The international players come back to Cobham this week and some will be walking especially tall, and that has implications for the Chelsea squad writes Blues legend Pat Nevin…
Everywhere you look on the international scene, Chelsea players are playing among the most vital roles for their countries. It could be Thiago Silva being the true leader for Brazil or Jorginho controlling the Italian tempo. It might be Timo Werner and Kai Havertz scoring for Germany or Toni Rudiger as the main centre-back, or Andreas Christensen cruising to another clean sheet for Denmark and becoming more influential with every game.Closer to these shores it is very clear that Chelsea players are also regarded as the go-to guys for any of the home nations bosses who have access to our lads.
Ben Chilwell opening the scoring for England was a brilliant moment for our marauding leftie. It hasn’t been plain sailing for Ben since the brilliant end to last season’s campaign but a recent run for the Blues was topped off perfectly by notching his first for England.
Sometimes there is a little inner groan when particular players pop off to the international camps due to the fear of injury, but most of the time it has a positive effect and on this occasion, it was the best thing that could have happened to Ben.
Both he and the aforementioned Timo scored vital goals against Southampton in the last game at the Bridge. Before that you could see they needed a little boost. You can’t do better in that situation than scoring goals and you can see the positive effect it has had on both of them. Their combined confidence is soaring and it has made all the difference to them.
I thought both needed a little injection of belief and more importantly even they knew it, but happily they have been mainlining positivity over the past two games. Both players look six inches taller as they walk onto the field just now and that is great news considering the run of games coming up.
On a related note, you would have to have a heart of stone not to cheer when Tammy Abraham got his goal against Andorra. Alongside Fikayo Tomori, they will always be Blues brothers. It is great to see Chelsea fans on social media particularly being so positive about both of them.
Doubtless Mason Mount would have been a starter for England had the game been a more challenging one but once again, it underlines the quality that has come through the Chelsea Academy. When you add the current excitement about Conor Gallagher at Palace, before you even consider those challenging for first-team starts at the club right now such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi, it is difficult to argue that any club on the planet is better at producing more top-quality young footballers right at this moment.
I noticed someone on Twitter ask if there was a Ballon d’Or for academies? If there was, then Cobham would be a shoo-in! It might have been tweeted with tongue firmly stuck in the cheek, but it was a point well made. With Trevoh Chalobah stepping up to the plate lately to be a serious starting option as well, the flow of talent which more often looks like a torrent is unlikely to stop any time soon.
The game I was covering this week for the BBC was at Hampden Park and yet again, the Chelsea effect was there for all to see. Now to be fair, as a Scotsman, it was hard not to be carried away with what was a brilliant game and a phenomenal atmosphere as Scotland sealed a 3-2 win in the 96th minute against Israel, to keep their World Cup hopes alive. Add on top of that it was Chelsea legend, and my old team mate, Stevie Clarke who was making all the right calls as manager then you will understand why it felt so good for me. I had a sore throat with the shouting and a sore face as well with too much smiling by the end of the game. In fact, I am sure I caught Clarkey doing a celebratory dance at the winning goal. Honestly, I did!
In the middle of it all, winning a penalty as well as being one of the best players on the field, was our own Billy Gilmour. Again Chelsea’s influence was impossible to ignore. Billy’s loan spell at Norwich will not be an easy one, as the Canaries struggle to get points in the Premier League, but it is important to see how he copes with adversity. Some players shrink in these situations with all the pressure and negativity around them, but Billy has stood tall, well as tall as he can. His performance in one of the great games in Hampden’s history underlined he is still benefitting from the loan spell however hard it is.
The international week continues and as ever we await the injury list when the lads congregate back in London, but I have never been less concerned in terms of the team as a whole. Obviously we don’t want any of our lads injured but the strength in depth at the club means we will be less nervous than any of our close rivals.
Maybe the weekend’s game, in terms of style and backdrop, is as far away from an international match as you get in the Premier League these days. Brentford add yet another London Premier League derby to an already decent-sized list, as if Spurs, Arsenal, West Ham and Crystal Palace weren’t enough! I’m never sure if I should add Watford here but in all honestly it never really felt like a true London a derby when I played. Brentford may not exactly be an unknown quantity anymore but they are certainly a lot less familiar than the others, so the danger is clear.
We will not be taking them lightly but then neither did Arsenal or West Ham. Still the top-tier newbies surprised their more renowned opponents by picking up all six points. There is a joyous excitement about the Bees that is infectious. With the fearless style they play I don’t mind admitting I want them to win most weeks, though obviously not this one!
I was at one of the best, most exciting games I have been to for many years at Hampden Park and I will not be surprised if this one is a cracker too. There will even be a new set of tactical questions levelled at Thomas Tuchel by Thomas Frank in their first-ever Premier League meeting. Fortunately, our Thomas has proved he could choose tactical questions in football as his specialist subject on Mastermind and he would probably beat all comers.