Chelsea Players Who Impressed on 'Here to Play, Here to Stay' Tour of Asia
Chelsea made it three wins from three on the "Here to Play, Here to Stay" preseason tour of Asia with a comprehensive 8-1 drubbing of BNI Indonesia. Own goals notwithstanding, the Blues scored 13 goals across the three matches as everybody managed at least 45 minutes of playing time.
Jose Mourinho will have a firmer idea of who he will name in his 25-man squad for next season, with the players who were involved in the Confederations Cup set to join their teammates ahead of next week’s trip to America.
As the start of the 2013-14 season edges ever closer, here are the five players who have made the most progress in preseason so far.
Romelu Lukaku has continued the excellent run of form that he produced whilst on loan at West Bromwich Albion. Having scored 17 Premier League goals in 20 appearances, he has scored four in three so far in preseason. Mourinho has praised the striker’s movement and ability to link up with the midfielders, and has guaranteed him a squad place for the 2013-14 season.
With Fernando Torres yet to return from his summer holidays and Demba Ba still occupying the backup role, there is every chance that Lukaku could be the first-choice frontman at Stamford Bridge next season.
Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin de Bruyne was one of the most talked about loanees of the 2012-13 season. His performances at Werder Bremen attracted interest from Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund among others, before his place in the Chelsea squad was assured by Mourinho.
Having injured himself while scoring Chelsea’s second goal against the Malaysia XI, supporters will be relieved to receive the news in the Daily Mail that he will return to training on Monday, July 29. As he joins his compatriots Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, De Bruyne appears ready to challenge for a regular place in the starting 11 at Stamford Bridge.
Nathaniel Chalobah spent the 2012-13 season out on loan at Watford, narrowly missing out on promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs. Hornets manager and Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola was full of praise for the midfielder, going so far as to compare him to Frank Lampard.
His performances in preseason have shown his versatility, as he has been deployed as a central defender as well as in midfield, and the Blues have not conceded with him as a part of the back four.
Despite making such a positive impression, the 18-year-old has been informed that he will spend the 2013-14 season out on loan again. Sky Sports have reported that he would prefer to go to another Premier League club, much like Lukaku did last year, in the hope that he will play regularly for the Blues in 2014-15.
Chelsea signed Wallace from Fluminese in December 2012. The 19-year-old remained in his home country until the end of the season, and this will be the first time that many fans have had a chance to see him in action.
Equally comfortable as a right-back or a winger, Wallace won the penalty that led to the only goal of Chelsea’s game against Singha All-Stars. ESPNFC is reporting that he is seeking a loan move to Serie A ahead of 2013-14, an option that the Chelsea will have to consider carefully.
Jose Mourinho has expressed a preference for Branislav Ivanovic to play at right-back along with Cesar Azpilicueta. This would leave Wallace as the third-choice for that position, but the issues of age, ability and injury at centre-half could cause The Special One to change his mind about Ivanovic.
It is likely that Wallace will travel to America before his immediate future is resolved, but wherever he ends up, he will certainly be one to watch next year.
Marco Van Ginkel
Twenty-year-old Marco van Ginkel was a relative unknown in England before Chelsea expressed an interest in signing him. Having won the Johan Cruyff prize for young talent of the year, the Dutchman has been honing his skills as a self-described box-to-box midfielder.
He might not have gotten his name on the scoresheet during the three preseason matches so far, but has impressed with his movement and range of passing.
Comparisons are already being drawn between the youngster and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard, but this writer believes he is more similar to Oscar. If the two are encouraged to develop together, they could become the lynchpins of the midfield for many years to come.