Antonio Conte believes Andreas Christensen is a fine example for those young players at the club harbouring aspirations of breaking into the first team.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s Carabao Cup game against Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge, the Blues boss discussed the subject of less experienced players being given opportunities to impress.
In his pre-match press conference yesterday, Conte indicated both Charly Musonda and Kenedy will be involved against the Championship side, and Chelsea supporters may also get the chance to see Ethan Ampadu [pictured below], a summer signing from Exeter City, in action with the Italian confirming the 17-year-old will be part of his matchday squad.
Ampadu, who signed a professional contract with the club this week shortly after his birthday, has featured for our development squad and earned a first call-up to Wales squad during the most recent international break although did not play.
‘Ampadu is a young player but he has good quality and the prospect to become a Chelsea player,’ said Conte. ‘He’s strong physically, good technically and he has a good personality so we have to continue to work with him to try to improve him and bring him to the next step.
‘I don’t think if your national team call you up and you are only 16 they put pressure on you. He must be proud, but for sure he has to work a lot to deserve another call-up. We are pleased because he’s a Chelsea player and a good prospect for us.’
Conte used the examples of Christensen and Nathaniel Chalobah, who moved to Watford in search of more regular football, to discuss the subject of talented young players breaking into the first team at the biggest clubs.
‘Last season Chalobah had the chance to play, but don’t forget we won the league and our midfielders were Matic, Kante and Fabregas,’ explained the Blues boss. ‘You have to consider all of these components. Chalobah was our fourth midfielder and he had the chance to play but it’s normal that if you want to play regularly with a great club you must deserve to play. To play in Kante’s place, Matic’s place or Fabregas’s place, if you show you are better than these players I’m ready to do it.
‘Now we have a clear example with Andreas Christensen. He played on loan for two years with Borussia Monchengladbach, now he’s in our squad and he’s played in nearly every game. He’s ready to play in the Champions League and play from the start with us. For young players it’s important to find the right path and have good experience to be ready to play for Chelsea.
‘Every coach wants to win. I don’t care if a player is young or old. If a 36-year-old makes me happy and helps me to win I will put him in and it’s the same for a 16-year-old, I’m ready to do it. Don’t forget, my first appearance in Serie A was when I was just 16. I think I’m the first person to trust the young players if they deserve the chance and give me the possibility to win, because I want to win, not lose.
‘When you start your career with a team who doesn’t fight for the title it’s easier to find space because the clubs try to give chances to the young players so they can sell them. It’s an enormous difference to start your career with a team who fights for the title, compared to one who is fighting relegation or in a normal position.’
Over the course of the next week we will play three matches in as many competitions, with tonight’s game preceding a trip to Stoke in the Premier League and a Champions League tie away at Atletico Madrid next Wednesday.
Conte’s immediate focus, however, is on ensuring we get the better of a Nottingham Forest side who showed their capabilities in the previous round of the tournament.
‘This season we have to face four competitions, the Carabao Cup is one of them and we want to do our best but it’s not easy,’ he said.
‘When you are at the first stage of this competition sometimes you have the opportunity to give more chances to some players who are not playing a lot. But these competitions in England are very tough. For example, Nottingham Forest beat Newcastle in the previous round. You must put that difficulty in a box and take a risk.’