Frank Lampard has revealed that Ethan Ampadu was left off the travelling squad to seek a loan. Where he goes is one of Chelsea’s most important tasks now.
No one really knew what to expect when a very young Ethan Ampadu signed for Chelsea. Few would have expected him to be able to start against Premier League opposition and look so good, yet that is exactly what happened.
But Ampadu found life harder last season under Maurizio Sarri. Part of it was injury, part of it was not knowing where his best position was. Combined, it meant he played so little that it was almost inconsequential. He ended the season having played more for his national team than his club team.
Recognizing that Ampadu needs minutes now, Frank Lampard has left the Welshman behind from the Japanese tour for the player to seek a loan move. Given the talent Ampadu showed before last season, his loan destination may be one of the most important decisions Chelsea will make this season.
The position question is an important one, but not one as complicated as it has been made out to be. Ampadu is an aggressive player while pressing and tackling, but he also has a very solid passing range and vision to pair with it. But even if he is ultimately a center back, the skills he would learn in midfield would better suit him in the long run.
Antonio Conte first used Ampadu in midfield and likely only moved him into center back because of the coverage a back three allowed. So far, Lampard has only used Ampadu in midfield. Therefore, an ideal loan would have Ampadu in midfield too. If that is not possible, it should be a team that uses him in a back three.
It would also be ideal to send him to a manager that likes high, aggressive pressing. In the preseason games so far, Lampard has asked his side to win the ball back as quickly as possible and that is a skill set that Ampadu possesses. He should go to a team that allows him to further hone that ability rather than one that tries to reign it in.
The only remaining question is what level to loan Ampadu to. He already has a history of playing well against Premier League teams and he is a full international so a loan to the Championship seems like a step down. But as always, loans are a balancing act between playing time and difficultly.
In the Premier League, few teams look like a better fit for everything that Ampadu is than Southampton. Ralph Hasenhuttl has some of the most involved and aggressive pressing in the league and Southampton’s history of youth development seems like a natural fit. And though Hasenhuttl primarily used a 3-5-2 last season, a return to his 4-2-2-2 or even a 4-3-3 could also find a place for Ampadu.
Outside of the Premier League, Borussia Monchengladbach or RB Leipzig could be fantastic destinations for Ampadu if Chelsea can get playing time assurances. Gladbach’s Marco Rose and Leipzig’s Julian Nagelsmann are both unafraid to use youth and like to use intelligent high pressing systems. German clubs have not been shy about bringing in young talent from abroad and Ampadu could be the latest in a long line of similar moves.
A loan move is the right idea for Ampadu if Lampard cannot guarantee him enough minutes to develop this season. He has shown he has Premier League talent in him and that would be the best level to loan him. Southampton seem like the most natural Premier League fit, but do not knock the idea of (a perhaps longer) loan to the Bundesliga.
What is important is that Ampadu is challenged and is playing plenty. Chelsea cannot waste the talent of this player any more.