In profile: Nathaniel Chalobah
With the help of a chap called Phil, the man behind the @ChelseaYouth account on Twitter, Vital Watford bring you the lowdown on our new loanee Nathaniel Chalobah.
First and foremost, where is he most comfortable - centre-back or holding midfield?
This is an interesting question, because I'm inclined to say both, depending on what you want from him. Long-term, I see him being a central defender; he'll have the physique, athleticism, and all the abilities necessary to be a very good one. At youth level though, he's too capable of impacting the game in attack to be 'wasted' back there and so we've seen him used in defensive, central, and attacking midfield roles.
At Watford it'll be 'easier' to use him in midfield, but I'm hoping to see him at the back because that's where he'll be best.
What are Chalobah's strengths and weaknesses?
He's gifted athletically; not the most dominant size on the pitch but he's quick and agile and strong and that allows him to shadow and mark very closely yet also cover and get to balls first, as well as the obvious physical battles. Don't mark him out as an athlete though; he's composed on the ball, a good, adventurous passer and willing recepient of the ball in order to dictate play.
The main weakness I've seen in him so far has been a side-effect of playing at youth level; he switches off and becomes a bit complacent. If things are easy for him and there's not a challenge, per se, he can get a bit sloppy and/or lose the impact he has on things. He's thrived when he's had to step up for his team and provide something, which is perhaps his biggest strength countering his glaring weakness. Hopefully Watford and The Championship provides a regular challenge and gets the best out of him.
Chalobah made his Chelsea U18's debut at 14 - he comes highly-rated then!?
One of our most exciting prospects in years. Played for the first-team in pre-season matches (one away to Ajax) as a 15 year-old and was on the first team bench later the same season. Chelsea regularly play youngsters up the age groups but he's one of a select group to be a regular at Under-21/Reserve level whilst still a schoolboy and he did so firmly on merit.
How far can Chalobah go - will we be seeing him in the first-team squad in the future?
If he hits it off at Watford, I wouldn't be massively surprised to see it happen later this season or early next If he wasn't away on loan he might've been playing in the Capital One Cup against Wolves. It might be a little longer until he starts making the strides Ryan Bertrand has made recently, for example, but Ryan's 23 Nathaniel's not 18 until December, so he's got time firmly on his side
If you had to compare Chalobah to one current, established player - whom?
Tough one. I heard a decent comparison last season when Phil Jones' name was raised; they can both play centre-back and midfield and, if needed, do a job at full-back. Jones is bigger and stronger right now whilst Nathaniel is slightly quicker and probably more assured on the ball, but they can offer the same thing to a squad. Jones is a current England international at one of the world's biggest clubs, so it's not that bad even if his stock is currently a bit lower than it was at any point last season.
Cheers Phil - let's hope he actually gets a look-in!