Development squad head coach Mark Robinson allowed his players to take total control against their equivalent side from Monaco this past week, and despite losing a two-leg fixture on penalties, the young Blues were victorious on home turf.
Having been asked to coach themselves, our Academy boys were given the licence to be expressive and creative in how they navigated through the friendly at Cobham against the side known as Monaco’s Groupe Elite.
The main aim of this was to give the players a bigger responsibility and ownership of tactical decisions on the pitch.
Chelsea were playing the return leg of this friendly after a 3-2 defeat in Monaco and with the players in charge, we managed a 2-1 win on the night despite an eventual loss on penalties.
Robinson provided his thoughts on why he wanted the players to take part in this activity.
‘The Monaco game is not a one-off as all through the season we have given the players different degrees of ownership, whether it be in training or on matchdays,’ he explained.
‘For the Monaco game the players decided how far they want to take that ownership. It is important we support them where necessary but with the right balance the ownership will bring about empowerment which builds character, confidence, resilience and togetherness.
‘No matter the outcome of this one game there is no direct failure or success, just a continuing development process for the players.’
Some of the players spoke about being involved in this process. Mason Burstow, who is the development squad’s top goalscorer this season, is thankful to the coaching staff for believing in the players’ abilities throughout the season.
He said: ‘It was a different and fun experience for myself and the team because it gets you thinking deeper into the tactical side of the game as well as giving us more responsibility.
‘When you are at a club like Chelsea a lot of things are done for the players which as a team we are truly grateful for, but why something like this is so important is that not only does it help us to get better as thinkers and students of the game, it also allows us to appreciate some of the things that are done for us like the hanging of our shirts and setting out cones and balls ready for the pre-match warm-up.’
Harvey Vale, who was on-loan for the first half of the season at Hull City, also provided detail on how the players felt to be a part of this.
‘Firstly, all the boys were super-excited as we were eager to show the coaches what we had learnt throughout the season. Of course we were nervous, naturally, as we wanted to impress but all in all, I believe it was so useful and we can say that we have developed ourselves as individuals.’
‘Tactically, we had to make changes as a team and the belief that each member of the squad had in every single individual meant that it was easy for us to all work together. In the end we won the game on the night and that shows for me that this activity is a positive one and we hope we made the club and the coaches proud.’