To round up the 2012-13 youth football season at Chelsea, we’re reviewing every single one of the Chelsea youngsters currently on the books who have spent time out on loan during the campaign. Here, we focus on Nathaniel Chalobah.
Appearances: 42 (5 goals)
Well, where do you begin with young Nathaniel? A transfer deadline day move to Watford promised much last summer but it’s safe to say that it could hardly have gone better as the young midfielder has exploded onto the scene and affirmed himself as one of the best young talents in the entire country.
Playing almost exclusively in midfield under Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola in a 3-5-2 formation, Nathaniel has shown tactical versatility, stupendous athleticism, technical excellence and a maturity which belies his tender years (having only turned 18 mid-season). He was entrusted with a key role in the team early on and thoroughly thrived under it.
He managed to weigh in with a handful of goals, including one blockbuster against Leicester City towards the end of the season, and earned England Under-21 representation as he established himself as a first choice in a team chasing promotion to the top flight. Promotion the top flight was denied in the final outing of the season in the Playoff Final at Wembley against Crystal Palace, but it was very much a season to remember for him.
It’s important to keep Chalobah’s trajectory rising. Whether at Chelsea or somewhere else next season, he’s ready for Premier League football, and exposure to that will only see his progress continue at rapid speed. If he stays at Stamford Bridge under a new manager he must feature regularly, and whilst it might be slightly too early to really consider him an option, he’s the exact sort of player who would come along leaps and bounds if given the opportunity amongst some of the world’s elite.
If it’s elsewhere, the club must ensure that it’s a move similar in opportunity to Romelu Lukaku’s spell at West Bromwich Albion, and not akin to previously problematic deals involving Josh McEachran and Gael Kakuta. Chalobah is arguably the finest gem to come out of the Chelsea academy since John Terry and it falls upon them to ensure that they reap the benefits of his prodigious ability.