THE YOUNG GENERATION: TOUGH TESTS
The official Chelsea website catches up with youth team manager Adi Viveash to review the last few weeks and to look forward…
It has been a quiet week at Cobham due to the exodus of players heading out on international duty throughout the age groups, with just a handful of first team players left behind, however one group unaffected and looking forward to a big league clash at the weekend are Adi Viveash's Under-18 side.
The youth team travel to Arsenal on Saturday morning looking to build on yet another impressive start to the campaign that has seen them win seven of their opening 10 league encounters.
Arsenal, although lower in the league this term than is usually the case, present a tough challenge and while Viveash's team haven't been in action since a 2-0 win at Stoke City on 26 October, the youth team manager has used the three-week break to work on various aspects of his players' games.
Speaking to the official Chelsea website, Viveash (pictured below) says: 'It's been difficult. We had an in-house game last Friday on the match pitch with a referee and linesmen to do as best we could to reflect a match scenario, and the level was quite good but you can't get the intensity of a proper game.
'We're preparing for a big London derby at the weekend. It's an elite youth game and that's what you want to be involved in. Arsenal always play well against us and they always put out their best team.
'They beat us in a pre-season tournament and I certainly learnt a lot that day. It was a very intense atmosphere on the touchline but hopefully our boys will have learnt from that experience too.
'We're obviously in good form and we've played some really good football, we're free-flowing in terms of goals but this will be our toughest challenge.'
The international break may hinder the building of momentum and form, however it has allowed the Under-21 group, coached by manager Dermot Drummy, to join the remaining first team players in training, and Viveash sees this as a positive step forward in the development of these players.
'This break has given the opportunity for Dermot and Andy Myers [the Under-21s' assistant manager] to work with and coach first team players under the observation of Jose Mourinho.
'You can get a little frustrated that you can't work with your group but we haven't been that affected this time. The boys that are away are all part of Dermot's group so we haven't lost anyone. We lose players next week, with George Brady and Charlie Colkett off to an England Under-18 training camp for a couple of days so that will disrupt us next week, but this week we've been more lucky.'
There are further big tests for Viveash's side on the horizon, with tricky league games against Leicester, Aston Villa and Fulham all coming up in the next few weeks, however the manager is looking forward to testing himself and his players against elite opposition.
'Villa are doing extremely well in the league,' he notes, 'and I was extremely impressed with them in pre-season. They've got a very good youth team. Then we face Fulham at Cobham in early December, they're flying again and always do very well in the youth league, and then the Youth Cup comes around.'
Last season's narrow defeat in the FA Youth Cup final, in which the young Blues eventually went down 4-2 on aggregate to Norwich City after two pulsating legs, has certainly whetted the appetite for more cup adventure this campaign. While the competition remains in its very early stages, the third round draw has handed Chelsea a home tie against either of four non-league opponents; Grays Athletic, Uxbridge, Dartford or Christchurch.
'When the Youth Cup comes around it still has that special feel for everybody and for us staff it certainly hasn't changed, it's still the big thing,' says Viveash. 'The draw has been interesting and we'll look forward to that when it comes around.'
Another competition in which some of the Under-18 group hold hope of being involved in over the coming weeks is the UEFA Youth League. A 100% group-stage record for Drummy's Under-19 side has guaranteed qualification to the last-16 stage of the inaugural European tournament and now the Academy staff have plans to spread some European football experience across some of the younger players in the group.
'Hopefully some of my training group will be involved,' says Viveash. 'Dermot and Andy's team have done tremendously well in qualifying already and that will open up opportunities for younger players. I really hope I get to see some of my group play in that tournament over the next month.
'Some have never travelled before so if they can get to go to Basel alongside the first team and experience that, it would be a great achievement.'
The immediate focus remains on this weekend's trip to London Colney (where Arsenal state admittance is by invitation only) and Viveash is expecting a tough, tactical contest.
'They are always very tactical games against Arsenal and I enjoy that as a coach because it challenges me,' he says. 'It's been a good week for us to have time to break down tactical points with the players, and then get them working on it, so hopefully we'll see some come out at the weekend.
'My group work well together and they are all nice kids. I see a good spirit among them and long may that continue because they're going to need it as we come into the winter months.'
By Sam Poplett