Chelsea's Season Is Over, so Guus Hiddink Must Promote Youth

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2016

Chelsea's English midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek applauds the fans following the FA Cup third-round football match between Chelsea and Scunthorpe United at Stamford Bridge in London on January 10, 2016. Chelsea won the match 2-0.   AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK

GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Chelsea's rebuilding process starts now.

In a defining week of football, the Blues have been dumped out of the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup to leave them with nothing more than pride to play for between now and the end of May.

There will be no trip to Wembley or Milan this season, no victory parades along the King's Road.

For a club that stand as the reigning Premier League champions, it's a depressing state of affairs. Or is it?

It may feel like it's all doom and gloom at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea find themselves in a unique position. The Blues haven't had so little to play for this early in a season in a long time, so they need to make the most of it.

Chelsea's Burkina Faso midfielder Bertrand Traore celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Stoke City at Stamford Bridge in London on March 5, 2016. / AFP / GLYN KIRK / RESTRICTED TO EDITOR
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

That means Guus Hiddink laying the foundations to ensure that Chelsea's new manager in the summer has the best chance possible of restoring the momentum and belief that have been lost in west London.

It means being ruthless, dropping the passengers and playing those players who will form a big part of Chelsea's future.

Kenedy, Bertrand Traore, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Matt Miazga and Baba Rahman must now be given time to establish themselves at Stamford Bridge. That quintet are all 21 or under, and with nine games remaining in the season, they can do that with the pressure off.

That counts for plenty, and the hope is that we will finally see what these players are capable of.

Rahman arrived last summer from Augsburg with a big reputation and an even larger transfer fee. Limited to just 13 starts in Chelsea's 44 matches in 2015/16, his debut campaign has been far from ideal.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Baba Rahman of Chelsea competes for a header during The Emirates FA Cup fifth round match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on February 21, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Rahman has looked edgy at the back, lacking confidence. It's had a significant impact on what we've seen, and it's unclear whether Chelsea's investment has been a wise one or not.

The club need to answer that question now to allow their new manager to build a squad capable of challenging for trophies over a sustained period. It's not enough to be a one-season wonder in the way Chelsea were last season.

Prolonged success can only be achieved with a solid spine, and a strong back line contributes significantly to that. The left-back position has long been an issue for Chelsea, and it's clear the long-term solution isn't playing Cesar Azpilicueta out of position.

Chelsea showed faith in Rahman with that £17 million fee, so it's about time the club backed that up by standing behind the player and giving him an opportunity now to prove himself.

It's a similar situation with Loftus-Cheek. He's long been the big hope for Chelsea's academy, but still we're waiting to see him perform over a period of matches. We still don't know if he is capable of transferring those wonderful youth team displays into the senior game.

Chelsea's English midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek (L) celebrates with Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa after scoring his team's second goal during the FA Cup third-round football match between Chelsea and Scunthorpe United at Stamford Br
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

The cameo appearances since Hiddink was appointed in December have benefited Loftus-Cheek. Now he needs to be starting matches regularly to become a fully integrated part of the first-team squad.

Of all the players knocking on the door at the moment, it's Loftus-Cheek Chelsea have a duty to consider more than most. He's one of their own, nurtured through the ranks to sit on the brink.

He's a symbol for so much more, though.

Playing Loftus-Cheek is a vote of confidence for those academy coaches who have brought him through. It's a sign of intent for those young players who continue to dominate youth football in England.

The feeling is that just one academy graduate needs to make his mark at Stamford Bridge before the rest begin to break through.

When we consider the talent currently out on loan—the likes of Lewis Baker, Dominic Solanke, Izzy Brown, Nathan Ake, Andreas Christensen and so many more—Chelsea could be on the cusp of realising something very special in their history.

For too long, John Terry has been the success story from their youth setup. Now his time appears to be up. It's about looking ahead and not repeating the mistakes we've seen since his debut and now.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Matt Miazga of Chelsea after the Emirates FA Cup match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on February 21, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Chelsea need to re-establish their identity as a clubit's been decimated this term. First it was a feeble defence of their title that followed with Jose Mourinho's sacking. Now Terry's departing and we're unsure of what direction the club is headed in.

Everything the club have been about this past decade or so has been completely diluted.

The Blues need something to build their future around, and right now the sensible solution is that next generation that is coming through.

So why wait until the summer when the surgery on this squad will run deep? Chelsea must start the process now by working with what they've got.

Play Kenedy, play Miazga, play Loftus-Cheek, play Traore, play Rahman.

Hiddink's second coming at Stamford Bridge will not end with a trophy, but his Chelsea legacy can be about so much more.


Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes.