After our Under-18s started a weekend of London derbies for Chelsea with a victory over Arsenal, head coach Hassan Sulaiman outlined why his players will continue to be pushed hard in the weeks ahead.
Hassan Sulaiman has now firmly settled into his role as Under-18s head coach – he was appointed in February – and his side have put together a good catalogue of wins so far this season.
With four league victories and only one defeat from five games, as well as 17 goals, to show for it, Sulaiman has been proud of his team's application. Yet further improvement in the games ahead is his focus.
Going the extra mile
'We have started the season well and we will continue to put in the extra work to get ourselves into even better shape. There is always room for improvement and we are not the perfect team, but we have players eager to develop and showcase what they are capable of.'
Reflecting on the victory over Arsenal, he said: 'It was an important win for us against a very good side. The game was balanced but I do believe that we edged the game due to our final-third actions.'
He continued: 'We have trained on how to sustain pressure against teams and how to make our periods of dominance count. We did that well and it showed in the performance.'
Style of play
Sulaiman also spoke about encouraging players to play out comfortably from the back.
'It is an important element of today's game. We are encouraging the boys to be patient in their play and to pick the right pass to play. It is a part of the Chelsea Academy culture and we want to continue showing the support and giving them the tools needed to be able to do it successfully.
'These are the demands of the modern game and we want to make sure that they are equipped to meet these demands. This is not just playing out of the back, though.
'It is also, when they get into the final third, what decision do they make, etc. Playing out of the back is one aspect of the game, but we want our players to improve in all aspects.'
One player in particular who has performed well under Sulaiman so far is Donnell McNeilly, as the striker has benefitted from the free-flowing style that our young Blues play with.
Having already scored two goals at Under-21s level this season, the striker has also contributed to six for the Under-18s.
'Donnell is doing a lot of things right, from his attitude to his willingness to learn,' Sulaiman explained. 'He has a big character and it is a positive impact on the team. He is always willing to fight for what he wants and that zeal has been apparent.
'He is working hard off the ball and we are refining his decision making, which is getting progressively better, and that is a pleasure for any coach. The goals are always a big positive for a striker like him, but the intangibles are what I am extremely pleased about.'