Who Is the Chelsea Player Who's Been Criminally Underused so Far This Season?

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2017

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Andreas Christensen of Chelsea in action during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at Bet365 Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The Premier League campaign is beginning to take shape and so, too, is Antonio Conte's Chelsea squad.

We're six games into 2017/18. After the opening-weekend shock of losing 3-2 on home soil to Burnley, the Blues have gradually recovered and find themselves in third place in the table, hot on the heels of Manchester City and Manchester United.

Alvaro Morata has been the star thus far, netting six goals to outline his quality in front of goal. Indeed, his tally was helped by a stunning hat-trick in the recent 4-0 victory over Stoke City.

But if the likes of Morata have been given the game time to impress this season, who has the manager not used enough? Is Conte rotating sufficiently to keep his squad of global stars happy? Has he looked at Chelsea's up-and-coming youngsters enough?

We took to Twitter to get the fans' views.

        

What the polls say

When Chelsea sold Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah this summer, the reaction across the club's fanbase was largely one of disappointment; Blues supporters were frustrated to see more talented youngsters departing at a time when they thought they may have an impact.

Ake and Chalobah had impressed at different times last season, yet they were deemed surplus to requirements under Conte. They left knowing they had to further their careers away from Stamford Bridge.

While that pair may no longer be playing in Chelsea colours, those feelings from the terraces toward the youth remain strong, as our poll indicates.

Of the four players we listed, Charly Musonda and Andreas Christensen came out second and first, respectively. After years of youth domination in England and Europe, Chelsea supporters evidently remain eager to see that cross over into the first-team.

Musonda and Christensen have been a big part of the youth success Chelsea have enjoyed. They were both part of the teams that won the FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League. Since going away on loan for the past couple of seasons, they've added to their growing reputations.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20:  Andreas Christensen of Chelsea and Jason Cummings of Nottingham Forest battle for possession  during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Chelsea and Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge on September 19, 2017 in Londo
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Christensen's form with Borussia Monchengladbach has made him an even hotter property than he was before and after some bright performances in the beginning stages of 2017/18, supporters want to see more from him at Stamford Bridge.

The challenge he faces, however, is how he competes with David Luiz. Whenever Christensen has featured from the off for Chelsea this season—he's started four of his seven performances—it's been as the central figure of the Blues' three-man defence.

In pre-season, it was a similar story, with Christensen starting against the likes of Bayern Munich in that libero role that has seen Luiz excel since he returned to Chelsea in 2016.

The Brazilian is the senior figure there and Conte's selections in the past few months suggest Christensen is going to have to be patient. Not unless, of course, Luiz picks up more suspensions or an injury.

       

What the fans say

As well as polling Chelsea supporters on Twitter, we asked them for their views on why they thought the likes of Christensen had been underused this season.

Despite it being early days in the campaign, the comments largely revolved around giving youth a chance and heralding in a new era. Musonda and Christensen remained a big theme, as did Antonio Rudiger's battle with Gary Cahill for a starting berth on the left side of defence.

Here are some of the best comments.

What Chelsea influencers think

When we spoke to some Chelsea influencers, that theme of youth continued. That desire for Conte to keep promoting from within appears to be growing among the Chelsea fanbase.

      

David Johnstone, cfcuk fanzine

Twitter: @OnlyAPound

"Apart from not giving me enough games, it's very hard to say because, when one looks at the starting XI we have at Chelsea, you can't easily point your finger at a player who needs to be dropped or replaced. Andreas Christensen has been fantastic, though, especially against Stoke City."

      

We Are The Shed

Twitter: @WeAre_TheShed

"We should be giving the young talent we have the time of day when we can afford to. We gave Musonda a place on the bench against Stoke and were three-nil up with 13 minutes to go, but he didn't get a chance.

"Although obviously, Eden Hazard had to come on as part of his return to fitness, we would like to see the youth given game time even if towards the end of matches. Carlo Ancelotti looked very good at giving game time to the youth when he was in charge.

"It's something a lot of supporters want regardless of who is in charge. Other than the youth all the other first-team players seem to be getting their chance. Davide Zappacosta obviously hasn't featured as a starter in the Premier League, but that will most likely come in the future."

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: Andreas Christensen of Chelsea looks on during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Chelsea FC and Qarabag FK at Stamford Bridge on September 12, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via
TF-Images/Getty Images

Andy Saunders, The Chels podcast

Twitter: @MrASaunders and @ChelseaPodcast

"The two players who have been most underused this season have been so because of injury - Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko. Having those two in the team adds serious magic and muscle, so hopefully their rehabs are now nearing completion and they can become more regular fixtures in the starting XI. When they do, this Chelsea team will look even stronger than it already is."

Nick Verlaney, London Is Blue podcast

Twitter: @LondonBluePod and @NickVerlaney

"For me, it's Bakayoko and Christensen. Obviously, Bakayoko signed for the club with an injury to start the season, but I feel as if he makes our strongest XI very easily now. I was surprised to not see him for 90 minutes against Arsenal. He's a tank and helps N'Golo Kante expand his game into the offensive third.

"Christensen was always going to have a challenge getting into the team with such strong players ahead of him, and this being his first year in Conte's system. However, with injuries and suspensions, he's had a small window and proved himself beyond a reasonable doubt. Would love to see more of him in the Luiz role to give David a break in a packed season."

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20: Eden Hazard of Chelsea and Charly Musonda of Chelsea during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Chelsea and Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge on September 20, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AM
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Chelsea HQ

Twitter: @Chelsea_HQ

"He hasn’t been at the club for long, but I personally think Davide Zappacosta should have had more appearances in the Premier League. Victor Moses has done really well for Chelsea, in a position that was completely new to him last season. However, he did show towards the end of that title-winning campaign that he lacks defensive discipline at times, which you can’t necessarily blame him for.

"This could become a problem for Chelsea in the latter stages of the Champions League, where we will face much stronger opposition than in the domestic competitions. Zappacosta, on the other hand, has been a defender all his career, and he has shown the right balance between defending and attacking. The Italian could become a very important player for Chelsea, similar to how Marcos Alonso has."

Carefree Youth

Twitter: @CarefreeYouth

"Andreas Christensen, I'd have liked him in that left-centre-back role. Even though the central role suits him, he's left-footed so would be good on the outside role and would be better covering for Alonso when he goes forward.

"Gary Cahill has been a right-centre-back all his career due to John Terry playing opposite him so I still don't feel Cahill is fully comfortable being on that side."

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Andreas Christensen of Chelsea warms up prior to the Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at Bet365 Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

What journalists say

Our last port of call was the press box at Stamford Bridge. And, you've guessed it, there was one player who immediately came to mind when we asked about who needs to be playing more at Chelsea.

            

Nizaar Kinsella, Goal.com

Twitter: @NizaarKinsella

"Andreas Christensen for me. He's had four starts so far this season but he will demand even more and suffers for being behind David Luiz in the pecking order. I think Christensen is the world's best young defender and Chelsea risk losing him by not playing him enough. They can't afford for that to happen."

Liam Twomey, ESPN

Twitter: @Liam_Twomey

"Having a relatively small squad has allowed Antonio Conte to keep most of his senior players involved in these opening weeks but, given how impressive he looked against Nottingham Forest, you could argue we might have seen more of Charly Musonda.

"The young Belgian needs to bulk up significantly to be regarded as a serious option to start in the Premier League, but his pace, energy and skill could be useful off the bench as games become stretched, particularly while Conte continues to be cautious with Eden Hazard's recovery from a broken ankle."