Cobham will have been a quiet place this week with the vast majority of Chelsea’s first-team squad away representing their countries in World Cup and African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Very few members of the senior set-up have remained and Thomas Tuchel is unlikely to have his full contingent to work with until the day before the Blues take on West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League.
For the likes Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Billy Gilmour and Tino Anjorin, however, training has continued in order to ensure fitness levels do not drop ahead of Chelsea’s key fixtures in the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League.
And the Blues’ first-team players were joined by several members of the development squad this week, in addition to Petr Cech, who continues to train when possible.
Chelsea released a video of the session undertaken by the players and here are six things we spotted from it.
No sign of injured stars
Sadly for Chelsea supporters, there was no sign of the club’s injured stars back on the training pitches at Cobham.
Thiago Silva (thigh), Tammy Abraham (ankle) and Jorginho (knee) are all still recovering from their respective injuries but it is hoped they will be fit to take on West Brom.
Edouard Mendy, who didn’t join up with Senegal because he needed to undergo a tooth operation, also wasn’t involved.
N’Golo Kante, meanwhile, has returned to Chelsea after picking up a hamstring problem while on international duty with France. He underwent a scan yesterday, the results of which are yet to be disclosed by the Blues.
Anjorin lives up to Tuchel’s billing
Anjorin has been part of the first-team squad for more than three months and has made his mark on Thomas Tuchel, who spoke effusively of the 19-year-old ahead of Chelsea’s FA Cup quarter-final victory over Sheffield United.
The German said: “I feel he is very strong at finishing in training. He is a very nice character. A nice guy from the academy, another nice guy, very humble and at the same time totally focused, totally clear when you talk to him. Very self-aware.
“It is a pleasure to work with him. He has both feet on the ground. I feel him very grateful that he has this chance to learn at this level and be part of a strong team.”
Anjorin has been afforded just one substitute appearance since Tuchel took charge but lived up the Chelsea head coach’s billing as an excellent finisher with a deft chip over the head of Cech to score.
Cech proves he’s still got it
The 39-year-old ended his playing career in the summer of 2019 but has been training with the Chelsea first team throughout the campaign and was registered in the Blues’ Premier League squad in October as emergency cover due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cech hasn’t come close to being called upon by Chelsea this season – he did play for the development squad back in December – and the departure of Frank Lampard in January and the appointment of Thomas Tuchel hasn’t altered his situation.
If he is free, he is welcome to train alongside Edouard Mendy, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Willy Caballero.
“It works perfectly,” Tuchel said last week. “I’m very comfortable. When Petr is available, he is on the pitch. Sometimes he is not like today when he had other things to do. But he is part of the training group.
“I think goalkeepers enjoy this situation and combination as he is not a rival for their position but is there with a very nice, competitive spirit and very positive aura and experience that is unique in European football.
“I have absolutely no problem. Petr is a competitive guy and it is nice to have him close. It is even nice for him to feel the group life and the atmosphere, and not only from outside.
“As long as he trains at that kind of level and our goalkeeper coach is happy with it, I’m absolutely fine.”
There shouldn’t be any issue there. Cech proved he’s still very much capable of handling himself with a superb double stop in training this week, the second of which denied Anjorin
Edwards takes the lead
There was no Tuchel in the video released by Chelsea and with Anthony Barry now working with the Republic of Ireland national team, it was left to Joe Edwards to oversee the training session.
The former Chelsea schoolboy player has risen through the ranks of the academy, coaching the Under-18s during the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons.
Edwards was promoted to the first-team set-up following the appointment of Frank Lampard in the summer of 2019 and he remains an important part of Tuchel’s coaching staff.
Sterling makes his mark
After battling against injury and illness in 2020, Dujon Sterling is almost back to his at Chelsea. He has featured regularly for the development squad since January, with his performance at wing-back in the 2-1 victory over Everton catching the eye.
Still only 21 years old, Sterling has plenty to offer the Blues in the years ahead, although he will only have one year left on his contract come the summer and other sides have shown interest.
One moment from Chelsea’s training session highlighted why, with Sterling rapidly arriving to take the ball off the toe of development squad team-mate George McEachran.
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Academy youngsters step up
International breaks always provide young players with an opportunity to step up and train with the first-team stars not representing their countries. And it was no different at Cobham this week.
As highlighted above, Sterling did his bit to get noticed while McEachran caught the eye with a stunning finish to beat Petr Cech.
The other members of the development squad involved in the session were the versatile Henry Lawrence, centre-back Dynel Simeu, attacking midfielder Marcel Lewis and forward George Nunn.