Chelsea is full in on the youth revolution, but the old guard still has a role to play. Most have a foot out the door but they are valuable assets.
This season is inseparable from the youth revolution. The sheer quality players like Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James, Fikayo Tomori, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and even Christian Pulisic offer has been outstanding. The club is well on its path to creating a new spine to carry the club through the next decade.
But where there is a presence of youth, there is generally an absence of experience. Not just the experience of having played in a big game, but the experience that comes on those dark Champions League nights where it is win or go home. Or dusting off from a terrible loss to rebound. That can only be learned and it will always be helpful to have voices that have been there and done that to guide the young players.
The likes of Olivier Giroud, Willian, Pedro, and Cesar Azpilicueta have all seen their playing time vary greatly from one another. They all know that they have very young, and talented, players fighting for minutes with them directly. And while a few of them have a foot out the door as they see the tide turn, their experience is still very much needed. They still have a vital role to play, even if it may not be on the field.
Giroud and Pedro seem the most likely to leave next and their losses may be the most drastic. They are both World Cup winning players and Pedro’s house is probably overflowing with winners medals from all the trophies he has been involved in. They will both know that their chances of unseating Abraham or any winger are slim. And while they can help guide those young players, they still want to play and that is why they have been linked with moves away as early as January. A lifting of the transfer ban will all but guarantee they leave sooner rather than later.
Willian and Azpilicueta are still playing plenty and seem to have really taken to their mentorship roles in this young squad. The question remains how much longer they will continue to see the field however. James is snapping at Azpilicueta’s heels and Willian is starving off Hudson-Odoi mainly due to his excellent form. Willian has been linked away but seems content with staying regardless of his playing time. Azpilicueta will surely never complain about his own.
Whenever Chelsea can buy again, these older players are likely to be the ones earmarked to move on. But there will be few if any players in the market that can replace their experience and the lessons they can teach the young guys. They may not be playing and they may not be as young as they once were, but Frank Lampard still needs guys like that to pass knowledge on. He could himself, of course, but the message comes across much differently when a coach says it compared to a player still going through it.
For as long as they can, the Blues should hold on to these players. It is understandable that they may want to leave but the club still needs them. They cannot stay around forever, but for as long as possible the club needs to lean on their experience.