It has been reported by some media outlets recently that Ethan Ampadu wants to stay at Chelsea and fight for his place, to prove that he is ready to play first team football for Chelsea. While a player wanting to fight for a first team spot is always a good thing to hear, we need to look at whether it would be wise to keep him in the team, or is it better to send him out on loan where he can get regular playing time to aid his development?
There’s no doubting the fact that Ampadu is capable enough to play for Chelsea, but is this the correct stage for him? The Welshman joined Chelsea in 2017 at the age of 16 and has been with the academy since. In 2017 itself, he made his debut for the senior squad in an EFL cup match as a substitute. At that point, he became the youngest player to debut for Chelsea in a decade. He also made his Premier League debut as a substitute in the same season.
After the arrival of new head coach Frank Lampard, he was sent on loan to German club RB Leipzig for the 2019/20 campaign. This loan, however, did not seem to work out the best in terms of playing time, as he made a total of only seven appearances all season, with only three of them coming in the Bundesliga. Granted that he must have learnt a lot under Julian Nagelsmann even training and being coached at such a big side, but that kind of experience without the playing time which he would probably have gained at Chelsea. This would have involved training with the first team and making cup appearances. The primary goal of a loan is for your development all around, for which game time is a requirement and he did not get that at Leipzig.
The reason why having Ampadu in and around the squad next season might be useful, if we don’t get someone like Declan Rice and decide to sell Jorginho, would be his positional versatility. He is someone who has played most of his domestic career (which does constitute a lot of appearances) at CB, while playing DM on and off. If we are to continue playing the way Lampard has set us up after the break this season, Ampadu would be a capable young deputy to N’Golo Kante and Billy Gilmour (who is currently injured), and would be nailed on to get some game time, considering the fact that both those players have been getting injured this season. He can also deputize at CB in cup games and play that role in case we face an injury crisis in that position as well, like Leipzig used him against Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League, where at such a young age he showed great defensive awareness and composure on the ball on such a big stage, showing that he is more than raring to go.
He would be a handy squad option to have and we could develop him under Lampard, the same way that some of our youth players have developed this season. However, if we do bring in reinforcements and sign new players at DM/CB, then it becomes difficult for him to get a look in into the first team and would have to waste away in and around the squad again, which is not something ideal at this stage in his development.
The young trailblazer is a very mature player, with a lot of talent in his bag. He is primarily defensive-minded, which is the kind of midfielder that we haven’t had this season, someone to just hold back and cover the defense, but is very mature and composed in possession as well, and is a good progressor of the ball. His mentality is top class too, as can be seen from the games he has played. Even when he was played by Antonio Conte at 17 years of age, there was no glimpse of any lapse in concentration, or any period where he didn’t feel comfortable on and off the ball, and that is saying something for someone who hasn’t played a lot at the senior level. He also has shown an element of leadership in the youth games and even in the senior games. His starting position is something that is still a doubt, with his domestic career primarily being at CB, but majorly being deployed in a midfield role for Wales. However, I personally think he would be a great holding midfielder rather than a central defender because of the way he is built. The stand-out traits that can be seen from Ampadu are his mentality, leadership, his unfazed nature, composure on and off the ball, and the way he carries himself in games, which is much more matured than some experienced players already. The only con that I can see in him as a defender is his physical profile, which is a little bony, and shorter in height than your usual central defenders.
One of his other good traits is his turn of pace, when he changes his pace when he is on the ball. He uses the ball differently in both positions he plays, and he has shown that he is competent on the ball in both positions. He is calm under pressure and can efficiently use his turn of pace to move out of tricky situations. When he plays in midfield that becomes one of his core strengths if he is to play at a team like Chelsea, where we often see that Jorginho is unable to do this on most occasions. A prime example of this is in his international games with Wales last year, when he showcased these abilities very well, especially the game against Panama. Wales manager Ryan Giggs rates him highly and sees world-class potential in him, but has also stated that he is concerned with the lack of game time that Ampadu has been getting. This says a lot about the player’s calibre – that at 18 years of age, he already holds a very important role in the international team, and the manager feels that he deserves more domestic game time.
Therefore, although Ethan Ampadu would be a handy squad player to have at Chelsea next season if Declan Rice is not signed, the ideal move right now, on account of him not having played too many domestic games in his career so far, would be for the young Wales prodigy to go on at least one more loan. Ideally, this would be at a team either in the Premier League or the Championship where he would get guaranteed minutes. That said, it would be great to see him in a Chelsea shirt, playing games for us soon after, as he is unmistakably one of the best talents of his age that I’ve seen, and he would be the ideal profile for a defensive midfielder that we need for the future.
What do you think should happen to Ethan Ampadu next season? Will he remain at Stamford Bridge with Frank Lampard? Let us know in the comments below!