Ethan Ampadu breaks silence on Chelsea future after learning important lesson at Venezia

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On 22 January, Venezia FC’s Twitter admin broke an unspoken rule.

The trick of the trade is not to get attached to loan players. Or at the very least, don’t make that attachment known, particularly not an attachment to those loanees who are farmed out at fiercely high rates from a club that has, over the last odd-decade, come to carve an exquisite industry in doing so.

But it seems, in the 79th minute of Venezia’s Serie A clash with Inter Milan, Venezia FC’s Twitter admin couldn’t help themselves. Ethan Ampadu, the 21-year-old Chelsea defender, loaned out to the ostensibly relegation-condemned Serie A side back in August, had finally cracked them.

“Ampadu is a gem,” they tweeted. “He’s played in at least four different roles this season, doing a bit of everything between midfield and defence, and his assist on Henry’s goal was his third of the campaign.”

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At that point, Ampadu was into his fourth position as a Venezian player. By the next match, he would stretch that fact to five, but here, against Inter Milan, the Welshman was deployed as a right-winger, and 19 minutes in, the decision looked to be a masterstroke. Ampadu blitzed up the touchline and sent in a sweet cross – one arm outstretched for balance, a subtle back lift, follow through like a golf swing – onto which on-rushing Thomas Henry latched, lifting Venezia to a 0-1 lead.

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Venezia ultimately lost the match, courtesy of a 90-minute winner from veteran striker Edin Džeko, but the rule had been broken. Venezia admitted their comprehensive adoration for their Chelsea loanee.

It comes as something of a chore to remind oneself that he is only 21 years old.

The Wales international has accrued 33 caps for his nation before the age of 22, a stat that puts him in the same ranks as talisman Gareth Bale and on course to potentially set a cap record of his own. He is Chelsea’s first Premier League debutante born after the turn of the century. He made his professional debut with Exeter City at 15 years old, five years after the first World Cup he can actually remember (Shakira, vuvuzelas and “the Jabulani ball that moved everywhere!”).

Against the background of a 64-year purgatory for Wales’ World Cup hopes, Ampadu’s age, again, shines violently, but his youth particularly comes to play as he talks through a third loan spell outside the Cobham Academy walls – a third loan spell in a third different league since arriving to Chelsea in 2017 – with all the reflective thoughtfulness of a deeply seasoned defender.

“Ups and downs like every season,” Ampadu said on Friday in the lead-up to Wales’ World Cup play-off final against Ukraine. “I have learnt a lot. The expectation was to go there and learn a lot which I felt like I did. Overall, even with it being a negative result as a team, which affects me as well, some of the performances I can take positives from. Every loan has its different challenges, but maybe this is the most positive one.”

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“A lot of media said that [we were relegation bound], which we were aware of, but maybe it gave us something extra to prove them wrong. Unfortunately, we didn’t. At times in the season, we felt like maybe we would have.”

Before arriving in Venice, it was felt by those within Ampadu’s camp that a productive and mature spell this time around could prove pivotal in any bid to break into Chelsea’s first team. Ampadu’s loan record runs long, but on paper, it does not always read pretty: less than a match’s worth of minutes with RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga in 2019/20, followed by the joint-fasted demotion from the Premier League in history with Sheffield United last season.

However, his recent stint with now-relegated Venezia, who were fresh off the back of a 19-year return to top-flight football, proved to be the very ground upon which Ampadu honed himself as an imposing and versatile presence across defence and midfield. It could come in clutch timing as manager Thomas Tuchel looks ahead to a busy summer of squad chopping and changing.



The 21-year-old versatile defender completed his third loan spell away from Chelsea with relegation from Serie A but believes the lessons learned are indispensable.
Could Ethan Ampadu play his way into Thomas Tuchels thinking?

Here are the numbers. In Ampadu’s 30 appearances, he led the squad in successful tackles per game (2.3) and ranked second for interceptions per game (1.8), behind only 27-year-old centre-back Mattia Caldara.

The Welshman won the second-most aerial duels per game (2), behind only forward Thomas Henry, ranked joint-second in the squad for assists (3), and was responsible for the third most average passes per game at 36.6 with a 77 per cent accuracy.

All of which were efforts executed while attempting to keep Venezia within touching distance of safety in a division they were written out of before a ball had even been kicked.

“It is a difficult situation with losing a lot,” Ampadu said, “but we always stayed positive throughout everything and put everything into our performances until the end.”

Putting everything into performances has never been an issue with Ampadu. At Venezia, the loanee immediately endeared himself to fans with high-octane, take-no-prisoners energy against the biggest and worst teams in Serie A. Google Ampadu’s Venezia highlight reel. The treasure trove of last-ditch tackles, clearances and end-to-end sprints is dizzying.

The treasure trove of cards is also dizzying. In Ampadu’s first five appearances, the defender was issued four yellow cards and a controversial red. Despite club president Duncan Niederauer deeming the red card unfair treatment, in less than a month since arriving in Venice, Ampadu’s physicality stood vis-a-vis a crossroads: iron itself out or risk an ugly season littered with suspensions.

The side of Ampadu’s game would always prove troublesome, and he would need to tease out a balance if he hoped to excel to the game’s next level. Ampadu’s recklessness was no secret, and only a few months earlier, it forced Ampadu to miss Wales’ last-16 clash with Denmark in Euro2020 after a red card against Italy in the group stages.

Ampadu’s guard-dog aplomb was desperately for want as Wales crumbled to a 4-0 defeat, unable to manage the match’s emotional levels.

In a league not known for its physical nature while playing in a team battling relegation, the challenge for Ampadu’s physicality would prove to be an acid test to his growth, and despite the eventual tally of 12 yellow cards, two reds and three one-match suspensions as a consequence, Ampadu believes his initial rawness has been honed.

“Maybe looking at the stats, maybe not,” Ampadu said with a knowing smile. “You know, I got 12 yellows and two reds. It is hard to go against that. Some of the yellows and one red, I don’t think were [fouls]. But at the end of the day, they were. So it was about learning from that, which I believe I did even though I went on to pick up a couple.”

The fact that Ampadu still garnered the third-most minutes in the squad despite the suspensions is testament to the sheer extent to which Venezia relied on the youngster for control, creativity and, most of all, fight throughout their season. That Ampadu’s fight is married so fluidly with a versatile skill set suggests perhaps it should come as no surprise that Venezia’s club account finally felt the need to acknowledge their appreciation of him.

Whether Tuchel views Ampadu’s loan success as enough evidence for first-team football next season remains to be seen. Before joining Venezia, Ampadu committed his long-term future with the Blues until 2024. But with Chelsea’s ownership saga officially complete and a raft of rumoured departures in midfield and defence, Tuchel could be forced to look inside Chelsea’s walls for reinforcements as he attempts to restore the grit that defined the Chelsea of winning ways in the past decade. Ampadu could serve as a valuable asset.

Regardless, if Wales qualifies for a World Cup on Sunday in their play-off final against Ukraine – a match that Ampadu is expected to play an integral role on the right-side of a back-three –, Ampadu’s need for consistent game-time will ratchet up significantly.

Yet, when posed the question of his future, Ampadu opted for characteristic diplomacy.

“As a footballer, you want to play in every game, and as a kid, I loved playing every game,” he said. “It does help on big occasions [playing week in and week out], but week by week, you want to play football. No one likes to sit and watch it.”

Source by Football London

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