“It’s unusual for a player who is only 17 but that shows age is not important if I give you the chance to play and you repay me with a great performance. We are talking about a really great prospect for Chelsea for the present and future.”
A strikingly regular theme keeps cropping up across Europe this season. The British infiltration of foreign borders has plateaued and the success stories of yesteryear are becoming an alarming anomaly. Wales are subconsciously at the forefront of this development in dissatisfaction, and Ethan Ampadu is in danger of spearheading this malaise with a wasted year in the shadows at RB Leipzig.
Heralded as the future of Chelsea’s regeneration project by both Maurizio Sarri and Antonio Conte, Ampadu’s progress has been accelerated at a startling rate. But just like the sentiments of teammate Gareth Bale the Welshman currently looks far more settled in the temporary housing of his international set up – Ampadu is on course to play more minutes for country than club for the second consecutive season, and although he is a popular member of Leipzig’s high flying squad, frustrations have been growing about the midfielder’s lack of game time this season.
Versatile and confident beyond his years Ampadu appears to be a perfect addition to any squad. The 19-year-old displays a youthful exuberance which is more often than not tempered with a mature level-headedness, but circumstance has once again proven the undoing of his progression. At Chelsea, he was utilised in a variety of different positions but was never regularly relied on for the Blues as they possessed substantial depth both in defence and midfield at the time.
Leipzig, a team seemingly on the cusp of breaking Bayern Munich’s domestic stranglehold over Germany, appear to have presented a worryingly similar problem for Ampadu, and one that must surely have been addressed sooner by the powers that be at Chelsea. For all his potential and Germany’s impeccable recent record of youth development, Leipzig have always been at the centre of this curve and as such already possess an abundance of talented youngsters in all manner of positions. Tyler Adams, Ibrahim Konate and Konrad Leimer have all commanded the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs but yet even their development must take a back seat as the likes of Kevin Kampl, Diego Demme and Dayot Upemacano remain pivotal cogs in Julian Nagglesman’s revitalised squad.
There are of course factors limited purely to Ampadu’s own ill-defined qualities, with Sarri noting his poor ball retention as a major shortcoming in the youngster’s game. Unable to get on the ball and dictate the tempo of play many managers have now struggled to pin down Ampadu’s best position.
Reports do, however, suggest that he is working hard in training and could yet feature more regularly for Leipzig in the wake of injuries to defensive duo Willie Orban and Marcel Halstenberg. Lampard and his team will be encouraged by this latest development, with the hope being that like Mason Mount before him at Vitesse Arnhem, Amapdu will grow into his role following a slow start.
In deploying a three-man midfield Chelsea encounter the risks of fatigue and a lack of depth off the bench. This places an even greater emphasis upon ensuring Ampadu’s time away from the first-team squad is spent productively honing in on gaining experience of high-level European football and modelling his individual play style to fit the needs of Lampard’s system. His application has never been in question, but it is now time for Ampadu to develop a more expansive passing game that not only focuses on range but also accuracy. A willingness to show for the ball and quickly pick out an option is a key component of Chelsea’s midfield play and Ampadu is certainly young enough and mobile enough to make major improvements also to his off the ball movement. It is well documented that he is strong in the tackle and reads the play exceptionally so as stated above Ampadu needs to gear his focus towards becoming more dynamic and expansive in the transition, at the same time applying his flawless attitude in order to push for more regular minutes in the future.