Before (or maybe after) Chelsea take on Norwich City, here are a few assorted things to occupy your mind.
Chelsea are a bottomless trove of things to talk about, and sometimes, despite our best efforts, things fall through the cracks and disappear like a loan army player on an extended stay at Vitesse. On that note, let’s get started.
1. Charly Musonda’s ambitions still lie with Chelsea
Charly Musonda is on the third loan of his Chelsea career. His previous loan at Celtic should be enough for the Blues to never ever ever entrust Brendan Rodgers with another young talent (see also: McEachran, Josh; Moses, Victor). In a lengthy interview with The Independent, Musonda spoke about how his ambition has not changed since he was 15 years old: to become a part of Chelsea’s first-team.
Musonda has seven first-team appearances across three competitions and the Community Shield, all coming in 2017/18 under the eye of indisputable youth advocate Antonio Conte.
After scoring in his first start, against Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup, Musonda faded from the emerging prospects list. His talent was not and has never been in doubt. His attitude? Well…..
The picture that emerges from The Independent is of player who has aged through the passage of time but has matured and perhaps mellowed a bit through the adversity of injuries, unsuccessful loans and the unforgiving nature of the game. He ambitions and desires to play at Chelsea seem more sincere than the usual boilerplate of the exiled loanee.
The Blues already have two young wingers in Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic. They will probably buy a more experienced winger next summer to replace Willian or Pedro and provide more heft to the forward line. This cuts against Musonda’s hopes, but at the same time, Chelsea are placing a new premium on commitment, cost and Cobham. If Musonda is good enough to play at Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, he’ll play at Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.
He has this season at Vitesse to prove why he deserves an extended look next summer. That covers what he does on and off the pitch. Free advice: Stay off Instagram.
2. Callum Hudson-Odoi’s contract still unresolved
On the subject of young wingers making dubious life choices and whether there will ever be room at Chelsea for Charly Musonda, Callum Hudson-Odoi still has not signed his extension, even as the rumoured wages are up to £200,000 per week.
My colleague Olaoluwa said all that needs to be said about the foolishness of offering him that amount. Earlier in the month, Travis and Hugo both said – in so many words – Hudson-Odoi must defecate or extricate himself from the water closet.
I’ll shift the burden over to Chelsea. They have to decide if Hudson-Odoi is really worth it. Not if he’s worth £200,000 per week, but if he’s worth “it.” This. All of it. They have to ask themselves if their supplications to an 18-year old are consistent with Frank Lampard saying he only wants players who want to be at Chelsea and are willing to work to be there.
Lampard had a 32-year old Champions League winner – a former teammate of his, in fact – who was unwilling to work for his place and therefore no longer wanted to be at Chelsea. The club held Luiz and Lampard to their words and sold Luiz. If anyone in the squad could have charmed and canoodled his way out of an acrimonious transfer, it was David Luiz. Full plaudits to Lampard and Marina Gronovskaia for their resolve.
At some point, Lampard and Gronovskaia will have to sit down and decide if Hudson-Odoi warrants the same approach. We’re no fans of David Luiz and we want to be fans of Callum Hudson-Odoi. But at this point, consistency demands an ultimatum with quick resolution.
3. A note on standards
Depending on how things go at Carrow Road, this may become the subject of a full piece next week. Hopefully it won’t come to that.
Saturday’s game against Norwich is Chelsea’s third Premier League fixture of the season and fourth overall. That puts it at the same mark in the season as last season’s game at Newcastle. That game reinforced every concern and misgiving I had about Maurizio Sarri, and he obviously did nothing to change my mind in the subsequent 10 months.
So why will Saturday’s game be different in how I judge the club’s hiring decision or predict the contours of the season?
Last summer we weren’t predicting the future by looking into a crystal ball or calling up Miss Cleo. The concern in the summer and early season was based on Maurizio Sarri’s very established record of repetitiveness, and the question was how closely he would hew to that at Chelsea. Since he never broke through with his system in a less challenging league, it wasn’t hard to see it not breaking through in the Premier League, especially after we saw that he wasn’t even making the basic adjustments to the English game.
It didn’t take long to see that he would hew to it entirely. That Newcastle game showed us everything we needed to know about every game that came after (except for the first fixture against Manchester City and the Carabao Cup final – you know, the two Chelsea didn’t lose 6-0).
With Frank Lampard, we have no record from which to draw predictions or expectations. We can’t say whether he’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. His lack of a record is a separate concern in itself, but is also part of the excitement and the hope.
We can debate about how much leeway Lampard deserves for his status at the club. The crucial point is he is on the steepest part of his managerial learning curve: the beginning.
Maurizio Sarri, on the other hand, was on a plateau flatter than Kansas, and showed no interest in ever being elsewhere (well, other than Juventus).