Imagine for a moment that Chelsea had a player that, over a year ago now, absolutely bossed the to be champions of the Premier League. A player that, around that match, looked like the latest academy graduate to prove himself the real deal. Injury may have kept that player out for the end of the season and the beginning of this season, but no one that watched him could say it was a fluke.
Now imagine that same player had a chance to go on loan for the back of this season and was convinced not to with a promise that the minutes would be there to qualify for the Euros. And then those minutes weren’t there at all, despite him being the fourth choice center mid when the team only ever uses two.
That is the situation Billy Gilmour finds himself in. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has opted to stick with what works and that is fine, but Mateo Kovacic’s injury has to be the moment for Billy Gilmour. Clubs the world over would bring him into the fold rather than run two centermids into the ground (especially with one maybe being injury prone). If not now, then when?
Now, this is not saying “start Billy Gilmour right away”. That is always the argument when someone suggests bringing youth through and it is never what they are actually arguing against. The only suggestion here is that Gilmour, the fourth choice midfielder, be raised to the third choice (i.e., the bench at least) in Kovacic’s absence. Yes, that might mean he’ll have to start. That doesn’t mean he’s better than Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, or Kovacic who are not superhumans that can play 90 minutes three times a week for three weeks. It is simply saying put him in a position where he can be given a chance, a position where Chelsea isn’t running others into the ground, and not whatever strawman argument can be set up against using the youth.
Gilmour’s situation is very similar to Ethan Ampadu’s. Ampadu had been playing in the Premier League and holding his own. Then a new manager came in and couldn’t give him the time of day. His development stagnated and he went on loan to restart it. Bad loans only made it worse. Chelsea cannot have watched Gilmour and come away with the thought that the same thing will be okay again.
Jorginho and Kante are sure to start against Manchester City in the cup. That is understandable. But Gilmour needs to be on the bench in case one goes down or needs to be subbed off for whatever reason. He likely needs to start against Brighton mid week too as Kovacic recovers. He needs to be given a shot that has thus far be denied to him.
Even the argument of “we can’t risk playing kids” remains despite Mason Mount, Reece James, and more showing how silly it was last season and this season. Mount and James weren’t Premier League ready a year and half ago, at least not to the Chelsea standards. But they were given the chance and they took it.
If Tuchel wants to end the season without duct tape holding the midfield together, he’ll need to give Gilmour a chance too. Let him show what he’s got while Kovacic is out. If he does well, great, Chelsea has another midfielder they can count on. If he doesn’t, then Chelsea will at least know what they are working with.
Kovacic’s injury has to be Gilmour’s moment to find some minutes. If not now, when?