Sarri to put more trust in Chelsea’s youngsters?


One of the things Maurizio Sarri has been most criticised for this season is his unwillingness to trust youngsters. Callum Hudson-Odoi was the main absentee who got people talking about this, but there are other examples within the Chelsea team.

With the potential of a transfer ban looming, if Sarri remains as Chelsea manager past this season he will need to start using the talented academy graduates at his disposal. Throughout the campaign it seemed as though this was something the Italian wasn’t happy to do, though Thursday’s win against Brighton & Hove Albion could be the signal for change.

Sarri had declared Hudson-Odoi ready to play shortly before the Brighton game. He ended up giving the teenager his first ever Premier League start, while also giving Ruben Loftus-Cheek his first league start of 2019.

Both players duly repaid his trust. Hudson-Odoi assisted the opening goal of the game when he breezed part Anthony Knockaert, before firing a low ball into Olivier Giroud who bundled the ball home.

Having scored a controversial winner against Cardiff City, Loftus-Cheek was the scorer of Chelsea’s final goal as they won 3-0. He received the ball from Eden Hazard on the turn before calmly side footing it into the top corner from outside the box.

Both of the goal contributions from the Chelsea youngsters were executed with supreme skill and confidence. They must have seen this game as a chance to prove they should be in the line up for the latter stages of this season; they certainly took the opportunity to show what they’re capable of.

The question now is whether Sarri will continue to play them from the start of games in the league. Both players have impressed numerous times in the Europa League and with their latest performance, it would seem they’ve done everything possible to force their manager’s hand.

Tomorrow night will see Chelsea host West Ham United, with a chance to go from fifth to third in the table- though Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal will both have a game in hand on them. Each match between now and the end of the season will be vital for Chelsea going forward, as well as for Sarri’s job security. If he decides to play the youngsters against West Ham and beyond it will be a sign that he truly trusts them.

There is of course plenty more talent outside of Loftus-Cheek and Hudson-Odoi, which Sarri can utilise this season and next if he wishes. The likes of Andreas Christensen and Ethan Ampadu, 22 and 18 years old respectively, are likely to be deployed in the Europa League and could be used sparingly in the league.

Looking ahead to next season, players such as Tammy Abraham, Reece James and Mason Mount -who have all impressed on loan in the Championship this campaign- could all be brought back into the Chelsea fold.

Chelsea have had an incredible talent production line for years, which has been criminally under used by those in the Chelsea hot seat. Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek could be heading up the group that finally make their mark on the first team.


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What does Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s future hold?

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s appearance for England in Tuesday’s friendly against Switzerland leaves him in the unusual position of having played more minutes for his country than his club in 2018/19.

The Chelsea midfielder played 61 minutes of the Three Lions’ 1-0 victory at the King Power Stadium, having only appeared on the pitch for 33 minutes in the Premier League so far this season. That half an hour of action was split across two cameo appearances against Huddersfield Town (22 minutes) and Bournemouth (11 minutes), with the 22-year-old an unused substitute for the 2-1 victory over Newcastle United and not included on the bench at all in the 3-2 defeat of Arsenal.

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Gareth Southgate’s management a huge contributor to England’s optimism

southgateWhen England crashed out of the 2018 World Cup at the semi-final stage, losing 2-1 to Croatia after extra time, a nation was silenced. The England fans, so vociferous in their support for the Three Lions on the shirt and the 11 heroic ones on the pitch, were left gutted. For this one glimmering summer, the optimism seemingly extinguished long ago started to flicker back into existence. Football was coming home, they thought. But it didn’t. However, instead of the usual what-ifs and why-didn’t-theys, this time the team left with their heads held high, falling against a side who, once they grew into the match, were simply the better team on the night.

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England must come up with Plan B for Sweden game

Maybe it really is coming home. Maybe this is just meant to be for England. Maybe after 52 years they are destined to win the World Cup game. If England can win a penalty shootout, then perhaps anything can happen. Now in the quarter finals, down to the final eight of the tournament, they certainly stand a chance of at least making it to Russia for the final on July 15.

Tuesday night’s penalty shootout win over Colombia will go down as a watershed moment in England’s World Cup campaign. Until then, Gareth Southgate’s side had been untested in Russia, coming through two games against low calibre opposition in Tunisia and Panama before facing a second-string Belgium in what was effectively a dead rubber.


However, despite the understandable hysteria that has come with England making the quarter finals, there are lessons to be learned from the failure to claim victory over Colombia in 120 minutes of play. Southgate’s side struggled to create chances from open play, relying on set pieces and a penalty kick from Harry Kane to test David Ospina.

Sweden are a stronger defensive unit than Colombia. They might lack a big name player, a strike of Kane’s ilk, but they are well-drilled, well-organised side. It’s for this reason that Southgate must come up with a Plan B for the quarter final tie on Saturday.

Southgate has the options to do this. Jamie Vardy is a striker capable of stretching the pitch and giving England an effective outlet on the counter attack. Marcus Rashford is another who can use his pace to open up pockets of space, not just for himself, but for others around him as well.

Then there’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek. It might be a good idea for the Chelsea midfielder, who spent last season on loan at Crystal Palace, to start the quarter final against Sweden. Loftus-Cheek was key in breaking through the lines of midfield and attack in the final 10 minutes of the opening group game against Tunisia, when England faced a defence content with sitting deep and plugging the gaps.

Sweden will most likely pose England a similar sort of challenge. There won’t be much space to exploit in behind unless they draw the Scandinavians out, or if someone like Loftus-Cheek can push and pull defenders out of position. Dele Alli, in this regard, doesn’t do enough and so Southgate should drop him to the bench, particularly with the Spurs man apparently carrying an injury at the moment.

England showed their nerve by seeing off Colombia after such a tight and tense affair. But now they must show their quality if they are to get past Sweden and make the semi finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990. A Plan B might not be necessary, but the Colombia game showed they must have one regardless.

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Did England Really Try To Beat Belgium?



Normally, when a third match in the group stages of the World Cup is set to decide who wins the group, the game will be a rip-roaring affair. Often end to end, with chances coming and going with little to no indication as to which way the result will go until that first moment of magic – which often settles the tie. The winners celebrate, the losers stare into the distance contemplating the fact they now have to take on a group winner as opposed to a runner-up – a side statistically more likely to have advanced by a much closer shave than the winners. It is a tense time, and a period of uncertainty as the manager makes plans to overcome their first knockout foes and continue the journey.

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