We’re going to have a look at some Nathaniel Chalobah news from the summer next. Chalobah joined Watford for £6mil from Chelsea in the summer. His time at Chelsea, the various loan spells and his difficulties getting game-time have been well documented. Chalobah’s potential is also well known, as is the regard he has been held within the England national system. He decided it was time to leave Stamford Bridge in search of more football. Lets have a look at why this was a good decision and why it’s ok to still talk about his ‘potential’.
Nationality: no caps
Position: centre or defensive midfielder
Transfer Fee: £6mil
Contract Length: 5 years
2016/17 League Stats: 1 starts (9 sub appearances)
Verdict: Chalobah may only be 22 years old but it feels like he’s been around forever. He’s been highly regarded in the England youth set-up since an early age which brought him to the public’s attention a lot earlier than most. With his age in mind, you might be able to understand Conte’s remarks about younger players, particularly English, needing more “patience”. However if you look at Chalobah’s situation in more detail, is it really as straight forward as Conte makes out?
In four years, Chalobah has had six different loans. Two were respectable half season spells with Middlesbrough and Reading but the only club where he had a full season of consistent games was actually at Watford. The other three (Nottingham Forest, Burnley and Napoli) he struggled to make much of an impact at all. Given the lack of stability and frequency of clubs in such a short space of time it’s hardly surprising, especially for someone so young.
Last season at Chelsea, Chalobah’s career followed a familiar path. Only 1 start all season. It would have been unrealistic to expect much different however with Kante, Matic and Fabregas in his way and no extra European games for the blues. This season, it was only going to get worst with more additions. So after five seasons of disjointed game-time is it really a wonder that Chalobah opted to move on?
Without question Chalobah’s most successful loan spell was with Watford and whilst that was over 4 years ago, his familiarity with the club and relative success were factors in him re-joining permanently I’m sure. There were reports of interest from Swansea and Southampton but Watford were said to always be Chalobah’s preferred destination so there was only ever one likely outcome.
The fact Chelsea were willing to sell Chalobah after he rejected a new contract may not have been a huge surprise but the fact they did so cheaply, was. Whilst the most shocking aspect of the transfer was that they did not include a buy back clause or even a sell-on percentage. Given Chalobah’s potential, that could be a move which comes back to bite them, especially if he ends up at a rival.
Chalobah has already shown this season that he is still a player with considerable potential but furthermore that he is ready for Premiership football now. His brave decision to leave a big club like Chelsea already looks the right decision. He has performed well for Watford so far. He has already secured a position in the centre of their midfield and looks to be forming a formidable, physical partnership with Doucoure. They compliment each other’s games well.
Doucoure has been afforded more freedom this season as a result and has contributed himself more in the final third of the pitch. Together they are also keeping out one of Watford’s best performers of recent seasons too in Etienne Capoue. Whilst Watford have kept clean sheets in 3 of their 4 games so far this season, thanks in no small part to the defensive screen the midfield duo has provided.
Centre midfield was a bit of a problem area for Watford last season. Capoue was by far the pick of the options for Mazzarri, as Cleverley, Doucoure, Behrami and Guedioura all had opportunities, some more limited than others but struggled for consistency and to exert themselves on games. There was a lack of quality and edge to their midfield.
So in some respects moving to Watford was a smart move by Chalobah as the opportunity was there to hit the ground running from the start of the season and to make an impression on the first-team picture. He has ended up doing just that. Now Watford’s midfield is arguably their strongest area.
— Nathaniel Chalobah (@chalobah) July 15, 2017
As a result Chalobah has already earned a call-up to the England senior squad on the back of his performances this season and in the summer for the under-21s. It’s clear he’s rated highly within the England set-up and that Southgate is a fan. It looks like he is being integrated in the set-up as quickly as possible. Partly because hopes are high and partly because the centre midfield position is a problem area for England I suspect.
I’m not sure Chalobah is the answer to all of England’s problems in midfield, certainly at the moment however. He’s still very inexperienced so Russia 2018 will likely come to soon. Whilst England are missing some technical quality in midfield and Chalobah’s strength is clearly his athleticism. In some respects he’s not too dissimilar to Henderson or Dier. Henderson is a more box-to-box, work-horse in the middle, acting as a bridge for the team. Dier provides some strength and defensive stability but lacks the mobility.
Chalobah will likely be able to perform either role in future but I’m not sure England can afford both. Fortunately there looks to be more to Chalobah’s game so he may very well end up being England’s answer to the modern-day midfielder who is capable of performing several roles. He certainly has the physical attributes. He just needs to work on his reading of the game and positioning to make the step-up to international football. He could be the perfect partner for the allusive play-maker England is missing going forward though.
Chalobah is definitely one of the bargains of the transfer window. It really wouldn’t surprise me, with the way prices are going, if, as a young England international, that offers of £40mil are forthcoming for his services in two or three years. He’s the type of player all the top clubs would want with his ability to perform several duties. He just needs to keep on developing and the sky could to be the limit for him.
So many young English players fail to live up to the hype however so there’s still a long way to go. So many think they’ve made it before they actually have. I’m hopeful that Chalobah is made of sterner stuff given his willingness to step away from a club like Chelsea and not accept sitting on the bench. Instead he has chosen to test and develop himself out on the pitch. Whilst I’m also hopeful that given his loan experiences, that he’s had a taste of failure and will work hard to avoid a repeat.
Time will tell but regardless it’s great business for Watford here and now.