Vale, Hall and the Chelsea teenagers out to catch Tuchel's eye ahead of next season

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Despite their late-season struggles, Chelsea's place in the Champions League for next season is now secure.

Arsenal's defeat at Newcastle on Monday assured Thomas Tuchel's side of a place among Europe's elite for 2022-23, and with new ownership on the horizon, summer plans can finally be firmed up.

There are still two Premier League games to go, however, with Leicester City and Watford visiting Stamford Bridge on Thursday and Sunday, respectively.

Tuchel will be keen to ensure his side finish third rather than fourth, but with the pressure mostly off, the German coach has now been given a chance to get a full look at his squad options in the final matches of the campaign.

With a host of players set to leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, this feels like the ideal opportunity to blood some youngsters, allowing Tuchel to get a taste of what they could offer him next term.

There have been growing concerns among the Chelsea fanbase over the pathway from the club's famed academy to the first team, with a host of academy stars having left the club in the past couple of years.

The success of Marc Guehi and Tino Livramento after departing the Blues in the summer of 2021 has brought this into sharper focus, and so playing some teenage talents now could work both ways for Chelsea going forward.

It would allow Tuchel to get a proper look at what the academy has to offer, while showing those talents that the road to the Chelsea first team still exists.

But who are the candidates to potentially play over the next four days and into pre-season? GOAL has the answer...

  • Harvey Vale ChelseaGetty Images

    Harvey Vale

    Vale is currently the frontrunner to win Chelsea's Academy Player of the Year award, following in the footsteps of the likes of Mason Mount, Reece James, Conor Gallagher and Callum Hudson-Odoi.

    The versatile forward, who can also play at wing-back or in midfield, has been given more first-team opportunities by Tuchel than any other academy player this season, appearing for a total of 131 minutes in domestic cup competitions.

    With nine goals and five assists at age-group level this season, the 18-year-old has been a leader for both the Under-23s and U18s.

    There is also an extra incentive for Tuchel to use Vale, with the England youth international having just one year left on his current contract, and first-team opportunities likely to be a sticking point when negotiations over a fresh deal begin.

  • Lewis Hall Chelsea 2021-22Getty Images

    Lewis Hall

    At just 17, Hall rose to prominence after starring in Chelsea's 5-1 FA Cup third-round win over National League side Chesterfield in January.

    A natural midfielder, the teenager actually played at centre back, but still ended the match with an assist after playing 90 full minutes.

    Since then, Hall has dropped back down to youth level, racking up close to 40 appearances in all competitions in a season that has seen him play all the way down with the U16s as well as with the senior side.

    Another appearance at that level in a more favourable position could, then, be a just reward for a player who those at Cobham say has developed far more quickly than they could have imagined.

  • Charlie Webster ChelseaGetty Images

    Charlie Webster

    Webster is regarded as being the great entertainer of the Chelsea academy, combining his agility and balance with wonderful ball-striking technique that has led to him producing stunning passes and a series of long-range goals.

    One of the highest earners in the Blues' youth system, much was expected of the 18-year-old this season, but like many, he began the year without the required level of consistency. 

    In the past few months, however, he has rediscovered his form, and played a key role in the clubs U23s avoiding relegation from Division One of Premier League 2.

    Tuchel was in attendance to see Webster shine in the Blues' final-day win over Tottenham that secured their survival and could look to reward Webster for realising his potential, having not yet given him a senior debut.  

  • Xavier Simons Chelsea 2021-22Getty Images

    Xavier Simons

    Xavier Simons already has one senior appearance to his name, after he started December's Carabao Cup win over Brentford amid a Covid-19 outbreak at Chelsea.

    Playing slightly out of position at right wing-back, the Cobham starlet did well when facing the club he was originally signed from in 2016.

    Another appearance may be on the cards in the coming days, though the 19-year-old's contract situation is likely to work against him.

    Simons is now expected to leave Chelsea this summer with his current deal into its final weeks, with Southampton, Brighton, Norwich City and Watford all in the running to sign him on a free transfer.

  • Jude Soonsup-BellGetty

    Jude Soonsup-Bell

    It has not been an easy season for Soonsup-Bell, who many were tipping for great things at the start of the campaign.

    The striker scored 19 goals in 27 games last season, but has managed to net just seven times in 34 games this after a permanent promotion to the U23s.

    Several bouts of illness have not helped his progress, and he still managed to make his first-team debut against Brentford in December.

    The 18-year-old's form has picked up late in the season, and he scored the winner when dropping down the U18s for their Premier League Cup final win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.

  • Dylan Williams ChelseaGetty Images

    Dylan Williams

    Williams has been a revelation since signing for Chelsea in the January transfer window from Derby County.

    Having played in the Championship multiple times under Wayne Rooney, the Rams were reluctant to lose their left wing-back, but their financial woes meant that they could not stand in the 18-year-old's way when the Blues came calling.

    Chelsea were previously struggling to find left-sided defenders for their academy sides, but Williams has thrived since stepping into the U23s side.

    Tuchel has rewarded him with a place on the first-team bench in the FA Cup, and a Premier League debut may not be too far away for a player who already has some senior experience to fall back on.

  • Bashir Humphreys Chelsea 2021-22Getty Images

    Bashir Humphreys

    While Levi Colwill remains the leading central defender when it comes to Chelsea's homegrown players who are yet to make their first-team debut, Humphreys is not far behind him.

    It was hoped that the 19-year-old would be physical leader at the back for the U23s this season, but suffered an injury setback early in the season.

    He is now, though, fully fit, and his return to action coincided with an improvement in results later in the season.

    Humphreys' future is, however, up in the air, after the club were hit with financial sanctions in the week he was set to sign a new contract at the club. It is hoped that a deal can now be reached once the Blues' new oweners are in place.

  • Joe Haigh ChelseaGetty Images

    Joe Haigh

    Haigh was the player whose goal ultimately saved Chelsea's U23s from relegation, his last-minute strike against Tottenham instead condemning Leeds United to the drop.

    The 19-year-old could, then, be rewarded with a place in the first-team squad, despite his overally numbers not particularly standing out.

    The midfileder returned six goals and one assist in his 31 youth appearances this season, though a number of those came from the bench.

    Likened to Mason Mount while having idolised Steven Gerrard growing up, Haigh has the potential to be a late bloomer and force himself into the reckoning at Stamford Bridge.

  • Mason Burstow Charlton Athletic 2021-22Getty Images

    Mason Burstow

    One wildcard option to potentially be thrust into the first-team squad in pre-season is Burstow, who will go down in history as Chelsea's final permanent signing under Roman Abramovich's ownership.

    The 18-year-old joined the Blues in January after impressing in League One for Charlton Athletic, and he remained on loan at The Valley for the second half of the season, despite Chelsea being keen to bring him straight to Cobham after they beat Brentford to his signature.

    Burstow has already spent some time at the club's training ground, however, after being on trial at Chelsea when he was a Maidstone United player in the summer of 2020.

    He also recently returned early from his summer holiday to help the U23s avoid relegation, and though the rough edges in Burstow's game that come from being brought through at non-league level need ironing out, he has real potential to catch Tuchel's eye.