Chelsea's pre-season campaign could have hardly begun in a brighter fashion than the 5-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers. Two leagues may separate the Blues from their opponents, but Jose Mourinho took this opportunity to assess his depleted squad.
John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah were the only first-team regulars available while the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar have a much needed, post-World Cup holiday. Their absence gave the youngsters who won silverware last season with the under-21s and under-18s a chance to mix it up with the veterans.
Assistant coach Steve Holland spoke to the official Chelsea website about the young players’ involvement after the game:
There will be bigger tests than this but we said to them before the game that you don’t get many opportunities at any big club, and when you do get the opportunity to show what you can do under the eye of the manager and playing in the same side as other seasoned internationals you have to take it and make the most of every minute.
It was a very positive night for all the young players and they can all be pleased with their contribution. One or two particularly will have done themselves no harm.
Isaiah Brown was impressive, scoring a brace, and with Demba Ba having departed and Romelu Lukaku increasingly unhappy, as per Neil McLeman of The Mirror, Diego Costa could find himself supported by two under-21s next season.
Patrick Bamford showed why Mourinho has mentioned him as an option for next season by popping up in the right place at the right time to put Nathan Ake's cross away. B/R's lead Chelsea writer Garry Hayes compared him to Gary Lineker, an observation that is backed up by Bamford's positioning in the final third as well as his finishing.
@agirlintheshed he has a Gary Lineker quality about him. Doesn't do much, but when the ball is in the danger areas, he comes alive.— Garry Hayes (@garryhayes) July 17, 2014
At the other end of the pitch, Kurt Zouma was impressive on his debut for the club, and Lewis Baker and 16-year-old left-back Jay Dasilva also gave good accounts of themselves.
Dasilva is unlikely to see first-team action once the season proper commences, while Mitchell Beeney and Dominic Solanke will also stay in the academy. However, several of the youngsters who featured against Wycombe could get the chance to challenge the stars in the squad for a place next season.
Dan Levene of GetWestLondon has reported that Chelsea are still looking for another striker and a centre-half. Whether Mourinho decides to continue blending youth with experience in his 2014-15 squads will depend on pre-season performance, and the youngsters would be well served by taking advantage of the situation.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and it could be that Mourinho has discovered the solution to a few niggling problems without needing to turn to the transfer market.