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Chelsea's Jay Dasilva Has Potential to Be 1 of Premier League's Great Left-Backs

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterAugust 6, 2015

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 18:  Jay Dasilva of Chelsea cin actionl during the FA Youth Cup Semi Final second leg match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on March 18, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Chelsea's approach to youth football and their youth teams is changing.

The unwanted record of John Terry being the last local product to break into the senior setup (he turns 35 in December) is expected to be smashed soon enough. If it's not Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who is currently attracting special attention from Jose Mourinho for all the right reasons, it could be one of a plethora of emerging stars.

Jay Dasilva, a 17-year-old left-back, is one of said stars. He's had a big hand in multiple team successes over the past two seasons, helping Chelsea win the FA Youth Cup in consecutive seasons and playing a key role in The Blues' UEFA Youth League final victory over Shakhtar Donetsk earlier this year.

He moved to Chelsea from Luton in 2012 along with his two twin brothers Rio and Cole Dasilva, with the Daily Mail confirming the deal could be worth up to £1 million should any of them make the first team. The Blues essentially gambled on one of the three coming good on their potential, and it looks as though Jay will.

He's been playing against players two years older than him most of his career, accelerating through the age groups due to his unnaturally complete game. Ian Wright went as far as to label him "better than any current Premier League left-back" on Twitter, and while that's clearly hyperbolic, his burgeoning talent is impossible to miss.

Here, B/R takes a forensic look at Dasilva's game to explore the ins and outs of it. Where does he excel, where can he improve and what does the future hold?

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1. Physical

Dasilva is tiny. Chelsea's official 2014 yearbook listed him at 164 centimetres (5'4"!), and although he's expected to find another few centimetres, it's a mild concern. That's really, really small. Ashley Cole is 5'10" and Lucas Digne is (generously) listed as the same, for context.

He's well-set physically; stocky enough to find power and hold his own, but mobile enough to be considered both quick and fast. His diminutive height works to his advantage in tight spaces—he's able to duck and squeeze through tight areas on the flanks when its congested—but that strength is accentuated at youth level where the size difference is smaller.

NYON, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 13: Jay Dasilva of Chelsea FC (R) fights for the ball with Denys Arendaruk (C) and Ihor Kyryukhantsev (L) during the UEFA Youth League Final match between Shakhtar Donetsk and Chelsea FC at Colovray Stadion on April 13, 2015 in N
Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

Unless he grows, he'll be picked on at senior level. Plenty of managers shift tall strikers wide for goal kicks to pair up against full-backs—Christian Benteke uses this tactic to near-guarantee he wins every header—and he's ripe for exploitation in this regard. You wouldn't even have to be that tall to beat him; Sergio Aguero would probably manage it.

Every extra inch gained as he creeps toward age 21 will be vital.

2. Positional

Dasilva's defending is very, very good. Uncommonly for a 17-year-old full-back, it's the most cultured and developed part of his game, and it leads to great stretches of consistently good play from the player.

He can be described as both rational and instinctive, as he changes his behavior depending on the situation, where the ball is and how far up the pitch he is. He doesn't dither when sussing out his choices—a theme that's common throughout everything he does on the pitch—and rarely makes bad ones.

COBHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 10:  Jay Dasilva of Chelsea and Amath Diedhiou of Atletico Madrid in action during the UEFA Youth League Quarter Final match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid at Chelsea Training Ground on March 10, 2015 in Cobham, England.  (Pho
Tom Dulat/Getty Images

For example, when dropping off with the defensive line deep, Dasilva lines up in good distance to his left-sided centre-back and closes the channel off for inside runs. He backs his own pace to dart out to cover the switch ball if his winger stays touchline-tight and relishes standing them up one vs. one.

Higher up, if there's a turnover and he's beyond the halfway line, he loves to leap forward and stick his foot in on his opposite number, attempting to trap him higher up. Again, he backs his own pace to recover if he misses, and often his positivity creates another turnover and puts Chelsea back in a position to attack.

Credit: Eurosport

At the World Cup 2014, Jordi Alba completely nullified Mathew Leckie by trapping him high up and refusing to let him turn and run. The Socceroos' tactic of using the winger as an out-ball from defence was foiled; they were prone to turnovers and became stuck in their own half.

