Chelsea need change of focus, fast

TEAMtalk's Pete Hall believes the lack of youth talent emerging from Chelsea is astonishing and says a change of approach is required quickly.

Last Updated: 12/09/13 at 14:06 Post Comment

Frank Arnesen: Couldn't deliver at Chelsea

Frank Arnesen: Couldn't deliver at Chelsea

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Whilst applauding a fine servant to England on Wednesday night, it did dawn on me that Frank Lampard's achievements for club and country are unlikely to be replicated any time soon, especially not down at Stamford Bridge.

For all owner Roman Abramovich's multi-million pound signings at Chelsea, his biggest outlay that has exasperated the Russian oligarch the most is his £100million expenditure on the Blues' state-of-the-art Cobham training centre, which has been anything but fruitful.

Not one player has emerged from a talented pool of young talent in recent memory with enough to hold down a regular first team spot - which is simply astonishing with the personnel and facilities available, and if a more long-term vision isn't established soon, future success will cost a lot more than even Abramovich will be able to stomach.

One exception was expected to be Ryan Bertrand, and after starting in the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich, the versatile left-sided Englishman made 38 starts in all competitions last campaign.

However, with just 20 Premier League starts under his belt in seven years, Bertrand is now 24 - very much middle-aged for a top-level footballer, and if he is continued to be overlooked, he may look elsewhere to ply his trade.

You then have to go back to skipper John Terry for a proven graduate from the youth academy, and he was practically a first-team regular before Abramovich invested in Cobham, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed from those who have tried and failed to cause any form of shift in mentality.

Former player and coach Ray Wilkins lamented the fundamental lack of foresight within the club, believing the Blues do not do enough to instil a desire to succeed from an early age.

"A lot of the big clubs have to win yesterday rather than next week, but if young players are showing enough get up and go, they'll often get an opportunity."

"At Chelsea, we gave debuts to Nathaniel Chalobah and Josh McEachran, but have they pushed on? No, they haven't. Do these lads have the desire to be world-class footballers?"

McEachran especially is a player who seemed to have the world at his feet, appearing in the Champions League aged just 17, yet he is awaiting another club to come in to borrow the midfielder for the season, with no prospect of a first-team inclusion in sight.

The release of Connor Hunte has sparked upheaval around Cobham, as the much sought-after youngster was let go due to disciplinary problems, with suitors lining up to steal a gifted 17-year-old for nothing, and is one in a long line of behavioural problems amongst the youth ranks.

A lack of emphasis on nurturing youthful exuberance has frustrated several other high-profile individuals before, none more so than former Director of Youth Development Frank Arnesen.

After a long and controversial pursuit of the multi-faceted Dane, Abramovich paid £5million to secure the services of Arnesen, who would be entrusted to make the most of the Russian Billionaire's youth investment.

However, after a frustrating five years trying in vain to change the thinking within the club, Arnesen resigned, knowing he was fighting a losing battle.

'At Chelsea, we had fantastic talent, we built up marvellous players, but they needed to be given a chance and they never were. The pressure is so big," Arnesen told the London Evening Standard earlier this year.

This is not just any old also-ran. The 56-year-old is credited with discovering the likes of the Brazilian Ronaldo and Dutch stars Jaap Stam, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben.

This season's transfer policy is a further nail in the coffin of the club's lore, with the acquisition of ageing Samuel Eto'o meaning promising Romelu Lukaku, who netted an impressive 17 league goals last season at West Brom, has been allowed to leave once again, and not given his chance.

The arrivals of Willian and Andre Schurrle have added yet more options to an already competitive midfield squad, meaning fellow new boy Marco van Ginkel is likely to join Chalobah and McEachran in a search for a loan move.

Currently there are 24 players out on loan from Chelsea - a figure which epitomises how the club seem to take the easy option and allow their talent to nurture elsewhere, rather than giving them a chance to impress first hand.

The Cobham training centre has produced some exciting youth prospects recently, with the likes of Nathan Ake and Scotland Under-21 international Ismael Feruz tipped for big things, but whether that bright future is with Chelsea is a real doubt.

If Abramovich cannot shift the underlying philosophy of short-termism, then the heart and soul of the club, which Terry and Lampard are considered to be down the Fulham Road, will be very much a thing of the past at Stamford Bridge, and the Blues faithful will have to skip at least one generation to find another hero to adorn.

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