Billy Gilmour is Chelsea’s version of Manchester City’s Phil Foden

Chelsea's German head coach Thomas Tuchel (R) and Chelsea's Scottish midfielder Billy Gilmour (Photo by LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Chelsea's German head coach Thomas Tuchel (R) and Chelsea's Scottish midfielder Billy Gilmour (Photo by LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Chelsea supporters were greeted with a pleasant surprise leading up to kickoff from The Etihad on Saturday. It was no secret the Blues were going to rotate heavily against Manchester City given the fact they were coming off a mid-week match versus Real Madrid. Thomas Tuchel made five changes in total to the starting XI in the Champions League semifinals, with the most unexpected inclusion being Billy Gilmour in the midfield pivot.

Gilmour earned his first start under the new gaffer against Fulham last weekend. He’s seldom been included in the squad otherwise, although Tuchel was adamant that he needed to stay at the club in January. This has understandably led to some frustration amongst the fanbase when the Scottish midfielder was left out of the team. However, there is no reason for supporters to worry, Gilmour is not like other youngsters. The Blues will not make a Kevin De Bruyne-esque mistake with Gilmour, but rather treat him like one of De Bruyne’s teammates at Manchester City—Phil Foden.

More from Chelsea FC Roster

This will seem like an odd comparison at first—bear with me. Before any of you try and get clever: no, Gilmour will not be a test subject as Chelsea’s false nine like Foden is under Pep Guardiola. Although I have to admit, seeing a 5-foot-7 Scot playing up top in the Premier League would be a sight for sore eyes. This is not so much a positional juxtaposition as it is a situational comparison, even though Foden’s natural position is in a David Silva-esque central midfield role.

Billy Gilmour’s situation at Chelsea is eerily similar to that of Phil Foden with Manchester City.

Gilmour has now received guidance from two managers since his senior call-up last season under Frank Lampard. The 19-year-old has made it four consecutive seasons at Chelsea (two with the senior side) without going out on loan. Neither Lampard nor Thomas Tuchel has wanted to allow the young midfielder to leave the club, despite his lack of playing time. Gilmour currently sits fourth or fifth in the midfield pecking order behind N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and arguably, Mason Mount. This has caused a stir as fans would’ve rather seen him loaned out as opposed to rotting on Tuchel’s bench or, often times, at home.

Gilmour doesn’t fuss to the press about his minutes, he simply puts his head down and works. Perhaps its the maturity that has earned him Tuchel’s trust, or maybe it’s the undeniable talent. The Scot has not left the club on loan yet simply because he is too good, much like Foden at Man City. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to infer that both Lampard and Tuchel view—or viewed, in the case of the former—Gilmour in the same light that Guardiola does his young phenom. The Blues’ German gaffer thinks Gilmour will gain more valuable experience training under his tutelage everyday than elsewhere on loan.

Both Gilmour and Foden have played the same role that experienced veterans have at their respective clubs. Foden has turned into the player he is today because he spent years training alongside players like Silva, not cutting his teeth in a mid-table, mediocre Crystal Palace midfield. Gilmour laces up his boots every day and competes with the aforementioned Chelsea midfielders, some of the world’s best. This may enrage spectators eager to see him play on a regular basis, but there is nothing but positivity coming from the club. The few times Gilmour has played—notably against Liverpool, Everton and Manchester City—have shown that he’s continuing to develop his game. He is ready for the big stage, even though he doesn’t earn frequent starts over the likes of Kante, Jorginho or Kovacic.

That being said, this is an incredibly risky practice. It takes a special player to perfect this method of development. Whether or not it eventually works as intended, we will not know for a few years. What we do know is that the Blues may finally have the means to accommodate such practices. Chelsea has a shaky history of retaining managers for lengthy stints—and that’s putting it lightly. However, Tuchel’s gotten off to a flying start and he’s ticking all of the right boxes. In order to perfect the evolution of a young player by keeping him at the club, there needs to be consistency in the managerial post. If the Blues are going to commit to developing Gilmour similar to how Man City handled Foden, Tuchel must stay at Stamford Bridge longer than his predecessors.

Next. Tactics and Transfers: In defence of Chelsea's Timo Werner. dark

Gilmour has all of the talent in the world, that much is evident, but it remains to be seen whether or not Chelsea will commit to the long-term future of the Scot in west London. A great deal of patience is required and the Blues will need to prove to the world they have that or else “the Scottish Iniesta” could turn into a world class midfielder elsewhere.