Here’s a look at five talented Chelsea youngsters who could thrive under Frank Lampard this season and beyond, following his appointment last week…
Frank Lampard has made his return to Chelsea and although the jury is still out on whether it was premature after one campaign with Derby, an opportunity like this was simply too good to turn down. Returning to west London, heralded by millions as one of the club’s all-time legends, there will be familiar faces joining him in the coaching staff ahead of the new season.
However given their transfer ban, Lampard’s appointment is equally an exciting one for the club’s fringe and youth players who have a golden opportunity to stake their claim under new management. So with that in mind, here’s a look at five talented youngsters – in no particular order – who can make their senior breakthrough with Frank’s guidance going forward:
The youngest on this list, Callum ruptured his Achilles in April after starring in the Europa League and Cup competitions. Unsurprisingly, Bundesliga champions Bayern were lurking with the 18-year-old unsettled by a lack of playing time and despite rejected bids of up to £35m in January, they remain persistent in returning this summer even with his latest setback.
He scored five and created five more assists in just over 1,000 senior minutes, yet only made four Premier League starts amid pressure from Maurizio Sarri to select him given the club’s inconsistencies in attack. Recently posted a video doing ball work in training and is expected to return shortly after the season begins, while reports suggest he’d be more open to a long-term stay if Lampard is appointed.
Also still only 18, Exeter’s fury at receiving a low compensation fee (£2.5m) given his current ability and world-class potential is justified. Rejected both Arsenal and Manchester United to sign for the Blues on a six-year deal back in 2017, was quickly deemed too good to be playing regularly at youth level and made his Premier League debut in a cameo during their 3-1 win over Huddersfield that December.
Oozed class when called upon, making six more senior appearances that season while training as part of the first-team picture. An ankle injury derailed his progress slightly and Sarri’s insistence on squad rotation saw him used sparingly at best in the cup competitions this past campaign. A versatile player who can play across defence and midfield, the Wales international has patiently waited for his chance to shine and frequently features in matchday squads – but rarely called upon.
Currently sidelined with ligament damage suffered at the Toulon Tournament with England’s under-20s earlier this month, the teenage right-back will be hoping to return in time for pre-season – but that’s just the type of character he is.
The model of consistency, he made 76 appearances in two seasons with the U18 and U23s before going out on-loan and has three years left on his existing deal. Won plenty of new admirers and a host of accolades during a successful loan spell at Wigan last season, where he played all but one of their Championship games and even captained them to victory against Millwall on the final day as they avoided relegation.
Versatile enough, just like Ampadu, to play further forward in a defensive or central midfield role and is itching to return and fight for a first-team berth at Stamford Bridge.
The oldest and most experienced within this list, Tammy Abraham knows time is of the essence as far as his Chelsea career is concerned. He, alongside Dominic Solanke, were a devastating strike partnership who were successful across the youth ranks – yet his compatriot joined Bournemouth from Liverpool for £19m in January and is aware lesser clubs are ready to snap him up for a similar price if made available.
The key difference is he flourished on-loan at Bristol City and more recently Aston Villa, netting 52 goals and creating seven more in 88 appearances for the Championship pair. Although his Swansea stint wasn’t as successful in the top-flight, he believes there’s no better opportunity to break into the first-team and after leading Villa back to the Premier League, he’s right.
The question remains, is he ready? Higuain’s return to Juventus means Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi are their only senior options in attack so the 21-year-old must hit the ground running upon his return.
He was 90 minutes away from leading Lampard’s Derby side back to the top-flight but alas, it wasn’t meant to be for Mason Mount this season. Nonetheless, the 20-year-old playmaker still enjoyed a productive campaign – even with a troublesome ankle injury – scoring 11 goals and creating six more in 44 appearances across all competitions.
He, just like James, has been at the club since the age of six and is the only player that features here to have ventured abroad in search of first-team football. There, he starred for Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem and proved pivotal as they finished sixth while qualifying for the Europa League.
He’ll be hoping to breakthrough under Lampard, not least after learning from him first-hand at Pride Park and alongside Jody Morris who also coached him in Chelsea’s youth ranks. Everything appears to be falling into place at the perfect time.