Is the door slamming on the youth revolution at Chelsea?

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14: Trevoh Chalobah and Mason Mount of Chelsea at full time of the Premier League match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on August 14, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 14: Trevoh Chalobah and Mason Mount of Chelsea at full time of the Premier League match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on August 14, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images) /

Early Wednesday morning, Chelsea’s official Instagram page wished Ike Ugbo good luck and thanked him for his time at the club ahead of his permanent move to Genk. The deal is rumoured to be in the region of £5 million and comes on the back of a slew of young players leaving the Blues in search of regular game time. Ugbo, still only 22, sealed a permanent departure just a few days after Chelsea’s most expensive signing, 28-year-old Romelu Lukaku, dominated in the Blues’ London derby win over Arsenal.

Even if not publicly showing worry, alarm bells are sure to be ringing in Chelsea’s youth ranks. With no obvious path to the first team, Ugbo is another young, talented player who opted to leave the club that nurtured him. All of this begs the question, is the youth revolution over at Chelsea?

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Chelsea’s youth exodus begs the question, is the youth revolution over in SW6?

On the face of it, yes. The youth revolution that was launched under Frank Lampard by default due to a transfer ban effectively did what it needed to do. It kept Chelsea afloat when it couldn’t sign talent and it offered the platform for youngsters to make an impression. Chief amongst the major winners of the revolution is Mason Mount. A mainstay in Lampard’s team, and now Thomas Tuchel’s, the young English international is also a fixture in the national side. His movement, vision and ability continue to dazzle with the more games he has played.

Behind Mount there is now a permanent place for Reece James in defence. Andreas Christensen (a borderline, but still technically a product of the youth system) will likely play more too due to Kurt Zouma’s uncertain future and Thiago Silva’s age and fitness. Tammy Abraham established himself as the No. 1 striker under Lampard’s tutelage, but the purchase of Timo Werner, lack of form and minimal game time saw him occupy a more consistent role on the bench under Tuchel. With the return of Romelu Lukaku, Abraham found himself as the third and possibly fourth choice behind the Belgian, Werner and Kai Havertz.

While Lukaku stole the headlines in London, Abraham covered himself in glory in a fantastic debut for his new club Roma with two assists, and praise heaped on him by none other than Roma manager Jose Mourinho. Callum Hudson-Odoi started brightly under Tuchel, featuring heavily in the opening games before being infamously brought on as a substitute and then taken off against Southampton. Since then, Hudson-Odoi has barely graced the pitch, same with Tino Anjorin (who Tuchel is very high on), while Christian Pulisic has fared a little better. The American winger has had a torrid time of staying healthy but has featured when fit under Tuchel. There is also Billy Gilmour on loan at Norwich, who is already delivering Man of the Match performances, and Conor Gallagher at Crystal Palace. One surprise, and an indicator the youth revolution still has some gusto, is the play of Trevoh Chalobah, who looks to have convinced Tuchel he deserves to stay.

On the other side of the coin, the biggest name to move away from Chelsea outside of Abraham is Fikayo Tomori. The immensely talented youth product excelled under Lampard and then a sudden and surprising fall from grace sent him on loan to AC Milan, who pursued the purchase clause in his loan. Marc Guehi was another heralded centreback who regularly played with Mount in the youth sides moved to Crystal Palace this summer just before Tino Livramento and Lewis Bate, both incredibly highly rated, left for Southampton and Leeds respectively. Those two departures—along with Myles Peart-Harris to Brentford—really stung the Blues. Just like that, buyback clauses or not, their top three prospects are out the door. Another blow to the revolution came back in 2019 when the high-quality Jamal Musiala left Chelsea for Bayern Munich, aged 16.

The “kind of, sort of” notion comes back to answer the larger question once again. Arguably the youth revolution did exactly what the Blues wanted of it. It opened the door for youth players to make the jump, the ones that could perform at the highest level have stayed. Some have taken a sideways step, but still came back to benefit Chelsea in excess of £100 million. The Blues were never going to just throw everything away and stop buying world class talent. The fact of the matter is, if a younger player was playing better than Antonio Rudiger, Jorginho or Mateo Kovacic, you can bet Tuchel would give them a fair shot.

There is still Ruben Loftus-Cheek to consider. Still recovering from COVID-19, he has obviously done enough in training to show Tuchel he can be part of his plans. In many ways, there are elements of the youth revolution continuing with the likes of Gilmour and Gallagher; both midfielders are right on the edge of the first XI and gaining valuable experience and game time playing every week on loan.

The most worrying part of this for Chelsea is that the club is not choosing to sell these players. Instead, the players are asking to leave. Bate, Livramento and Peart-Harris were stalling on signing new contracts and forced the Blues into selling them, rather than losing them for free. There was a real sense of possibility under Lampard—partly due to his history with the club—but also because of the Jody Morris connection that firmly established a knowledge and sympathetic mind in the assistant coaches.

On the other hand, you cannot fault Tuchel either. He won the Champions League, stabilized the team at the back and by bringing in Lukaku, Chelsea has the ability to challenge on all fronts. Lukaku offers what no one else does—the Blues had to pursue him. Chelsea is a club bent on success, both domestically and in Europe. It has been improved by the youth revolution both in players and financially. While it has suffered some setbacks, there are elements that persist. In conclusion, yes, the youth revolution is kind of at an end—sort of—but that’s not a bad thing.

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What do you think, is the youth revolution over? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!