We could see some of Chelsea’s next generation in the FA Cup game against Luton, such as winger Tino Anjorin.
For years, a running joke has been the lack of development from the junior team to the first team at Chelsea. Yet it is now possible that Chelsea might field a very strong first XI next season, with six internationals, all of whom are home grown: Blackman; James, Christensen, Tomori/Ampadu, Maatsen; Loftus-Cheek/Gallagher, Gilmour, Mount; Anjorin, Abraham, Hudson-Odoi.
Some loan players, such as Jamal Blackman (Rotherham) and Conor Gallagher (West Brom), are expected by the team to return. And if Fikayo Tomori makes his AC Milan loan permanent, then Marc Guehi will have to stand in, currently shining at Swansea, or Ethan Ampadu, on Sheffield United loan.
The fact that Chelsea is on the cusp of something exceptional cannot be overlooked. Barcelona was once featured as a blueprint for the creation of the academy and the style of Chelsea was in several respects an effort to copy them. Barcelona made a landmark substitute in 2012, in a La Liga game against Levante, when Dani Alves came off injured to be substituted by Martin Montoya.
The 11 players on the pitch were alumni of Barca’s academy before Montoya came on. And nice as the potential squad of Chelsea will be, it couldn’t quite balance the following: Valdes; Montoya, Puyol, Pique, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Fabregas; Pedro, Messi, Iniesta.
Chelsea, though, is on the brink of replicating the moment. And if Lampard holds his job into the next season, if he were the man to chose the squad, it would be appropriate. When asked about the amount of players he bloodied and created, he said, ‘I’m proud of that. Last year, I discussed it a lot, because I didn’t want us to become an academy club, I wanted us to win stuff and accomplish stuff.
‘But I made a deliberate decision when I got back here to look at the younger players, so we had a nice batch. But also to give them the chance to illustrate that they should break into the squad. That wasn’t something I had to do, people acted like I had to do that about the transfer ban.
‘But last year, Mason Mount was in the midfield ahead of experienced internationals and Tammy Abraham, like Fikayo Tomori, Billy Gilmour when he joined the unit. It’s double-edged, but I trust them and they’ve delivered for the team and for that they can also take a lot of credit.
‘I felt was a really important thing for players that come through the academy. Because they really feel the club when you come through the academy — and you should do. And they do, the lads. That’s a lovely trait to bring into the first-team squad.’
Mount is unique, it’s likely to play today, has shone on. ‘It’s important for the squad. In this work, there’s always a fine line as to where you should find rest for players vital to the squad,’ Lampard said.
The irony is that it is the failure of top signings Kai Havertz and Timo Werner to fit into the squad after a summer of heavy investment, which could end up costing Lampard his work.
The likes of Mount, James and Abraham have been to the fore in this grim spell, with Callum Hudson-Odoi starting to shine again. If outcomes do not change, that will not save Lampard in the long run. Still, when weighing up the pros and cons of whether to stick or twist, it should at least be at the forefront of Abramovich’s mind.