Many people don’t keep up with the youth squad and that is what led to players like McEachran and Piazon sneaking up on some supporters. The following is a brief overview of our current U21 squad.
Lewis Baker: Age 17
Player He Plays Like: Steven Gerrard – Not the Steven Gerrard that scored over 20 goals a season but more along the lines of a modern day Gerrard. He often seemed like a weak link with a huge amount of talent surrounding him. Piazon on his left, Feruz in front and Chalobah and Swift behind him. With so much support, one would expect Baker to perform better than he has. Like Gerrard, he can still be brilliant but those moments are few and far between.
Chances of Making the First Team: (D+) While Baker is highly thought of by a lot of the Chelsea reserve staff, he has never been a truly special player. He was gifted with the favored role behind Feruz last season but was never able to make a lasting impression. He’s undersized and lacks some important skills to make the next step into the first team.
Jeremie Boga: Age 15
Player He Plays Like: Ezequiel Lavezzi – Boga is one of the most dangerous players anytime he touches the ball. He’s fast and owns a bag full of tricks. He gets behind the defense and creates an incredible amount of scoring opportunities. He is a nightmare for any team when he has the ball at his feet.
Chances of Making the First Team: (A-) It is extremely difficult to evaluate Boga because he is still a schoolboy and doesn’t have a contract yet. He’s been touted as one of Chelsea’s brightest prospects since he was 12. Breaking into the U21s over our abundance of attacking midfielders at just 15 shows that he might have the best potential in all of the Academy.
Billy Clifford: Age 19
Player He Plays Like: Mathieu Debuchy – Clifford does have some solid traits, including his versatility, like Debuchy. Clifford will never give an outstanding performance that catches the headlines but he will put in a solid shift in most games.
Chances of Making the First Team: (D-) Clifford will turn 20 soon and he hasn’t really been looked at seriously by much of the first team staff. He has been a regular starter on the U21s squad but his performances have been average. He has had a tough time breaking into the first team and it looks even less likely with a lack of growth since his younger days.
Conor Clifford: Age 20
Player He Plays Like: Paul Green – Conor Clifford is a poor man’s Paul Green, Paul Green is a poor man’s Joe Allen. Basically, it’s his job to run around the middle of the pitch and try to pick out a pass to help move the ball forward. He’s an undersized midfielder.
Chances of Making the First Team: (F) Not only am I sure we don’t need a Paul Green, I’m even more sure that his chances all but died when Portsmouth sent him back from his loan spell. Clifford never settled in well at any of his loan clubs in lower leagues and he’s nearing his 21st birthday in just a few days. He will leave when his contract expires.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: Age 16
Player He Plays Like: Michael Essien – So many great things can be said about Loftus-Cheek. He is one of the hardest workers on the pitch and likes to play defense as well as some offense. He owns a great set of skills in almost every area required for his position and then some. When Essien was fit, he was one of the best. When Loftus-Cheek is fit, he’s one of our best prospects.
Chances of Making the First Team: (B+) The only reason Loftus-Cheek doesn’t have an A is because he is, like Essien, injury prone. If he stayed fit, there’s no question that he could make an incredible duo with Chalobah in the holding midfield role. Barcelona have been keeping a close eye on this kid and even tried to lure him away; that in itself signifies just how valuable he could be.
Lamisha Musanda: Age 20
Player He Plays Like: Kevin de Bruyne – I wanted to compare him with a Belgian player and KdB fits the bill. Lamisha is a pacey player with some nice tricks that has an eye for goal but prefers to find the pass. His favorite role is behind the striker but he doesn’t mind being pushed out wide.
Chances of Making the First Team: (D-) No disrespect to either of the other Musanda brothers but it’s pretty much agreed upon that Chelsea bought Lamisha and Tika for the purposes of winning Charly. He has been a fairly good player so far, but, like KdB, it’s doubtful he’ll ever have the top skills to play for Chelsea’s first team.
Tika Musanda: Age 18
Player He Plays Like: Steven Defour – Another Musanda brother, Lamisha, has traits I’ve seen in Steven Defour, although Tika is probably a little bit faster and more athletic than Defour. He hasn’t played a lot for Chelsea so far but he has looked like a very average player at best.
Chances of Making the First Team: (D) I feel he has more of a chance than Lamisha because he’s younger and he’s also fighting in a midfield spot that is less competitive than his brother. He’s probably the least hyped brother among the trio and his playing time might be limited, making it difficult to see him playing on the first team as well.
Lucas Piazon: Age 18
Player He Plays Like: Stevan Jovetic – It’s actually a nightmare trying to come up with a player Piazon plays like. He has a lot of similarities to Ronaldinho and Kaka but he also is very different from them. I still believe Piazon is best as a second striker in an almost Zola-esque role but he doesn’t play like Zola either. He really is unique player. He’s at his best when he’s making plays and passing but he’s a Brazilian who loves flair and the ball at his feet.
Chances of Making the First Team: (A+) He’s already made his first start for the first team and no one would be surprised if he started some games more in the near future. He’s a big game performer and he shines when the stage is bigger. He’s in a tough position with Marin, Oscar and Moses already fighting for playing time but his ability to play on the left wing, middle or as a striker (though not my favorite position for him) might set him apart.
George Saville: Age 19
Player He Plays Like: Javier Mascherano – It’s a huge stretch to call Saville similar to Mascherano but they do have the same style of play. Saville’s game is based primarily off trying to read the play and make interceptions. Saville has recently increased his offensive work rate while staking a claim to a starting spot on the U21 side. He’s also been known to play as a centre-back if required.
Chances of Making the First Team: (C-) A few months ago I would have sad Saville had no shot at making Chelsea’s first team. He has been playing a lot better in recent games and even toured with Chelsea when they were in America. I still feel like he doesn’t have enough talent or skill to ever legitimately challenge for a first team spot. He has held off some fierce competition to keep his starting role.
John Swift: Age 17
Player He Plays Like: Josh McEachran – Swift and McEachran are spitting images of each other in so many ways. They’re both possession-type players who love passing the ball around from the back. A lot of people feel they’re both better suited playing a more attacking role but Swift has flourished in a more holding role that has made the link-up play between the midfield and attack very smooth.
Chances of Making the First Team: (B+) There is an ongoing debate where Chelsea supporters claim Swift is as good as McEachran. McEachran has struggled to get playing time at Chelsea and Swift has been playing on the U18s mostly. Swift has been a leading force in the youth squad’s unbeaten record. He could go either way, but it’s harder to bet against him.