As the 2019/2020 season is now over, us Chelsea fans can now look back and reflect, proudly, over what has been achieved over the last eleven months. However, as football fans always do, we are naturally already thinking ahead towards the next season. Every summer Chelsea fans have the unique and privileged situation of analysing and debating the futures for the players in our ‘loan army’.
Do we sell? Do we send out on another loan? Which club is the most suitable for their development? Do they stay and play a role in the first team at Chelsea?
These are difficult questions to answer, but ones that are so important for the football club. In the last year we have finally reaped the rewards from our loan system, with Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Reece James all playing such crucial roles for us this season. This has proved that with careful selection and guidance, the right loan moves for our younger players, and recalling them at the right times, can ultimately pay dividends.
As ever, there are a vast number of talented players on the books at Chelsea who have spent the previous season on loan at other clubs and who now have question marks over their futures. For many Chelsea fans, there is no bigger question than;
What next for Ethan Ampadu?
The young Welsh international has spent the past year on loan at RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga. Overall, it would probably be fair to say his time in Germany can’t be classed as a real success given his lack of minutes. Ampadu made a total of just seven appearances at Leipzig, with only 79 minutes of playing time in the league.
In spite of this, many Chelsea fans may remember his fantastic and dominant performance in RB Leipzig’s 1-0 win away at Spurs in the Champions League this season. This performance alone was enough to remind us all why he is so highly regarded by both Chelsea and Wales. His performance in the Champions League that night, and for Wales on the international stage, has given a strong indication that he has what it takes to succeed at the highest level and play regularly for Chelsea football club.
This is especially the case given where he actually plays and this coinciding with current areas Chelsea are perhaps weak in. He’s often been deployed as a holding midfield player for Wales, and his impressive Champions League performance against Spurs was in the middle of a back three. These are arguably two areas Chelsea need to strengthen in.
In recent weeks, Lampard has reverted back to a back three, with Kurt Zouma in the middle, and whilst this has been somewhat successful, the middle centre back in this system is generally meant to be a ball-playing defender who is comfortable on the ball, a quality that one would argue comes far more naturally to Ampadu than Zouma. Additionally, with N’Golo Kante’s persistent injury problems, Billy Gilmour’s recent surgery and Lampard unconvinced by Jorginho, there is definitely an argument for keeping Ampadu at Chelsea next season, where he may prove useful given his versatility in these positions.
However, that being said, at still just 19 years of age, there is no need to rush Ethan Ampadu into the first team picture at Chelsea and one more season on loan could be exactly what is needed. Realistically, it is likely Ampadu himself would crave another loan in order to get as many minutes under his belt as possible, given the fact Euro 2020 has been rescheduled to next summer. Wales manager Ryan Giggs holds him in very high regard, but he has previously made it publicly clear that he was concerned by his lack of playing time. With this in mind, it’s likely that Ampadu will want assured game time, but at a high level to ensure he is selected for his country.
This could therefore very much lead Ampadu in the direction of another loan move, but this time, perhaps to a lower Premier League team. Playing against top flight opposition every week would be invaluable to his development and also give the club a better indication as to whether he is yet Chelsea quality. One would hope that it would be to a team, like Leipzig, who play football out from the back and have a similar style to Chelsea. As a result, a club such as Brighton under Graham Potter could be a perfect fit for him. A manager who has a good reputation for developing young players, plays football out from the back and a good chance of him getting regular minutes in the Premier League.
Likewise, Potter’s former employees Swansea City failed to gain promotion to the Premier League through the play-offs, and their current manager Steve Cooper, who previously lead England U17’s to World Cup glory, has been excellent at developing English youngsters Rhian Brewster and our very own Conor Gallagher and Marc Guehi.