Academy Season Review: Part 2 - U19's & U21's
In this second part of the Academy season review I will be covering the happenings withing the U19's squad that competed in the first...
In this second part of the Academy season review I will be covering the happenings withing the U19's squad that competed in the first ever season of the UEFA Youth League and the U21's team that competed in 2 competitions this year, the U21's League and the U21's cup.
Starting with the U19's first who was the Academy's European representatives this season. Initially there was to be 2 European competitions for the club to enter as they were down to play in the NextGen series for a second season and a first season of the UEFA Youth League. However it was not to be as the NextGen competition was withdrawn due to lack of sponsorship which left just the Youth League. The competition was a mirror of the seniors Champions League only teams in the seniors Champions League were in this cup and the group fixtures would mirror the seniors.
Chelsea had an absolutely flying start by winning every single one of their group games and being the only team in the competition to do so. In the process they scored 18 goals in the group phase and only conceded one goal, the biggest win coming in the 5 - 0 home win over Bucharest. At the knockout stages the competition stopped mirroring the seniors and had it's own drawers and Chelsea would get a tough draw against AC Milan at home. Chelsea dominated that game also and put in a brilliant performance to win the game 4 - 1 with some brilliant goals scored especially by Lewis Baker.
Things were going incredibly well for Chelsea in this competition and it looked all set for Chelsea to go all the way even more so when the quarter final draw was made and Chelsea were drawn against Schalke who they had already beaten twice in the group stage. However it was not to be and with a rather dissapointing performance went out at home 3 - 1 to the German side.
It was a fairly settled side throughout the competition but only 3 players managed to play all the games which was Lewis Baker, Alex Kiwomya and Islam Feruz. There was plenty of goals scored and pretty much all of them were scored by the same 3 players. John Swift topped the charts with 6 very closely followed by Lewis Baker and Alex Kiwomya both with 5. The same players were topping the assists with swift and Kiwomya with 4 each and 3 for Baker so it is easy to see who the influential players were in the competition.
It was a disappointing end to the campaign for Chelsea but they showed once again as they did last season that they can compete with any team in Europe and will hope to progress further next season.
In the U21's cup Chelsea were once again competing in a brand new competition, in an attempt to recreate the success of the FA Youth Cup at U18's level and to add more fixtures to the season at this level, it was also open to teams outside of the Premier League. Chelsea first faced Cardiff away in this competition and ran out convincing 4 - 0 winners, they then went on to face West Ham and won 2 - 1 in another dramatic game between the two sides before facing Arsenal and despite being on top of the game could not score the crucial goal and ended up conceding in the second half and going out again in a game that they really should have been winning.
In the league however it was a different situation. Chelsea kept for themselves a settled squad throughout the season, not letting players go on loan in the second half of the season as they had done in previous season and letting this group of players focus on the league. That policy bore fruit and Chelsea were able to put together a fantastic campaign and finish and the very top of the U21's Premier League. That would mean that they would go on to compete in the play offs as to win the league it was not enough to finish top we would have to go on and win the play offs.
In the semi final of the play offs Chelsea were up against Manchester City and in one of the most difficult games of the season up again a very strong and dominating City team Chelsea managed to dig in and work incredibly hard to finish the game 1 - 1 and take the game to penalties which Chelsea duly won having take some very cool penalties.
That would take Chelsea into a final against Manchester United who have very successful in winning this and the reserves equivalent competition in recent seasons. It would prove to be another epic encounter in which Chelsea would go behind and have to fight back to get a goal back initially through Charly Musonda and then a very late winner from Lewis Baker to secure the win. Here is the highlights of that brilliant victory:
Going into the stats for the the U21's season Chelsea were used a total of 34 players for this campaign but half of those were to make less than 5 appearances in total so again it was a very settled team that competed in this season. Chelsea's top appearance maker was John Swift who made 26 appearances and was the only player to feature in every game this season. One behind him was Lewis Baker and then just behind him with 24 was Andreas Christensen who were all the main players in terms of influence also this season.
Topping the goals chart this season was Lewis Baker with 13 goals, 4 goals behind him on 9 each was Isaiah Brown and John Swift and then Islam Feruz on 7 the next behind Feruz were on 3 goal so again big contributions goal-wise from a core number of players. The same players were to have a big influence on the assists too as Lewis Baker was to also top the assist charts with 10 followed by John Swift on 9 and Isaiah Brown on 6.
So another hugely successful campaign in the Chelsea academy and also some very impressive seasons by some of the more important players. Hopefully next season will bring us more of the same.