How mature has Chelsea’s young team become?
As the season reaches the natural break of an international fortnight, this seems a good time to examine just how mature the Blues' collection of raw, young players really look.
October 5th, 2012
It was notable in the post-match media bun-fight in Copengahen this week that Chelsea’s players all had the same thing to say about the team.
First of all David Luiz came out with the line: “We are playing so mature. I think Chelsea tonight were mature, because the manager has a great philosophy.”
Then Juan Mata said something very similar: “I think we’re playing like a mature team. Maybe it wasn’t the best game but we won 4-0. That’s the sign of a mature team.”
Given the way that the modern media-training of footballers works, it is surely unlikely that this was a coincidence.
But, as the season reaches the natural break of an international fortnight, this seems a good time to examine just how mature the Blues’ collection of raw, young players really look.
In the fist 11 matches of this season, we have seen debuts from a whole string of attacking midfielders who have looked special in their own ways.
Eden Hazard had a beguiling start: though has shown since that he sometimes needs to apply himself to the game in hand if Chelsea are to get the best of him.
Oscar had perhaps one of the greatest starts Stamford Bridge has ever seen from a player: scoring twice, including a fantastically memorable second goal, as Chelsea drew with Juventus. But he too has flaws: notably the need for schooling in his tackling, and work on energy levels that seem to flag all too easily.
Victor Moses and Marko Marin have both shown flashes of why they were bought, though have also shown vulnerability (Moses’ ineffectual performance against Nordsjaelland, and Marin’s apparent injury-prone nature).
They have forged together to make an attacking unit that looks at turns dangerous, exciting and pacey: but can also be too narrow, too obsessed with over-complication, and occasionally too lightweight for some of the more physical opponents.
Chelsea will take time to gel. That they have reached this stage, 11 competitive matches in, and remain top of both the Premier League and their Champions League group is a remarkable feat that few (including me) would have predicted.
But they now face games against Tottenham and Manchester United (twice) before the end of the month: both likely to be far tougher tests than those against a slow-out-of-the-blocks Juventus, and an off-the-boil Arsenal.
Those are likely to pose real tests of how Chelsea can apply themselves to beating an opposition with the talent, stamina and application to do them real harm.
Those will be the occasions for Chelsea to reveal just how mature their young team has become.
Words by Dan Levene from @BluesChronicle