Chelsea sporting director Frank Arnesen has this week reiterated the London clubs commitment and dedication to nurture home grown talent, despite the big money moves for Fernandio Torres and David Luiz in the January transfer window. Although the club has spent£71.3 million on two established foreign players in recent weeks, Arnesen has confirmed that owner Roman Abramovich has faith in the youth staff to help young players make the step up to first team Premiership football.
Arnesen’s comments are in the light of the Blues letting talented but inexperienced English striker Daniel Sturridge go on loan to fellow Premier League team Bolton, and preferring to field established international players rather than give young home grown players a chance in the first team. Sturridge showed at his time at Manchester City that he is a mercurial talent, and has showed promise in his first two appearances for The Trotters, netting two goals, but was seldom given an opportunity to showcase his ability at Stamford Bridge.
The Dane Arnesen moved to Chelsea from Tottenham in 2005, and will leave the club at the end of the season, confident that the youth set up is in better shape than when he first arrived at The Bridge. “There has been enormous progress,” Arnesen commented on BBC Radio Five Live. “When I came to the club six years ago…we had six players from 16 to 20 who were playing in national teams, now it is only six players not playing”.
Despite this commitment John Terry remains the last youth team player to progress through the ranks to establish himself in the Chelsea first team, going back to the 2000-01 season. So ten years later, who are the contenders to follow in his footsteps? Arnesen praised the latest crop knocking on the first team door. “Obviously we already had Sturridge, he came in at 18 and he is now 21 so he is the oldest of the younger players. We have Gael Kakuta, Patrick van Aanholt, Jeffrey Bruma and Josh McEachran.” Despite Arnesen’s optimistic outlook, the players mentioned have made very limited appearances in the senior side this season, and Kakuta has also been loaned out, to Fulham, in search of regular first team football.
Chelsea won the FA Youth Cup last season for the first time since 1961, and Arnesen has challenged the prospects to rival the more established players for places. “Bringing players in doesn’t close the door for the others, we have to make sure the other boys are good enough and when the time is right, that will happen, there is no doubt about it,” Arnesen stated
There is no doubt that Chelsea’s youth team is one of the best in the country, and senior figures within the club have supported the progression of young talent. However, with the star studded dressing room of international stars on multi million contracts, Chelsea risk missing out on the next John Terry by limiting the opportunities of the stars of tomorrow.