One player’s misfortune can open a door for another and for young Jeremie Boga, that door has been ajar in the first two of the pre-season games in Asia.
It was to the 20-year-old Frenchman that Antonio Conte turned when Pedro was forced off during the first half against Arsenal in Beijing. Boga did not let the side down and he was given a starting place three days later, by which time the venue had moved to Singapore.
‘Obviously I would not wish an injury like Pedro’s on any player but I have been getting a lot of minutes, more than I expected so I am very happy with that and I try to make the best out of all the minutes I get,’ says Boga, who also featured in the training match at Cobham when Fulham were the opposition.
This is not the only time he has caught the eye in pre-season and three years ago he scored a good equaliser in a first team match in Austria against RZ Pellet. His natural ability has long been recognised, and he contributed to FA Youth Cup and Under-21 League triumphs in his first year as a scholar, but it is evidence of the value of loaning players out in order to accelerate their development towards first-team squad standard, that he feels more equipped this time to be playing alongside our biggest names.
‘It is different, I feel more mature in my game and I am better within the team,’ he explains.
‘I am more strong physically and I am better tactically as well, so I think I have grown a lot and I am very happy to be on pre-season with Chelsea.’
Last season was spent making 27 appearances for Granada in La Liga. The Andalusian side were relegated but Boga still felt on an upward curve.
‘Even though last year was a difficult year for the team, I think I have learned a lot, especially because we had to defend and also technically I got better. Now in just the few weeks I have been on pre-season with Antonio Conte, I have been learning a lot tactically and he is good for me.
‘He gives instructions for the strikers, for the way we play and the way we defend also. It is very tactical and I think it is what I am missing in my game. I am really focused because I need to learn more tactically.’