but he lacks in pace and prefers playing as a limited defender who would benefit playing with a partner who can cover him and perhaps has a fair amount of pace. Potentially, he could be a first-team player, but it is more likely he will end up playing at a mid-table side.
7. Josh McEachran (19)
The promising English midfielder has shown signs that he possesses the qualities to become a great player. He has an excellent first touch and one of the calmest footballing styles I have seen.
His composure is a level above most senior players and he has so far proven to be a very good player at Middlesbrough. He has made 30 appearances so far this season and has 3 assists. He prefers to play as a deep playmaker and opts for short 'tiki taka' passing. He works hard and, considering he is a slight man, he uses his body very well to keep the ball. He can use both feet to good effect, but is mainly left-footed.
If he gets his head down he could be a good Chelsea player, perhaps used in a squad rotation system. I think that is the most likely outcome but he could perhaps make it as a key player.
6. Nathaniel Chalobah (18)
The commanding under-21s international has impressed while at Watford and has potential to be a captain at Chelsea FC. He possesses the good communication, flair and influence. He is powerful and good in the air and has scored four goals in 28 games for Watford this season. He has made 14 appearances for England‚Äôs under 17s.
He is a threat going forward, he is good at penalties, he has great technique, his long-passing ability is fantastic, he possesses a fair amount of pace and has great stamina. He is quite strong and can play some lovely stuff with his feet. He is right-footed and can play in defensive midfield.
He could probably play as a covering defender and it is this versatility that gives him the edge on Bruma and Nathan Ake. I believe strongly that Chalobah could be a key player for Chelsea in the future.
5. Oriol Romeu (21)
Oriol Romeu is by far Chelsea's best young player at the moment. He possesses close control and composure that is better than most of the Chelsea first team. However, what do you expect from a acquisition from the famous Barcelona academy?
This season has been blemished with injury for the young Spanish midfielder, but he managed to claim his first goal for Chelsea. Not only is he a great player on the ball, but the defensive midfielder can mark players out the game and has incredible concentration. He reads the play really well and is able to cut out opposition‚Äôs moves with ease.
He has a decent heading ability and his experience with Barcelona B shines threw at times. He played 18 times for the Spanish giants' second team and played twice for Barcelona themselves. He potentially has the ability to be a top, top player.
I believe he could be an adequate replacement for Xavi in the Spanish national team, though I do not believe he will be as good as Xavi and will face competition from Sergi Roberto and co. He could be one of Chelsea's best players in the future and will dictate the tempo they play at. He will be the key cog in the Chelsea clock in the coming years.
4. Lucas Piazon (19)
The attacking midfielder is one of Brazil's hottest prospects. He is fast, creative and skilful. Earlier in the season he produced a wonder pass with the outside of his foot to set up a goal against Aston Villa, though he later missed a penalty. He has drawn comparisons with Kaka, and although they have similar styles and look alike they play in different positions and cannot be compared.
He has a good first touch and a good mentality. He is determined and composed. He is agile and finds it easy to weave in and out of defenders. His left foot has a decent shot on it and he plays his best role as an inside forward on the left. He has one assists in three games for Chelsea this season and since joining Malaga on loan, he has one assist in four games. He also won the FA Youth Cup in the 2011-12 season.
He has a bright future and his awareness and eye for the runs his teammates make allows him to pick out a pass quickly. This will help with Chelsea's evolution and development. I believe Piazon could be a Chelsea star but because of the amount of players in his position he could well be moved on in the near future.
3. Kevin de Bruyne (21)
The 21-year-old Belgium international has Champions League experience and was a key player at Genk. So far this season, the versatile midfielder has played 24 times, scored 6 goals and made 7 assists on loan at Werder Bremen. He has a sharp eye for goal and an even sharper eye for his teammates.
In his career, the flamboyant Belgian, who cost Chelsea ¬£6.7 million in 2012, has racked up 126 appearances and scored 22 goals. He racked up 102 appearances for Genk. He can play down the left-hand side, in centre midfield or just behind the forwards. He has a incredible array of passes from short or long range, he has a decent shot and a fantastic cross. His deliveries are his main asset and his technique is exquisite.
In his nine caps for Belgium he has one goal. He is one of the most creative talents in Europe and easily has the potential to be part of a Chelsea set up in the future. However, de Bruyne sometimes drops off in the match and has a poor aerial ability. He also shies out of some tackles and sometimes ponders on the ball. He has a good rounded game and will be a key player if treated properly in the coming years. He has the potential to be a key player and a great asset, not only for Chelsea but for Belgium as well. He has experience winning trophies, albeit in the Belgian league, and has great potential. However, like Piazon, there is no shortage of players in his position and he might have to wait for his chance.
2. Romelu Lukaku (19)
The new 'Didier Drogba' is the label the towering target man has earned. While at Anderlecht he caught the eye of many big name teams and even before his spell at West Brom, he was being touted as a huge star. He was the top scorer in Belgium Pro League in 2009-10. The left-footed striker has scored a total of 45 goals in 106 games and in 19 appearances for the national team he has scored 3 goals.
He is part of Belgium‚Äôs bright future and has been a vital part of the West Brom set up this season. In 25 games he has 12 goals and two assists for Steve Clarke's side. He is powerful, calm and surprisingly skilful for a big player. He has a fair amount of pace and he is great in front of goal, but he also brings others into the game incredibly well.
With resemblance to Didier Drogba, he seems like the perfect man for the Chelsea's future. He is great in the air and a great player to have in the team.
However, there are some problems to what seems like a perfect plan. Do Chelsea let Torres and Ba play out another season? Do they not sign Falcao, despite the urge, and bring through Lukaku? Roman Abramovich is unlikely to not want to sign a striker in that time and Lukaku suits the old Chelsea a lot more than the proposed new one. The plan is to play fast, short passing football which would need a fast striker in the mould of Fernando Torres (well, the old Torres anyway).
In Drogba's last season, when he played he encouraged long passing which stunted the growth of the Chelsea team at times. However, I do believe Lukaku could adapt to that role with a serious amount of training as more of a complete forward and not just a target man.
1. Thibaut Courtois (20)
Is he the man to replace one of the best Premier League 'keepers of all time? Petr Cech has been a brick wall for Chelsea since he was brought in by Peter Kenyon in the 2004-05 season (although he agreed to sign the year before), and it is no easy feat to oust the Czech Republic star. However there seems to be a man who can and within two years apparently.
He completes the trio of Belgians in my list and deserves to be on top. He has proven himself at Genk and Atletico Madrid. In his career, he has accumulated 102 appearances. He has been incredible for Atletico this season, keeping 21 clean sheets, and is one of the reasons they are above of Real Madrid.
His handling and reflexes are as good as any keeper and he is particularly good at one-on-ones. The youngster might have to work on his communication, but that will come with experience. He has earned seven caps for Belgium and is likely to win plenty more. I believe it would take an incredible amount of things to go wrong to jeapodise his career.
He, in my opinion, will eventually replace Petr Cech. However, I do not believe it will be in two years. He has already gained plaudits as one of the best keepers in Europe. I strongly believe he is not just one of the best young keepers in Europe but one of the best youngsters in Europe.
Keepers sometimes do not get enough praise for their job and Petr Cech, who makes it look so easy sometimes, suffers from this. However, the towering Belgian, at 6ft 6inches, perhaps gets the opposite. Some of his saves could be toned down a bit.
However, he is by far the best young player at Chelsea and with a bright future ahead of him, I believe he will be one of the best in the world come his day. However, he must be patient and I hope he stays with Chelsea because he could easily be a first team player in most top European sides.
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