With both the youth and reserve teams on a winter break, it’s time to take a look at some of this season’s key players and look at how they’ve been developing. The first in a series over the New Year period is Amin Affane.
As a general rule of thumb, a second-year scholar stands out amongst his younger team-mates in academy football.
He is typically a bit bigger, a bit stronger and a little more savvy from a season of experience under his belt.
This all applies to the 2011-12 version of Amin Affane, who has been one of the club’s more impressive young players so far this season.
The Swedish midfielder has played in 13 of 17 matches for Adie Viveash’s team and leads all players with four assists, as well as scoring his first competitive goal in Chelsea blue.
He is yet to add to his single reserve appearance from last season but is primed to do so as we go into the second half of the campaign.
Affane arrived in the summer of 2010 from Larje-Angereds, a small team from a rough district near Gothenburg with little to no standing in the senior game but one which operates a talented academy programme.
Chelsea have since gone back to take fellow midfielders Anjur Osmanovic and Isak Ssewankambo, but Amin was the first to make the trip, and it took him some time to settle down in a new country.
A naturally shy and introverted character, he was also on the diminutive side and struggled to find himself on the pitch. Dermot Drummy used him wide on the left, central in any of the three midfield roles, and even at left-back at times, all in the name of development.
As the season went on he became more involved on the pitch and made his aforementioned reserve bow away to Manchester United, where he faced off against Gabriel Obertan and held his own in an unfamiliar role.
Fast forward to August of this year, and things are much brighter for Amin. A growth spurt over the summer combined with a frame which is filling out shows a more robust player physically, whilst he himself admits that he is now far more comfortable and at home in England.
A spectacular free kick against Derby County in pre-season signalled his intentions for the season and indeed, he has become something of a regular set-piece threat.
His only goal so far may have been a fortunate deflected effort away to Portsmouth, but he has been denied by the woodwork on more than one occasion, whilst opposing goalkeepers have been flying left, right and centre to keep away speculative efforts at goal.
His deliveries have also created goals both directly and indirectly, and his all-round game is under constant refinement. Birmingham felt the full impact of a young player beginning to thrive as Affane had arguably his best match to date in a 6-2 win back in September.
Amin was also in terrific form in the FA Youth Cup Third Round victory over Doncaster, and will be a key figure in the team’s ambitions for success in the competition this season.
He signed a three-year professional contract in July and whilst he is still some way away from making strides into the adult game, year two at Chelsea has been a success so far for Amin Affane.