In the wake of the transfer ban, Frank Lampard handed opportunities to several academy players. For years, our academy has been touted as the best in the country and we’ve been accused of neglecting those players. But this season, all that changed, as Lampard gave chances to many youngsters with mostly positive results. A few of them played more regularly than others, with varying degrees of success. Let’s take a look at how well the
players took their chances.
Arguably our Young Player of the Season, Mason Mount enjoyed a terrific breakthrough campaign at Stamford Bridge. Fans who have been following the kid’s development will know of some of the similarities he shares with Lampard himself. A quick, box to box midfielder, with an eye for goal, Mount played 32 times in the league, boasting a tally of 6 goals and 7 assists, which for a 21-year-old is absolutely incredible. But, it’s not only his goal contributions that make him so special, his versatility is one of the reasons why he is so important for us.
A lot of times, he played on the wing and was even deployed deeper into the midfield. He excelled in those roles, with his defensive work rate and pressing game never coming into question. There have been many highlights, like those goals against Aston Villa and Everton, and the final day free-kick against Wolves, which helped seal Champions League football for next season. Bar some dips in performances during winter, mainly because of playing so many games, Mount has been one of the most consistent performers in a Chelsea shirt and will surely be one of our biggest and most important players in years to come.
Our top scorer this season with 18 goals in all competitions, Tammy Abraham had a very impressive first season as well. He didn’t hit the ground running from the get go, but, his form for almost the first four months of the season is one of the main reasons why Chelsea were able to finish in the top four. He seemed to be scoring in every other game in the league at that time, with some labelling him as “The Away Day King”.
His standout moment was of course that fantastic hat-trick away at Wolves, where we won the game 5-2. After the winter period he struggled with injuries, found himself in and out of the squad, which might have resulted in a slight loss of confidence. Since the restart, he has shown flashes of his former self, with goals against Crystal Palace and Liverpool and there should be no doubts as to whether the 22-year-old can be our number 9 for many more years, even with the arrival of Timo Werner.
Reece James has been very highly rated since a very young age. Last season on loan at Wigan Athletic, he was one of their best players and even found himself in the Championship team of the season. He spent the start of this season sidelined due to an injury he picked up in the pre-season. He started getting games in other competitions after coming back, but didn’t become a regular in the league till early January. Since then he has mostly looked steady in defence with a few lacklustre performances, mainly due to the lack of maturity in his game.
Going forward, he can be a real menace, especially with his crossing ability (crosses that no one could finish off this season). His standout moment is obviously that goal in the 4-4 draw against Ajax in the Champions League, where he tore the net with a delightful strike. He has also shown some leadership qualities in a side which has often been criticised for lacking big personalities. Expect more from this supremely talented youngster in the years to come.
Fikayo Tomori enjoyed somewhat of a mixed bag of a season, where he struggled with injuries for the majority of the campaign. He started brightly, there were some particularly brilliant moments, like against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge where he kept Mohamed Salah quiet for the entirety of the game and his performance away at Ajax in the Champions League where he ensured we kept a clean sheet. There was also that screamer against Wolves, which is arguably our goal of the season. As the season progressed his performance levels started to drop.
Serious injuries meant he couldn’t get into the squad for a very long time. There have been some reports of him going on another loan next season, which might be exactly what he needs at the moment to get his confidence back and claim his place in the team again.
Callum Hudson-Odoi has always been very highly rated at the club. He was the best player in the youth teams which were very successful. After many speculations about his future in January 2019, he decided to continue with the Blues by signing a new contract. However, he picked up a major achilles injury before the 19/20 campaign began and that has haunted him ever since. He started to get game time in the Premier League by September and looked very sharp in his first few games. His best performance came against Newcastle United at home, where he assisted the only goal of the game and was a problem for their defenders throughout the game. He started to struggle as the games started coming thick and fast, picking up a few more knocks along the way.
He found it difficult to get into the starting lineup towards the backend of the season, particularly due to the excellent form of Christian Pulisic and Willian, but did a decent job whenever he was called upon. A fully fit and committed Hudson-Odoi can be a real danger and the perfect partner for Christian Pulisic on the wings and at only 19 years of age, you surely back him to fulfil the potential.
19-year-old Billy Gilmour hasn’t had as many opportunities as some of the names mentioned above, but it won’t be long before he starts getting them. This was the campaign where he rose to prominence in world football with some mesmerising displays. His MOTM performances against Liverpool in the FA Cup and Everton in the Premier League were so good that people couldn’t stop talking about him for weeks. World greats like Roy Keane publicly claimed how impressed they were with him.
He was even getting games after the restart, keeping Jorginho on the bench, until he picked up a knee injury which ruled him out of the final few games of the season. Gilmour has a sense of awareness and confidence in his game which you see in world class individuals. Even at such a young age, on his day, he can run the game from midfield. Expect him to rise to superstardom very soon.