As the summer of 2016 wears on and preseason is now in full swing, Barclay’s Premier League football clubs look to do the requisite housecleaning to prepare for the upcoming 2016/17 season. Among the many things to be considered in that process, is that regulations regarding home-grown quota are adhered to. In times where everyone is looking to strengthen their ranks, where does Chelsea stand currently?
In a nutshell, for those who may have forgotten, home grown players are those who have come through English academies. Eight home grown spots in the squad are reserved with the total squad list capped at 25 names. Players under 21 are exempt and an unlimited amount are allowed to play. In simpler terms, no more than 17 foreign players over 21 are allowed in any Premier League team Squad. Hence, it isn’t too surprising that English players go for such a premium especially to the big clubs. Foreign talent is much easier to come by with a superior bang-for-buck compared to its English counterpart. Consequently, in the quest to add depth to any squad, home grown players will always be pivotal. Chelsea (unlike Manchester United, Arsenal and Spurs) have operated with a shortage of home grown players for a number of years.
Who makes the cut for next season is far from final but in determining Chelsea’s potential course of action, the above list does give some insight. As things stand, the foreign quota is at its maximum and a player has to now leave to facilitate another being in the squad. Mind you, players under 21 are excluded but shouldn’t be disregarded. Soon they will take their seat on the bus and next year Bertrand Traoré will be counted as a non-home grown player along with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and on-loan Andreas Christensen as homegrown.
Antonio Conte enters the market with quite a few concerns on his mind re: his defense. A facelift is well overdue and after much tension, skipper John Terry extended his stay. It’s been clear that John is past his best but a ceremonial exit is the least he deserves given the sour end to his campaign last season. Antonio should be looking for fresh rocks to start building his blue fortress but, as far as home grown players go, John’s inclusion isn’t limiting Antonio decisions in the market. Chelsea is likely to miss the opportunity to sign a home grown replacement in John Stones and reports have been swirling around Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas. While nothing has been confirmed, one can assume that if it’s one thing that Chelsea’s new central defender this summer won’t be, it’s home grown. Someone will have to go to accommodate that. There is at least a silver lining and Andreas Christensen has been doing well in his time in Germany with Borussia Monchengladbach and will be good news for the home grown contingent.
The full back situation also remains one of uncertainty. Branislav Ivanović is on the wrong side of 30 and in decline, young Baba Rahman has yet to impress at left-back, and Cesar Azpilicueta is resolute in defense though not the best going forward. Conte may decide that some of these issues can be resolved over time as Ivanović’s contract expires next season and, at the moment, it doesn’t seem as if anyone is leaving. A player under 21 may just be who Antonio chooses to stake a claim. This preseason has so far seen Ola Aina as that option which may be a sign of things to come.
Mixed Bag in Midfield
The midfield welcomes a new injection of adrenaline in N’Golo Kanté and the Frenchman will go a long way in rejuvenating Chelsea’s aggressiveness in the middle of the park. On the other hand, the long-serving but subpar John Obi Mikel may be a candidate for departure and Chelsea really should look to cash in on the Nigerian while they still can as he enters the final year of his contract. Conte may have other ideas however.
Of all the players listed, Marco van Ginkel and Victor Moses’ history of being loaned out may very well repeat itself. Moses is a home grown player, however, and has a chance to impress his new manager in preseason. It is possible that he may have a place in the squad next season on such grounds. Otherwise, their departures would give Conte some freedom in choosing reinforcements.
Little change is expected in the attacking midfield. Cuadrado looks the most unstable option as he has made known his desire to continue at Juventus from his loan spell. Conte, in his press conference following his preseason defeat to Rapid Vienna, stated he wants to keep the Colombian but things remain unclear. Cuadrado in his last stint in England looked weak and uninspiring and most would not miss him if he goes. The attack is crying out for another player that can put up some good goal and assist numbers and the vacancy he leaves would make the acquisition of such a player a straightforward choice.
Attack almost Complete
Diego Costa, Loïc Remy and new signing Michy Batshuayi makes up the forward line. It has been well documented that Chelsea are targeting another forward option and Álvaro Morata has been the person of interest for some time now. Much like the other areas of the team, it is unlikely that any homegrown options will be targeted and the acquisition of the Spaniard would require some pieces in the current puzzle to be removed. It is expected that Remy will eventually make way before the summer is over. If, by a twist of fate, someone doesn’t come in, Bertrand Traoré represents a viable option. An eventual non-home grown player, but this does give Conte a chance to reinforce other areas such as the defense where at least one player is expected to go next season.
Chelsea find themselves in an interesting position. In gearing up for the coming season, Conte will need to take into consideration that he will need to make space in order to accommodate whoever comes into the team this summer as well as the players under 21 who will eventually take their place among the 25 in the medium to long term. Chelsea’s academy graduates currently seem to be the only option to add to the home-grown quota and foreign players more likely to be sacrificed include Remy, van Ginkel, and Cuadrado which would allow for the “one, two or three” targets Conte mentioned, subsequent to Batshuayi’s arrival, to be captured. One spot has already been filled by Kanté, another will be filled by a second striker and finally a central defender. Will there be more additions? Who will make way to facilitate that? When the story eventually unfolds, Chelsea fans will hope that this puts Chelsea in a much better position to reclaim their rightful place among Europe’s elite, come next September.