Chelsea, you cunning little bastards. The West London club is in the midst of a two window transfer ban stemming from their illicit dealings with foreign minors. They could not buy anyone this summer and they cannot buy anyone in the winter (the Christian Pulisic deal with Borussia Dortmund was completed before the ban was incurred). Now, since this is the highly competitive Premier League, the ban is hefty and extremely consequential. Chelsea have been left behind as their rivals spent hundreds of millions of pounds reinforcing their charges, not to mention watching far and away their best player (and one of the most talented attackers the league has ever seen) Eden Hazard move to Madrid. The transfer ban has essentially ruined their (albeit quite slim) chances at the Premiership crown for 2019-20 and has put them in an absolute dogfight for a top 4 Champions League finish.
The silver lining for Chelsea fans? The team under new manager and heralded legend Frank Lampard is stunningly fun to watch. They may ship goals and miss gilt edged chances, but the young guns keep it interesting. They’re fast and raw and top quality when in form. Also, it’s just refreshing to see a massive club like Chelsea promote from within and have a chance to highlight one of the best academies in the world. Normally the club would just loan these starlets out and hope for the best in lower leagues. Now they are getting opportunities of the highest order in the most difficult sports league on the planet.
The downside is obviously that the side does struggle and remains inconsistent. The upside is that legitimate homegrown stars can emerge and alleviate the need to fill holes once the ban is lifted. Chelsea needed defenders and they needed attackers. And maybe now they’ve found what they’ve been pining for right here at home.
But the main takeaway here is that whilst Chelsea fans may be debating the unintended benefits of this ban, England fans certainly are not. Chelsea’s forced hand has every English man, woman and child purring. The utter wealth of young talent the Blues have is mouth watering. And now we finally get an opportunity to watch them play against the best. This transfer ban has possibly unearthed the future of the England team for a decade to come.
If we start at the back we have Fikayo Tomori. The Canadian born England U21 central defender is strong and versatile. He has slid into the starting Chelsea lineup alongside Andreas Christensen or Kurt Zouma whilst David Luiz joined Arsenal and Antonio Rüdiger is nursing an injury. The 21 year old (who is eligible to play for Canada, Nigeria and England) gained incredibly valuable experience last season at heavyweight Championship club Derby County (also managed by Lampard) and is now using those lessons at the top level. He can play in a back 2 or 3 and seems to be improving with every match. He’s eager and not intimidated by the elite strikers he’s facing. And of course, let us not forget the screamer he scored against Wolves earlier this season as well. The England teams always need more stability at the back (the current first choice duo being Harry Maguire and John Stones) so it would make sense for Gareth Southgate to call up Fikayo and have him locked into the setup before he is swiped by any other country.
Reece James is another youth product being given a shot by Lampard. The 19 year old England U20 player is a full back with much expectation. He likely won’t feature too heavily but can operate on the wing and is effective when a back 5 is deployed. Reece looks the business (was selected in last term’s Championship team of the season on loan to Wigan Athletic) and his ability to play in a few positions will have England on notice.
In front of Tomori and James is where Chelsea are overloaded with talent. Callum Hudson-Odoi is back from injury and looking to add to his meteoric rise of last season at Stamford Bridge. The 18 year old has already been capped twice by England and is a star on the flank. He has the talent to play behind the striker as well, which are exactly the type of qualities that garnered him so much attention from powerhouse Bayern Munich. Alongside Callum are the likes of Mason Mount. Mount, who also starred for Derby County last season, is a creative force in the midfield. He has been tasked with trying to make plays in the absence of Hazard and has shone. His tally of 3 goals in seven league appearances is impressive to say the least. The 20 year old has 2 England caps to his name, which will only increase as his minutes in the Premier League skyrocket.
And don’t forget about Ross Barkley. Sure he’s 25 years old and known to all fans of the Premier League, but this transfer ban has opened the door for him to finally reach his great potential. Barkley brings that bit of flair and edge to the middle of the pitch and he will be relied upon as a veteran this season. He’s quick and has wonderful technical ability. With Jorginho and N’golo Kanté, that can be a devastating trio. And for England, that is only positive as we’ve never really seen what Barkley can really do. He has shown glimpses but this is now his time to prove his doubters wrong and come on strong for club and country.
Currently injured but on the mend is Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The 23 year old England international is a superstar in the making. He is gifted on the ball and can score. Once he is back he will be given the keys to develop and further the major strides he made under Maurizio Sarri last season. Again, with Hazard gone and Pulisic still young and trying to find his feet (credit to Willian for really showing up and triumphing in this Chelsea attack thus far), there is a distinct need at Chelsea for a game changer. Loftus-Cheek can be that player. He’s strong and elite. He will need time to fully recover from his ligament damage, but there’s word he could feature for the Blues in November. Just enough time to get him bang in form for Euro 2020.
That midfield is real. But let’s be honest: all eyes this season will be trained on Chelsea’s striker. Their new #9 Tammy Abraham is the one to watch. The just turned 22 years old finisher is a bloody goal machine. Last season on loan to Aston Villa (who he helped promote to the Premier League) he scored TWENTY FIVE league goals. Yet to be capped by England at the senior level (he is also eligible for Nigeria), Abraham is a talent the English should not pass up. He has a soft touch and proper technique to thrash the ball into the back of the net. He has 7 goals in seven league appearances so far, which is just fucking ridiculous. Listen, he is still learning the ropes and will continue to have misses (he missed the decisive penalty in the Super Cup final versus Liverpool), but he is growing and proving to be brilliant. Southgate should have called him up earlier this season and Abraham should be replacing Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson as their fourth striker (behind Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford). Abraham is a true forward and can either spell Kane in the English lineup or start alongside him in a more traditional two up front formation (and to be fair, Wilson has played well and earned his caps but has to be left out for Abraham…and even Jadon Sancho). The sky is the limit for the youngster and this transfer ban has thrust him into the limelight. He has been thrown full on in the deep end and is thriving. Now let’s see him kick on.
That’s 6 players for England the Blues are developing week in and week out. You cannot have even scripted this scenario as perfectly for Southgate. This lot is young and is at the very least the future for the country. Mount and Abraham especially could go from Championship stars to genuine threats for England next summer. It’s special to see and will end up benefitting not just England but Chelsea themselves. This isn’t how they drew it up when they were slapped with the ban, but with Lampard in tow, the club can set itself up using players they’ve groomed for years and years. Let’s see how far they can go.