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Chelsea & Manchester City: Lack of first team chances will harm future recruitment

Why do youngsters continue to sign for these two clubs despite the lack of opportunities to break into the first team?


In terms of programme, coaching and structure, there is no doubt that Chelsea and Manchester City have two of the finest set ups in the country. Chelsea are extremely selective in their scouting process and won’t just sign up a youth player to string along and make up the numbers.

They then nurture these talents and have ended up with an academy that has won four FA Youth Cups in a row and who’s players have formed large proportions of the recently successful England youth squads over the summer.

Manchester City, on the other hand, reached last season’s FA Youth Cup final where they lost to Chelsea and spent £200 million on a training centre, stringent on developing some of the finest youth talent in world football. The academy even had a stadium built for them where they play their home games.

It is easy to see, therefore, why youngsters will have their heads turned by the luxury, care and detail to their development they will receive. But does joining either of these two wealthy giants bode well for a players future in the professional game?

Avenues into first team football

They may be one of the most talented youngsters in the country and on one of the best development programmes, but breaking into professional football is a whole other ball game.

In truth, yes it does bode well for their professional development. They are an extremely highly sought after commodity who many clubs would love to have onto their books.

They may struggle to break into either of Chelsea’s or Manchester City’s sides, but will certainly find other avenues into first team football later on in their careers should they impress in the youth system or on loan.

The penchant for big-money signings

If said player wishes to break into a Chelsea and Manchester City first team squad, though, then perhaps they are at the wrong club.

Of course, a manager would surely never ignore a player who is good enough for the first team on the basis that they’re a youngster from the youth side, but then by the same token, both clubs have shown form for preferring to put their trust in the big money transfer signing.

Patrick Roberts, for example, has spent two seasons on loan at Celtic and is one of the finest talents in England. Yet, City deemed Jesus Navas, whose attacking statistics are more akin to an under-performing right back than a winger, as a better fit for the first team.

This is because success at these elite level clubs is a demand and requirement, not simply a hope. Both Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola can’t really afford to spend time easing in academy players that don’t come with as big a promise of success as a £40-50 million signing steeped in accomplishment.

Difficulties of top six academies

In truth, it is a rarity for a youth player to break into any first team in the top six in the Premier League. There is far too much at stake for clubs of their ilk and size to be putting faith into a player who may crumble when the pressures on.

It’s not necessarily just Manchester City and Chelsea, though they are the worst offenders in this sense. The issue, though, is that over time it may dissuade youngsters from joining the two clubs. People talk. Prospective recruits may speak to current youth players about their chances of getting near the first team and consistently negative reviews will have a harmful impact.

It is perhaps why Tottenham Hotspur are the most attractive option for youth players. They too have a world class training facility and coaching set up to develop these youngsters, but also have a manager and system who is willing to give these players are chance providing they show the required qualities both on a football pitch and mentally.

Does it matter?

However, these youngsters do end up playing professional football in the future, which is surely the goal for any player currently working his way through the youth set up.

It begs the question: Does it actually matter that they don’t break into City or Chelsea’s first team? In truth, probably. Not only does it matter to those that fail to do so, but also to those debating whether or not to join in the future.

If you were to ask Nathan Ake, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek or even Romelu Lukaku, who’s since found himself at Manchester United, whether they were disappointed to fail at breaking into the first team, the answer would typically be a ‘yes’ after committing so much to the club.

Of course, many will have aspirations and beliefs that their talents and application warrant playing for a side challenging for trophies.

However, they may have to apply themselves elsewhere before receiving that shot at the big clubs.

  1. POLL: If you were a youngster, which academy would you join?

    1. Chelsea
    2. Tottenham Hotspur
    3. Manchester City
    48 votes
    Share Your Result

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Harry Brooks

Harry graduated from UAL in Elephant and Castle with a 2:1 BA Hons degree in sports journalism.

He has an NCTJ diploma and also coaches football and teaches PE in schools.

Harry loves to talk football tactics!

Chelsea & Manchester City: Lack of first team chances will harm future recruitment

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