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Chelsea’s squad is younger than ever but lacking winning mentality

Chelsea have acquired the youngest squad in their history and although growth is starting to show there is a lack of winners guiding them.

It has been over two years since Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital became the new owners of the Blues, taking over from the highly successful Roman Abramovich.

And the way the Chelsea squad has evolved (or devolved) has been a stark contrast to the operation the Russian oligarch used to run.

Long are the days of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Petr Cech and Ashley Cole running the roost at Cobham and Stamford Bridge, as there is a completely younger feel to the players.

When the Blues won the Champions League for the first time in 2012, they had an average age of just over 27, with only six players under 23 in the squad, and game time was varying for them.

Compare that to this current crop of talent and the age of the squad lies at 24 and a half, and 12 players within the squad are younger than 23.

It has been a hectic transition, with struggling performances on the pitch heavily featuring since the takeover, with Chelsea finishing sixth in the Premier League and now going back-to-back years without silverware for the first time since pre-Abramovich.

Failure to lift trophies is an unusual feeling for Chelsea fans, and the host of Chelsea Fan TV Charlie Patrick believes that it is a mentality problem rather than a lack of talent.

He said: “You go back to 2012 and you look at a team that is full of experienced players, internationals and winners.

“I just think football has changed a lot in that space of time, and the Premier League is more competitive now and clubs that weren’t breaking through at the top are.

“I believe the winners that we had in the past, and those leaders we had then we have now got less of.

“Football is producing different players, and the modern-day player is very different to the players 10-12 years ago.

“There are more technicians compared to the powerful, stronger players we had and the leaders and real warriors that were in our squad.

“Now there is no leadership and only a couple of established players.”

Age is not the only measure of experience as Chelsea have continued to win throughout the years despite the squad’s age massively decreasing, but the club’s reliance on youth has never been greater.

As mentioned in their Champions League winning campaign 12 years ago, only a 20-year-old Oriol Romeu made more than 20 appearances out of the three under-21 players in the team.

In their two Premier League winning campaigns, youth also didn’t get much of a look in, with Kurt Zouma, who was 20 in the 2014/15 season, making over 25 appearances, the sole under-21 player to do so in either title-winning season.

This year five of the top 12 highest appearance makers started the season 21 or younger, including Chelsea’s player of the year Cole Palmer.

Patrick said: “You have players who haven’t experienced much in the game and for a lot of them this is the biggest club they have played at in their young careers.

“When you are struggling as a youngster or when you haven’t got a lot of experience, you need to look to the senior players through difficult moments.

“To let them know what it takes to play for Chelsea, and there isn’t enough of that. We have collapsed in games over recent years because we don’t have people who demand more off other players.”

It was only three years ago that Chelsea lifted their second Champions League but, unlike the likes of Manchester City, they have failed to integrate new players into their squads to learn of the leaders.

Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen both left after their contracts expired in 2022, with club captain Cesar Azpilicueta leaving the year after with N’Golo Kante, and Chelsea’s squad planning has been poor when it has come to replacing senior professionals.

Patrick added: “The biggest thing is squad planning, and that falls on both ownerships. We let players leave for free to some of the biggest clubs in the world and that is such poor planning.

“There has been a lack of succession planning, and Chelsea haven’t done enough about when players move on and thinking two or three years ahead.”

But despite obvious flaws in Chelsea’s squad, there have been clear improvements since the heavy investment started.

A total of 28 players have been signed since the takeover, and that saw the 2022/23 squad balloon to 32 players, now cut down to 27.

Out of those 32 players, none of them scored more than 10 goals across the 50-game season, compared to this year where Nicolas Jackson and Palmer have hit deep into double digits.

As a result, Chelsea have scored 44 more goals than they did last year.

Patrick said: “They are not bad footballers. We have a World Cup winner, and people who have proven they can do stuff on the international stage, or in the Champions League or at previous clubs.

“But ultimately, with this strategy, the short-to-medium term has been neglected and in the long term I don’t actually have that many doubts that this will work out.

“I think the club has taken a huge gamble on hoping these players can reach their potential but there are some players who aren’t good enough to play for Chelsea right now and some who aren’t good enough at all.

“We will find out a lot about what Chelsea are wanting to do in the next couple of years by the business that is conducted this summer.

“If no leadership or experienced heads are added to the squad and more kids come through it will be a long time until this club is competing at the top again.”

It also looks as if they have steered away from experience even when recruiting Mauricio Pochettino’s replacement as Chelsea look set to appoint Leicester City manager Enzo Maresca.

And as Chelsea’s squad gets younger with Silva’s departure, Maresca will need to find a way to add that winning mentality to his new club.

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