Josh McEachran: Right place at the right time

by Ben Pinkney

Josh McEachran has cut a disgruntled figure at Stamford Bridge over the past 18 months.

Since rapidly progressing through the Chelsea youth development programme, Josh McEachran has been the subject of high praise, though little game time.

Despite spending much of a productive 2010/2011 lending itself to favorable headlines, the young English talent has seen his first team opportunities limited since the arrivals of Oriol Romeu and Raul Meireles at Stamford Bridge. Andre Villas-Boas has given the youngster just five appearances in the 2011/2012 season thus far, equating to 252 minutes.  Even mentor and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard, who has also had a loan spell at Swansea City previously, has found himself struggling to fit into the new 4-3-3 system in West London

Josh McEachran could once confide in the fact that former Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti, continually repeated his commitment in promoting the young talent. Regardless, Josh persistently occupied a deeper lying role than his preferred attacking orientated one when used and ultimately a lack of playing time has lead to him and fellow youngsters Gael Kakuta and Patrick Van Aanholt to both go out on loan, to Fulham and Vitesse respectively. Jeffrey Bruma, Ben Gordon and Ulises Dávila among others have flown the coup in search of more regular football.

Thus, the highly rated Chelsea midfielder has chosen to spend the rest of the season on loan in south Wales, with Swansea City. The move will see him join up with former Chelsea coach Brendan Rodgers, an important factor in the transfer, with McEachran saying “The manager had a big impact on my decision. I’ve known him from his Chelsea days and I think he is a fantastic manager.” Rodgers’ management is an environment to which will unquestionably assist McEachran in becoming a more complete player, a thorough and meticulous governor.

Immediately, the move seems ideal. The 18 year-old will complement what is already a progressive and stylish brand of football. Teaming up with ex-Chelsea teammate Scott Sinclair and the world’s best passer in Leon Britton will lend itself well to nurturing an important talent in such a crucial developmental stage of his career, after signing a 5-year contract extension and with the British Olympic team soon to be organised.

In justifying why such a move could be so progressive it is worth comparing the styles of both parties. The game that, arguably, best exemplifies Josh McEachran’s abilities was the Carling Cup match against Newcastle in 2010, where Carlo Ancelotti appropriately entrusted the young talent to salvage something after going 3 -1 down with 10 men. Introduced early in the second half, McEachran created a number of opportunities for the Blues, offering a refreshing attitude toward the game with entertaining runs and skipping past challenges. Despite eventually losing the game, it marked a point that thrust him into the spotlight. At just 18, McEachran looked overwhelmingly comfortable on the ball, boasting a rare distribution quality, in addition to strength and work rate surprising considering his diminutive frame. These were the traits that would come to define him.

Swansea’s finer performances this term came between three days of each other, against Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa, made for fine illustrations of their innate ability to keep possession of the ball and control the tempo of a match. Swansea are No1 in the Premier League for passes in their own half, 2, 474, and second only to Manchester City in terms of completed passes this season. They play to the Barcelona mould, to their strengths and thus have created an environment which could be mistaken for an almost purpose built to school the young talent.

With Chelsea undergoing somewhat of a transitional period, much of the squad ageing or not sufficiently possessing the qualities needed to implement Andre Villas-Boas’ demanded style of play, it leaves McEachran, one of the club brightest talents yet and purveyor of the ‘pass and move’ manner which the young Portuguese leader so stresses for, in prime position to take advantage of the scenario which craves for such craft and vision.