Since Frank Lampard took charge of Chelsea, we have been seeing constant reports and speculation about a possible return of Declan Rice to Stamford Bridge, who the club let go as a 14-year-old. The current West Ham United player has since honed his skills and is now recognized as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League. Also not forgetting that Declan Rice and Mason Mount have been best buddies since their academy days, the latter describing the day Declan Rice was released from the academy as one of his worst days.
But do Chelsea really need the Hammers superstar?
One of the negatives that have surrounded the Blues over the past few years despite their many on field success was the lack of a path to the first team for academy players despite the massive investments made by the owner Roman Abramovich and impressive amount of trophies the academy won during that period. Now that has all changed with the introduction of Frank Lampard- last season he gave a staggering eight academy players their first team debut with the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori forming a key part of the team.
However, let’s take a look at a few players out on loan that will be fighting for a spot in a seemingly overcrowded Chelsea midfield.
These players include: Ross Barkley, Ethan Ampadu, Loftus-Cheek and Conor Gallagher, who are all out on loan to clubs in the English top flight; duly impressing in recent weeks.
Ross Barkley and his partner in crime Jack Grealish at Aston Villa have been leaving defenses in their wake with sublime performances, most notably against Arsenal and Liverpool. Due to Ross Barkley being the oldest of the players mentioned above and also the most likely to fetch Chelsea the largest fee if he is moved on considering his quality performances in recent weeks, he may not be top of the list of the players most likely to return to the Bridge to stake his claim for a starting spot.
Ethan Ampadu is more of a direct competitor with Declan Rice in the defensive midfield role, and can also play as a defender. He moved on loan to Sheffield United under the watchful eyes of Chris Wilder. The Blades are surprisingly in the relegation zone after 10 rounds of matches, but looking beyond their woeful form, Ampadu has been starting for the side recently and getting regular game time- slowly and steadily learning his trade which is preparing the Welsh wonder kid for life at SW6 sooner rather than later.
Conor Gallagher is on loan at West Brom. He got his first goal for the team just last week; a goal that won them the game. He can’t stop earning praise from his manager Slaven Bilic and his team mates at the moment. His passion, tenacity, and work rate has been evident for all to see, after also impressing in the Championship on loan last season with Charlton and Swansea respectively. If this form continues he should be playing for Chelsea Football Club very soon.
Ruben Loftus Cheek cemented his role in the Chelsea team under Maurizio Sarri before the unfortunate injury he suffered before the Europa League Final which Chelsea won in 2018/2019. Loftus-Cheek scored 10 goals in all competitions that season. Making a comeback from his injury having been out for almost a year, he doesn’t seem the same player. This prompted him to seek a loan move to Fulham. This experience will do him a lot of good, getting regular game time under former Chelsea and England midfielder Scott Parker. If he can get back to the form of the 2018/2019 season, it surely won’t be long before blues faithful see ‘Lewisham Ballack’ in blue again.
With these players all still out on loan and not making it into the Chelsea team, along with the brilliant Ngolo Kante seemingly back to his best since the title winning season under Antonio Conte and back to being deployed in his favorite deeper role, the competition for spots has never been higher.
Jorginho, who will walk into most of the starting line-ups on any team in the world, seems on the fringes and maybe on his way out of the club if the right amount is submitted, and players like Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic still battling fiercely for a place in the starting line up every week. Honorable mentions to other academy players like Billy Gilmour, Tino Anjorin and Lewis Bate. Which brings us to the burning question-
Is Declan Rice really a necessity for Chelsea?
Written by- Sulaiman Olatunde (@King_Quam_Zahir)