Ancelotti Set To Name Young Side
Written by Craig Wilmann
From the earliest point in Chelsea’s quiet summer transfer window, manager Carlo Ancelotti has insisted that the club’s youngsters will play an important role this season. On Wednesday night, when Chelsea take on Newcastle in the Carling Cup, we will find out if he is true to his word. For the sake of Chelsea’s season it is absolutely vital that he is.
When asked last Friday about how important the Carling Cup was to Chelsea, Ancelotti pragmatically stated that it was not one of the team’s priorities. The Italian’s view is hardly surprising and not many would disagree with the Champions allowing English football’s second cup competition to take a back seat. Chelsea have just won the Premier League after three years of Man United dominance and would be loath to let their bitter rivals snatch it back. Added to that, the Blues stand on the brink of history as they could become the first team to win three consecutive F.A. Cups since 1886. Then of course there is the small matter of the Champions League, something the manager and the players are desperate to win for the first time in the club’s history.
Chelsea’s start to the season has displayed the fantastic ability of their first team, which is sufficiently good enough to win any of these three sought after trophies. The only question mark hanging over the Blues’ quest for glory on several fronts is their squad depth. Carlo Ancelotti named just sixteen outfield players in his Premier League squad this season. League rules dictate that players under the age of twenty-one do not need to be registered and; therefore, the likes of Gael Kakuta, Jeffrey Bruma and Daniel Sturridge can be active members of the first team squad.
They will certainly need to be. Sixteen outfield players will not be able to sustain a challenge for both the Premier League and the Champions League, which will be prioritised ahead of the F.A. Cup.
As such, Ancelotti’s claim that he will trust in the kids needs to be more than just a patronising confidence booster. It must be solid fact. Herein lies the reason why the manager’s team selection against Newcastle is so crucial. If he cannot trust a significant number of youngsters to play a full match in the Carling Cup, he certainly will not trust them in the more important competitions. In many ways the result of the fixture against Newcastle is unimportant. If Chelsea go out, it simply gives the team less games to worry about. Diddier Drogba recently said he believes Chelsea can become the first team to win the quadruple but if an early exit in the Carling Cup meant success in the Champions League, the Ivorian would score Newcastle’s goals himself.
Therefore, if Ancelotti is serious about using young players this season, we will see at least the trio of Kakuta, Bruma and Sturridge named on the team sheet. The latter is sure to start and would be counted by most as a fully-fledged member of the first team but Chelsea will need at least two more players to join him if their quest for glory on multiple fronts is to be a success. The Champions’ imperious form will not last forever and injuries will mount up as the season goes on. In the critical period of the season, between February and May, when Chelsea will be required to play a hugely important game every three days, sixteen outfield players, minus the inevitably injured few, will simply not be enough. Additionally, if this sixteen has played the vast bulk of matches up until February, there will be more injured and fatigued players than if the squad were bigger. In previous seasons, the extra burden the League Cup has placed on players such as John Terry, who has often been expected to play in every single game for Chelsea, has had a crippling effect. Terry has relied on numerous cortisone injections over the years to get him through two games a week and this has meant he has never been able to properly recover from injuries. Being rested for games such as these is likely to do wonders for his overall season.
Ultimately, if a youthful side takes to the field at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night, it will be great news for Chelsea, whatever the result. This match will have to be just the start of their involvement in first team affairs but it will give a positive indication that Ancelotti is serious about using them on bigger occasions. If it is a side made up of just Daniel Sturridge and players from the sixteen, similar to the one that faced Zilina last week, it may signal a long, hard season for Chelsea’s old guard.
Do you believe Chelsea’s youngsters will play a key role this season? Will the squad be strong enough if they don’t? Have your say below.