Chelsea

Harvey Vale shows Thomas Tuchel should not be afraid to turn to Chelsea academy

Tom Gott
Vale impressed on his Chelsea debut
Vale impressed on his Chelsea debut / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages
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With injuries and Covid-19 taking their toll on Chelsea recently, Thomas Tuchel was left with no choice but to turn to the academy for some extra support for Wednesday's Carabao Cup quarter-final against Brentford.

A big number of youngsters were called up for training and three were given starts in the game. The versatile Xavier Simons started at right-back and young striker Jude Soonsup-Bell got the nod up top, but it was attacking midfielder Harvey Vale who shone brightest.

Starting in the number 10 role alongside Ross Barkley, Vale was far more impressive than the player 10 years his senior, pulling the strings and getting himself involved in the action in front of goal.

Vale linked up well with Soonsup-Bell, with their mutual time in the academy clearly paying dividends, and he will have been hugely disappointed not to make the most of a great headed chance in the first half of the game.

He may not have got on the score sheet, but Vale made a lasting impression which will definitely have caught Tuchel's eye.

The link between midfield and attack is something that has been missing from Chelsea's play for the last few weeks. Whoever has started up top - Christian Pulisic has had the honour while Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz have been out - has looked isolated far too often, and the goals have dried up.

Chelsea needed two Jorginho penalties to get past Leeds, before they stumbled to a 1-1 draw with Everton in which they had an embarrassingly high number of chances on goal, and the goalless draw with Wolves at the weekend only compounded that issue. Getting a striker involved has been a real problem.

Against Brentford, it will have been Barkley who was expected to provide the creativity. He was the only senior forward in the starting lineup and would have been tasked with showing Vale the ropes in that number 10 role.

Instead, it was Vale who looked significantly more impressive, proving to Tuchel that he must not be scared to call on the academy's creme de la creme when he needs them - or perhaps even when he doesn't.

Minutes are obviously hard to come by in that spot in Tuchel's team. Havertz, Werner, Barkley and Pulisic compete with Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech for just two places, and if we're being realistic, Vale is not ready to challenge the top three or four of those for minutes. Calling him up permanently and forcing him to sit on the bench instead of ball out with the Under-23s would be pointless.

Having said that, if Tuchel finds himself in this kind of situation again, with numerous first-teamers either injured or crying out for a rest, Vale deserves to be in the conversation for game time.

With Vale's contract set to expire in 2023, a maiden appearance will have done Chelsea's attempts to tie him down the world of good. We've already seen Tino Livramento, Tariq Lamptey and numerous other academy gems walk away over fears they would not play enough, so Chelsea need to learn from that here.

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