Academy Season Review Part 2: U21's League

Moving on with the end of season reviews at academy level we come to the U21's league. This is a brand new format for this year replacin...

Moving on with the end of season reviews at academy level we come to the U21's league. This is a brand new format for this year replacing the old Reserves league. This would take the same format as the U18's league, an initial group phase followed by second phase with the groups being split depending on where the club finish and then a play off scenario for the winner of the league. As with the U18's Chelsea's phase one group consisted of Liverpool, Wolves, Middlesbrough, Fulham, Man City and Crystal Palace.

Traditionally this level of football is a very tricky one for Chelsea, apart from the 10/11 season where we won the league after a penalty shoot out against Blackburn, with the combination of players going out on loan and players coming up from the U18's it proves to be a very unstable squad changing on a regular basis. At the outset it was thought that the idea of the new set up was to keep your better youngsters at the club and have them playing against the best youngsters from the other clubs to create a competitive atmosphere. Unfortunately it seems that certainly for Chelsea that philosophy was not adhered to. Comments from Dermot Drummy near the end of the season seem to indicate that he feels a little let down by the fact this was not played out and we will have to see if that philosophy changes at all for next season.

First game of the season saw the league start with a bang and a 5 - 0 thumping of Wolves, that proved to be a one off though at took us until November to record another win. We then went on an impressive run of 6 wins from 7 which was almost enough to take us through to the Elite stage of the second phase. However we just missed out on that spot and instead went through to Group one. The best game of the first phase was indeed the 5 - 0 thrashing of wolves, highlights here:

The second phase of the league saw us drawn against Everton, Aston Villa, Fulham, Middlesbrough, Blackburn and Sunderland. This time of the season also saw more players depart on loan in the shape of Billy Clifford, Sam Walker, George Saville and Lucas Piazon. Also the cup competitions at Academy level the FA Youth Cup and the NextGen series would also deplete the squad at times leaving us very thin.

In the end we managed to finish in the middle of Group 1 having picked up 5 wins from 12 games and losing 5 in the process. The pick of the games from this section being a 3 - 2 win over Middlesbrough at the bridge, highlights of which are below. Obviously finishing in 4th place meant that there would be no place for us in the pay offs at this level and the season would finish with a 1 - 0 win over Blackburn Rovers.

As far as appearances go Lewis Baker made the most this season with 16 starts out of a possible 24 games played across the 2 group stages. Baker is followed by George Saville with 15 starts and then Nathan Ake and Billy Clifford follow up with 14 starts. A total of 41 players played a part in this seasons league including first teamers, Marko Marin and John Terry. Islam Feruz finished top scorer at U21's level with a total of 8 goals followed by Lewis Baker with 6.

As i said it is been interesting to see how the new system will work and i will be very interested to see if Chelsea approach it any differently next season with regards to players kept around to play in this league.
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Carefree & KTBFFH!

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