Thomas Tuchel admires the determination of our young players to make it at a top team and feels their passion for the club is vital to Chelsea’s future.
Since opting for experience in his first game as Blues head coach, Tuchel has picked up where his predecessor left off when it comes to putting faith in our young homegrown players and giving them the opportunity to shine.
That was in evidence again in our last match, when six graduates from our Academy featured in the FA Cup fifth-round win over Barnsley, a fact underlined when three of them – Tammy Abraham, Reece James and Billy Gilmour – combined for Abraham to score the game’s decisive goal.
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In the German’s opinion, those players coming through the Academy are the lifeblood of a club and something he has tried to encourage wherever he has worked, due to his admiration for those taking on the challenge of breaking into the first team at a big club at such a young age.
‘Also at my last clubs it was always like this, the door is always open in my office for the coaches and the officials from the Academy,’ he explained. ‘I love to watch training and to watch in-house games on the other pitches of the Academy, although this is unfortunately not possible at the moment because we are in the bubble and have different zones.
‘In my belief this is always the backbone of any club and the more guys you have that can arrive in the first team the better it is for the club, because it is something that the supporters love and these boys normally care absolutely about Chelsea, because they live that spirit over years and years.
‘On the other hand they also choose the most difficult way. To make it at Chelsea, to make it at Paris, to make it at Dortmund, is one of the toughest challenges you can have. Sometimes the way is not only straight up, it's sometimes bumpy, sometimes you go on loan, but I like that they accept the challenge to make it here.
‘I feel from the boys here that they absolutely want to make it as Chelsea players. Not only Premier League players, but they want to be Chelsea players, and this is the spirit that we want to feel. When we feel the spirit, in combination of course with the talent, we will push them.’
One young Academy graduate who seems to have particularly benefited from Tuchel’s guidance already is Callum Hudson-Odoi, who has impressed in recent weeks whether playing as a winger as we have become accustomed to seeing, or in a new role as a wing-back and even, briefly, as a striker.
However, while Tuchel says that kind of versatility is a real asset for the team, it is not something he will force on players unless they are suited to a different position.
‘If you have a specialist who is a six he will play the six. There’s no need to push the six to play central defender or wing-back, but if you have players like Callum and we have the opportunity to ask different questions to the opponents and to the opponent's defenders, why not use it? It gives us the possibility to react and to be flexible and to help the team structure and formation’
Our head coach’s focus isn’t purely on the homegrown players from our Academy, though, as he also attempts to help the new players who arrived at Chelsea this season continue to integrate themselves into the club and English football.
That process has proven difficult for Kai Havertz so far. The German playmaker is currently missing as his first season with the Blues has been interrupted by injury and Covid-19, delaying his progress, but Tuchel is certain we will see the best of Havertz here, even if he feels you can’t put a timescale on how long it will take a player to adapt to new surroundings.
‘It takes time, there is no short answer, but what we can rely on is that all this potential is in him. It’s logical that it’s also in him to show it on the pitch. For every change of club, for every player, it is different. Sometimes it needs a little bit more time to adapt, sometimes it is quick. Sometimes it's between one match and another, sometimes it's a process.
‘All we can do is push him, support him and give him what he needs – we figure out what he needs right now. He had a pretty good start with us, he had good matches and I have the feeling that I see a guy who's totally clear, totally self-aware, very humble and incredibly talented. So there are no doubts that he will show this, the sooner the better.
‘Now, unfortunately, he missed some training sessions, he missed some games for us. Hopefully he can come back to us in the next few days because I'm absolutely convinced he will have a big impact on this club.’