No matter what people say, the EFL Trophy is beneficial for the young players involved
Although the EFL Trophy has been met with disdain by some, there is no doubt that the experience for the young players has been worthwhile experience – with last night’s game affirming this even more.
Coming into the game, Chelsea had lost both of their games – against Swindon Town and Exeter City – as they learned the harsh realities of football at the highest level: mistakes get punished, as do lapses in concentration.
Unfortunately for the young blues, they held their nerve right all the way into the… minute, before conceding a late equaliser.
Furthermore, they will be able to draw upon the little nuances seen at professional level. For example, the use of the body or little kicks off the ball. All small techniques to mentally unsettle the opponent, and additional snide tactics that the young players will have to endure during their careers.
Playing in front of a big crowd was a plus, too. Just over 6,000 were at Stamford Bridge last night. Indeed, they have had more during their FA Youth Cup finals over the years, but this was a another positive nonetheless.
Good to see Kurt Zouma back
The highly respected account @ChelseaYouth made the interesting assertion that Zouma wasn’t as technically adept on the ball as compared with his defensive partners. Although an unpopular opinion, as Zouma is a popular character, his quality on the ball is something that he needs to work on.
Interesting watching Zouma with the Dev Squad. Most of the group are more technically proficient and comfortable with the ball than he is.
— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) November 8, 2016
Nevertheless, it is good to see him back. This was his first full game on his return from injury, so slack can be cut here. Furthermore, his presence among his young teammates was greatly needed. He made a number of brilliant blocks and interceptions that highlighted his intelligence and positional play, and why he is one of the world’s best young defenders.
Ola Aina is ready
Something we all know, anyway. In the first half especially, Aina was a threat from left wing-back, with his pace and strength keeping Oxford’s right side on the back foot throughout the game.
He’s physically ready. He’s technically ready. He has already made his Premier League debut, in addition to being named on the bench various times. And showing from last night’s performance, he is ready to slot into the wing-back positions at first team level when called upon, and not only look comfortable, but make a positive impact on the game.
Is 3-4-3 Chelsea’s new DNA?
Antonio Conte has imposed his favoured 3-4-3 on Chelsea’s first team, but has he encouraged Chelsea’s academy sides to do the same, too. It appears he has, with the U21s adopting this formation last night, in addition to the U18s last week.
It makes sense to do this, as it builds a continuity and prepares Chelsea’s young players to slot seamlessly into Conte’s side should they be called up to his squad.
Dan Crowley has a lot to do if he is to have a future at Arsenal
The attacking midfielder is a talent – we know that. But does HE believe that he has what it takes to make it to the next level. A game like last night, against many of his peers, should have been an opportunity for him to stand out and show everyone what he is all about: Creativity and guile.
However, Crowley allowed the game to pass him by and was a largely ineffective figure in the number 10 position. There were some glimpses of his class – a few neat touches here and there, and an appreciation of space, but he was largely playing within himself instead of aiming to impose himself on the game.
With three goals to his name for Oxford this season, he has proved that he can make an impression at professional level, but he needs to make it more often if he is going to get a look-in in Arsene Wenger’s squad in the future.