What does Antonio Rudiger’s signing mean for Chelsea’s youth?

Chelsea are finally beginning to steal some headlines in the transfer window after completing two significant deals to bring Roma defender Antonio Rudiger and Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko for a total estimated to be around £68 million.

Despite the moves finally quenching the thirst for new faces at the club, some fans have reacted negatively to the acquisition of Rudiger on the grounds that it forced the club to “give up” on youth player Nathan Ake.

Ake was sold for £20 million to Bournemouth to make way for the £30 million signing of Rudiger.

In their view, Rudiger is not too significant an upgrade on Ake, and this is yet another example of the club failing to back their youth team player, a trend which has become very perplexing for fans of the West London club.

While it is true that this decision adds to the growing body of evidence to indicate Chelsea’s apathy towards their youth products, it is not a decision that should be met with uproar before being read into with greater detail.

For one, the fact that Rudiger was with the German national team at the Confederations Cup in Russia should already provide a clear indicator as to his quality.

It is extremely difficult to compare two players based solely on something as intangible as potential. Instead, tangible indicators such as maturity and experience, both of which are crucial for defenders, firmly point toward Rudiger being the better option for the Blues at this time.

On a tactical front, Chelsea’s weakness has been on the right side, with Alonso being a sturdier option than Moses at the wing-back position.

It is highly possible that Antonio Conte could be looking to move Cesar Azpilicueta, who played every minute of every Premier League game in Chelsea’s title triumph last season, to cover for Moses at the right wing back slot.

This will allow Rudiger, who is both right footed and is used to playing on the right side of a back three at Roma, to slot in perfectly.

Ake, by contrast, is far more adept on the left and has struggled to fit into Conte’s back three system, having played as a left-back in a back four at Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth during his time on loan there.

Additionally, Chelsea have a wealth of talent at centre-back who are more suited to the system than Nathan Ake.

Kurt Zouma was one of Chelsea’s brightest prospects before an injury halted his progress, and Andreas Christensen has impressed during his time on loan at Monchengladbach.

The latter has the talent to hold Chelsea ransom in a way somewhat analogous to Courtois, given that many clubs would pay big money for his services and Chelsea would prefer not to lose one of their brightest academy products in a generation.

That being said, this defence of the decision to sell Ake will only remain valid if Chelsea give Zouma or Christensen a chance in the first team.

The former was a regular starter under Jose Mourinho, but his loan to Stoke City for the upcoming campaign may indicate that his status has somewhat regressed since his long injury-induced absence.

Andreas Christensen has accompanied the Blues on a pre-season tour to China and Singapore, along with other prospects such as Lewis Baker and Charly Musonda.

Despite the signing of Antonio Rudiger, it does seem like there will be a place in the squad at centre-back, so the Danish defender should maintain his hope that he will have a role to play next season.

It may be the best service to Nathan Ake’s career to allow him to go to Bournemouth, a club where he is already familiar and likely to flourish.

The same can be said of Bertrand Traore, who may be responsible for replacing Alexandre Lacazette at Lyon.

It is too early to claim that Conte will follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and neglect Chelsea’s growing pool of talent, but fans are correct to point the finger to ensure that their coach and club are aware of their demands.

The Author

Gian Chansrichawla

Aspiring football journalist living in Bangkok, Thailand. Currently working for Thai League club Muangthong United.

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