Chelsea: Earning minutes and overcoming challenges makes better players

CARDIFF, WALES - OCTOBER 11: Sergio Ramos of Spain and Ethan Ampadu of Wales clash during the International Friendly match between Wales and Spain on October 11, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - OCTOBER 11: Sergio Ramos of Spain and Ethan Ampadu of Wales clash during the International Friendly match between Wales and Spain on October 11, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) /
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A player not playing or struggling is often seen as a disaster. But to be a Chelsea level player, that is something to overcome.

Ethan Ampadu’s loan to Red Bull Leipzig was viewed positively by many. It was ambitious, sure, but this was a player who was getting Premier League starts under Antonio Conte. Though it would be a challenge, it seemed like one that Ampadu would be capable of meeting.

Thus far things have not gone well for Ampadu. He spent the early days injured and has struggled to break into a good Leipzig side every since. Many want him recalled because he is wasting away on their bench.

But if he cannot rise to the challenge of Leipzig, how can he rise to the challenge of Chelsea? There seems to be a strong trend where if a player fails on a loan or barely plays at some point or another, they need to hit reset. But not all challenges are created equal and if a player wants to play for the likes of Chelsea, they need to be able to rise to challenges.

Take Christian Pulisic for example. He has been struggling for minutes at Chelsea with quite a debate over how right or wrong that is. But if Pulisic is able to rise to the challenge and convince Frank Lampard he should play more, does that not make him a stronger player?

Would Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, or Fikayo Tomori be where they are now if they did not face challenges earlier in their career? Abraham struggled in the Premier League with Swansea and many thought his time was done. Mount took time to find a spot at Vitesse. Tomori had two subpar loans in a row and then became Derby’s key player and Chelsea’s best center back.

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It is easy to send players out on loan where they will play all the time and excel. But that does not make them Chelsea level players. Part of the loan army’s goal is to challenge these players to be better than they were when they left. If they have to push their way ahead of someone else, that is a challenge that makes them a better player. If they have fight and scrap for ever single minute, that makes them a better player.

Chelsea is not a small team. Only the best of the best end up at a club of that caliber. And the best of the best are tested throughout their careers. They rise to challenges, surpass them, and look for the next.

So while it is disappointing that Ampadu is struggling to see the Leipzig pitch, it does not mean his Chelsea career is over if he stays there the full season. It means he has the opportunity to rise to a challenge that will ultimately make him a better player overall. And if he does not end up breaking through, that is okay too. Tomori and Abraham both showed that temporary setbacks do not need to be permanent ones.

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Trust in Ampadu’s ability to compete. If he can meet a challenge like Leipzig, he can be a Chelsea player. Coddling him is not the answer. He must sink or learn to swim. That is part of the challenge Chelsea has presented him and he either rises up or falls down to the depths.