UEFA Youth League report: Ludogorets 1-1 Arsenal

Despite taking the lead in the first-half through Reiss Nelson, his second goal in successive games against the Bulgarian side, the Young Guns were unable to effectively see the game out and succumbed to a frustrating 1-1 draw after Preslav Petrov’s second-half effort despite creating a number of chances after the interval.

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The 17-year-old Chelsea talent with the world at his feet


Stats and data correct to the 7th of March, 2015: 

Chelsea have an abundance of attacking riches in their squad, with the likes of Oscar, Eden Hazard, Willian, Loic Remy, Diego Costa and their January addition Juan Cuadrado all to add into the mix. However, they have many youth startlets closer to home, waiting for their chance to shine in the first-team.

One of those, is 17-year-old forward Dominic Solanke. Born in Reading, Berkshire, with Nigerian heritage, the youngster has flourished and developed significantly over the past two seasons in the Chelsea youth set-up. So much so, that he was named England Men’s Youth Player of The Year for 2014 at the start of 2015, and has represented England at U-16, 17 and U-18 level thus far.

His knack for goal-scoring

During the 2013-14 season, Solanke managed to score 20 goals in 25 matches for the Chelsea U-18’s, an impressive feat. In doing so, he prompted youth coaches to stand up and take notice, earning a call-up to the U-21’s side where he currently showcases his ability on a weekly basis consistently. In all competitions, he has scored 15 goals and created six assists, in just 18 matches played this season.

STAT: Currently, he is the top scorer in the UEFA Youth League with eight goals in the competition, at the quarter-final stage.

STAT: He is the joint fourth top goalscorer in the U21 Premier League with Newcastle’s Adam Armstrong, having scored seven goals in 11 appearances this season. Ryan Seager, Adil Nabi, Chuba Akpom are the only players who have scored MORE goals than him, but ironically, they’ve all played more matches also.

Attacking flair and blistering pace

As a player, especially developing into a world-class one, you tend to have one or two strengths that you hold in high regard, as opposed to the rest of your game. For Solanke, as well as his goal-scoring ability, he has blistering pace to run rings around the defender, as well as attacking flair which adds an unpredictable edge to his bow; you are unsure of what he is going to do next, which he always delivers to devastating effect.

Chance to shine, when will it come?

In a star-studded team such as Chelsea’s, it is often hard for players to get the first-team opportunities they need to prove themselves at the highest level. Andre Schurrle, Kevin de Bruyne and even more recently, Mohamed Salah are three prime examples of this; they’ve gone onto pastures new and flourished with the prospect of playing regular football spurring them on to success at their respective clubs (AS and KDB, Wolfsburg; Salah at Fiorentina).

Jose Mourinho named Solanke as a first-team player towards the start of this season, but he is so far yet to start a competitive match for the senior team, something he’ll be eager and raring to do in the coming months. He has been on the substitutes’ bench on numerous occasions, which will do wonders for his confidence and help him experience the rigours of the Premier League, but the collective feeling is that Solanke needs minutes under his belt, whether that be for Chelsea or another club in Europe.

The most feasible option at the moment? Solanke has to be patient it seems, especially with Mourinho’s attacking headache at the moment, the youngster may find chances hard to come by, but his potential and obvious talent are too blatant not to look out for.