That snappy aggressiveness is another key trait, and we've seen it in another prodigious young left-back who has recently come through the ranks over in Southampton: Luke Shaw. The now-Manchester United man fights tooth and nail for every inch and makes it a physical battle as well as a positional one.

3. One-on-One

There are some players who thrive one-on-one in either defence or attack, but rarely both. Dasilva is that rare type who is so comfortable in his all-round game that he's happy to be bold and back himself in every area of the pitch.

His positioning skills, as discussed, are very strong, and when he locks in on a winger one-one-one it's pretty rare he's bested. This season just gone he's come up against some very strong opponents (often a year or two older, remember) but never lets his flank become a weakness.

His stocky, low-to-the-ground strength and short-area quickness allow him to go touch-tight and not worry about being spun. He stays stride for stride with his markers and does a very good job of blocking any form of cross; he'll follow his man all the way to the byline and back again if necessary.

Credit: ITV

At times he basically stiff-arms his men or waits for them to knock the ball past and squeezes between it and the marker to shepherd it out. His consistency in closing space forces his opponents to try desperate moves or think outside the box.

He can struggle a little with the very, very direct wingers as we saw against Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Youth League final, but the semi-final saw Dasilva lock up Daniele Verde with consummate ease. The Roma winger, who had already tasted senior football in Serie A and bagged his first professional assists, is probably still in his counterpart's pocket even now.

In attack, Dasilva makes delayed runs forward when the ball is switched from right to left, sensing the ideal time to stretch the pitch and give the passer an option. Often it's his left winger who will receive the ball and spot him surging over the top. The timing of his runs is a major strength; they're Leighton Baines-esque from deep.

4. Crossing

Like many young players who are still learning their trade, elements of his game need work. Crossing shouldn't be considered a weakness for Dasilva, but it's not yet a brimming strength.

A full-back can dance, dazzle and surge forward, but if the end product's not there, it can be infuriating. To this day Dani Alves' crossing simply isn't as consistent or accurate as it probably should be. Every over-hooked delivery that evades every Blaugrana shirt causes hundreds of eyes to roll and thousands of sharp, frustrated exhalations around the Camp Nou.

Dasilva clearly favours one type of cross above all others: the low, slammed delivery across the face. He likes to surge onto passes on the overload and release it early—a welcome trait—and squeeze it into the space between the goalkeeper and the retreating defenders.

Credit: Eurosport

That area is very commonly referred to as an exceptionally dangerous one; we've seen even the best defenders such as Vincent Kompany slide into their own net in this scenario, and the UEFA Youth League final saw Andreas Christensen do it after a lovely cross from Denys Arendaruk. It also freaks 'keepers out, forcing them to be decisive or risk being pipped to the ball.

His floated, longer crosses have tended to struggle to find their man, but he's Aleksandar Kolarov-esque with the low slammers. They cause absolute chaos in the box, and when you're playing in a side with a pure No. 9 like Dominic Solanke, in addition to an opportunistic hoover like Tammy Abraham, those deliveries are going to produce goals.

Credit: ITV

His preferential cross—quickly released, powerful and direct—almost perfectly epitomises the rest of his game. Everything he does has the same feel to it; he plays at 100 mph, doesn't dither and breaks through however possible.

The accuracy of the floated crosses will have to improve, but to have one "type" looking so strong at such a young age is an incredibly positive sign.

Projection

Dasilva is one of the most consistent players to frequent the youth competitions, and he's done tremendously well to match up (and largely best) players older, stronger and bigger than him on a regular basis.

He signed his first professional contract in July, signalling his and Chelsea's intent to keep this affiliation going, and the sense is that after just one more year in the rookie ranks, he'll be off on loan somewhere to taste first-team action.

Chelsea Youth @chelseayouth

Jay Dasilva's versatility (AML and MC tonight, the latter something newish) might help both him and the team. Kid can do everything tbh.

Over the last five months or so he's shown an ability to play in central midfield, such is his confidence and all-round game, and also further forward on the left wing, which goes hand in hand with his natural traits. That versatility is yet another trump card he'll be able to play when looking to make the next step.

Dasilva has a dedicated, winning mentality and one of the most complete skill sets you'll see in a 17-year-old. Ian Wright's claim he's "better than any current Premier League left-back" was wholly inaccurate, but could ring true in five years' time.

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