Glenn Hoddle was perplexed by Maurizio Sarri’s decision to field a strong starting XI against PAOK in the Europa League, saying that he wanted to see more of the club’s young talents instead.
The west London club’s 1-0 victory over PAOK at Thessaloniki saw Sarri introduce five changes to the side that beat Cardiff last weekend, including first starts of the season for both Davide Zappacosta and Andreas Christensen. Yet while Olivier Giroud and Cesar Azpilicueta only started from the bench and Eden Hazard, who complained of tiredness before the match, David Luiz and Mateo Kovacic, all stayed in London, the Italian still fielded a string of first-team regulars with the likes of Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Willian and Pedro still featuring from kickoff.
While the 24-year-old Ross Barkley went back to the starting lineup since the win against Arsenal, Ruben Loftus-Cheek was deemed fit enough only for the bench while Ethan Ampadu and Callum Hudson-Odoi were left out of the trip to Greece altogether.
Speaking as a pundit on television, Hoddle, who managed Chelsea in 1993-1996, said that he would have liked Sarri to utilise the young talent available at his disposal in Europe, with opportunities in the Premier League proving to be scarce for the Blues’ rising prospects.
“Yeah I would prefer that, being English and wanting these youngsters to get the opportunities they’re not going to get in the Premier League at the moment, certainly at Chelsea. It does concern me,” answered Hoddle when asked by a fellow pundit if the Italian manager has missed a trick by playing his young guns.
“It’s good to see Ross Barkley in there, I think he’s the one he’s put his hat on. He’s the one who plays in the Premier League, he’s the one that comes on from the bench. I think he’s going to say ‘well, show me what you’ve got’.
Hoddle went on to suggest that the likes of Loftus-Cheek, Ampadu and Hudson-Odoi may have to leave Stamford Bridge temporarily to gain significant playing time in a vital period of their development. “I am concerned that these young, good players are not going to get enough football, I really am,” added the former England manager. “Unfortunately for Chelsea, or for those kids, if they stay they’re not going to get game time. They need to get away.
“He’s (Loftus-Cheek) round about 23 years of age, Loftus-Cheek. He’s got to be playing week in and week out. Young Hudson-Ododi, Ampadu, they’ve got real talent. How are they going to break in? I think they’re going to have to go on loan.”
It remains to be seen whether Sarri, who has been known to heavily rotate his squad during his time at Napoli, will eventually brood the Blues youngsters in the Europe’s second-tier club competition, given that he is intent on qualifying for the next round with a match or two to spare.