Academy Season Review: Part 1 - U18's
It has been another season of success for the Chelsea Academy and in the blogs I will doing I wil...
It has been another season of success for the Chelsea Academy and in the blogs I will doing I will cover the goings on and stats at various levels of the academy, starting now with the U18's. For the U18's there are 2 trophies up for grabs, the league and the FA Youth Cup and Chelsea have very good record in the Youth Cup. So how has this season gone and who are the key players?
There have been plenty of changes to academy football over the last few season and this season saw the U18's Premier league split into 2 with a North division and a south division with the teams having to play the teams in their own group twice home and away and the teams in the other division once either home or away. Chelsea invariably always play plenty of young players a lots of schoolboys at this level which means that the league finishes are never that high and this season Chelsea managed to finish 5th in the Southern division.
The record showed that they played a total of 31 league games winning 14 games, drawing 7 and losing 10 which a decent enough record. They scored a total of 63 goals and conceded 47 meaning a goal difference of 16. In total including the FA Youth Cup Chelsea used a total of 45 players which is a big number of players. Only 14 of those players finished the season as 18 years old and 18 of those players finished as 16 year old or younger. Those are very impressive figures and shows how the Chelsea academy look to push through players as early as possible.
The top appearance makers at U18's level this season was Ola Aina and Domonic Solanke with a total of 26 appearances for the season followed by Kasey Palmer, Jordan Houghton and George Brady with 25 appearances. Domonic Solanke and Ola Aina were also virtually neck and neck with the minutes played also amassing a total of 2168 & 2165 minutes respectively.
As far as goals go there is only one name to mention and that is Domonic Solanke. The schoolboy striker finished a hugely impressive season with a total of 20 goals which for a Chelsea academy striker is a very impressive figure. He was far and away the top goal scorer with Kasey Palmer and Ambrose Gnahore coming in second place with 8 a piece. Solanke also leads the charts with regards to the assists charts with 12 assists in total for the season twice as many as the runner up Chike Kandi. So once again it highlights just how impressive the season has been for Solanke.
Chelsea also finished the season as FA Youth Cup winners having had an impressive run as they always do. The campaign started with a 4 - 0 home win over Dartford, that was followed up by another 4 goal haul against Sheffield Wednesday this time a 4 - 1 win. The next opponents were to be Cardiff and they would come though that game as 2 - 0 winners. In the quarter finals the quality of the opposition stepped up as the team went up to Newcastle and won a difficult game 3 - 2 to earn a semi final against Arsenal. That game as is always the case with the semi finals would be over 2 legs with Chelsea at home first and they got their noses in front going into the second leg only just with a 2 - 1 win. At the emirates it would be a tough tight game but Chelsea would also win that game 1 - 0 to go through to the final with a 3 - 1 aggregate win.
The final would be a 2 leg epic encounter with Fulham started with the away leg at the Cottage. Even though Chelsea looked to be in control for the majority of the game the lack of deadly finishing and slipping up at the other end meant a 3 - 2 defeat and with it all to do on the last game. That game would be something just amazing as Chelsea once again found themselves 3 - 2 down and 6 - 4 down on aggregate with 20 minutes to go but somehow managed to pull themselves back and win the tie 7 - 6 on aggregate
So once again Chelsea were FA Youth Cup champions. But who were the players to make the biggest impact at the U18's this season? Lets cover a few here:
Solanke who only turned 16 at the start of the season in September has absolutely everything for a striker. He is a big lad with good strength which means that he is able to hold the ball up well and win his fair share of aerial duels. But there is much more to him than that, he is very comfortable on the ball and has a lot of skill about him but his main attribute is his ability to find the back of the net which I am already mentioned he was able to do with deadly accuracy this season. Next season will likely mean a very early step up to U21's level with Islam Feruz likely moving on with a loan and he will fight for that role with Isaiah Brown. If he can keep developing in this vein he is going to be one hell of a player.
Having only earned his clearance to play for Chelsea at the end of last season this was Charly's real breakthrough season and he has certainly been able to show what he is about. This season was all about him settling into English football and the tricky youngster has worked hard and learned his trade well. Having been played is some more withdrawn midfield roles at time he has had to learn all sides of the game. Being a very wiry young man and looking like a strong gust would blow him over the physical aspect of the game may have been difficult for him. However his amazing skills on the ball and the ability to just glide through players much like Boga can do is something you cannot teach. Working best from a left sided wide role the young man will be looking to establish himself as an U21's regular next season although there are already stories of a loan which in my opinion would be a mistake as he needs more time to develop himself before that happens.
Ola has had a very good season, already mentioned that he is topping the appearances this season he has certainly developed well. A big lad who you will find it hard to be out muscled has played in a number of positions during the season. Predominantly a right back he has had playing time at left back also this season and also at center back, where is his best position? At times he has looked very comfortable in all positions and I don't think there is any rush to define his role just yet. Having watched him through the season his maturity has come along a lot and having made his impact at U21's level already there is has a been a very good foundation built for his future. More U21's appearances next season will be on the cards and looking to settle down into a role.
There are plenty of other players who have had big impacts this season like Charlie Colkett, Jay DaSilva and Kasey Palmer but the young men mentioned above have been the ones for me that have stood out and really shown what they can be about.
So now we go into the summer and a lot of this team will move on to the U21's and all the 16's that have worked their way into the team this season will be looking to establish themselves as U18's regulars. As always plenty to look forward to but we can certainly look back on this season as one of total success in all aspects for this U18's team.