As Baba Rahman looked up to assess his options having received the ball on Chelsea’s left flank, Armando Broja made his move.
The 19-year-old darted behind Bournemouth defender Lloyd Kelly – who was preoccupied with Ike Ugbo – and then brought down the Ghana international’s cross on his chest. Broja composed himself and, with the help of a deflection, finished from close range. It was a well-taken goal.
There was a roar of approval from Chelsea’s travelling support but Broja’s celebration was muted, always the way in pre-season friendlies. Yet there’s no doubt he’d have been feeling a great amount of personal satisfaction.
Broja is enjoying a fine pre-season under Thomas Tuchel. He scored in the opening friendly against Peterborough, netted in the intra-squad match in Ireland last week, and was on target at the Vitality. It’s impressive going no matter the circumstances or opposition.
The form Broja has shown since returning from his summer break is very much in keeping with the momentum he has built up over the last two years. Doubts over his goalscoring potential have been eroded and long forgotten. The questions over him now focus on how far he can progress at Chelsea.
Tuchel is reportedly an admirer of Broja’s talents, especially after the young forward’s loan spell at Vitesse Arnhem last season. The Albania international scored ten goals for the Dutch side in the Eredivisie, a figure no teenager in Europe’s top ten divisions could match.
Broja’s rapid development has been rewarded by Chelsea. Last week, he signed a new five-year deal with the club he supported as a boy. Not bad going for a player who didn’t have a professional contract weaved into his scholarship three years ago.
“Having come through the academy here it was a special moment for me to make my first-team debut last year, before gaining further experience on loan at Vitesse last season,” Broja told Chelsea’s website.
“I want to build on these foundations and I am really looking forward to progressing and making an impact at Chelsea in the years to come.”
Broja’s form has led to debate among the Chelsea fanbase as to whether that impact he spoke about could be achieved this season. And the goals he has scored this summer certainly give credence to the argument he’s ready for a role in Tuchel’s set-up.
Yet would a season as Chelsea’s third-choice forward – at best if a certain Norwegian arrives – be beneficial to Broja’s development? Would that momentum he’s built up over the past two years be maintained or would it be stopped dead?
There is, of course, no hard answer to the above questions. What is certain, though, is if Broja did remain at Stamford Bridge, his game time would almost certainly be limited. Tammy Abraham is the prime example as to why.
In his two seasons in the Chelsea first team, Abraham has scored 30 goals. However, last term, he started only 18 games in all competitions for the Blues with Timo Werner and Kai Havertz preferred ahead of him by Frank Lampard and later Thomas Tuchel.
Throw Erling Haaland into that mix and, even if Abraham leaves, it’s difficult to envisage Broja making more than ten starts in all competitions given the competition he would face. That would be a waste given the building blocks he’s put in place over the last two years.
Broja’s game also needs to be polished a little more. His goalscoring instinct is sharp and his movement and link play improved immeasurably at Vitesse. But there as still aspects of his game to hone, still times when he can take the wrong choice and end a promising attack.
Given he’s only had one season of senior football, that’s no huge surprise. Broja’s development has been rapid and far greater than many predicted. There is still reason to be careful with how he is handled over the next 12 months, though.
Some will disagree, of course, but another loan move feels exactly what Broja requires at this stage. He needs an environment to make mistakes without the risk of not featuring the following weekend, a platform on which he can star without feeling overawed.
This summer hasn’t been easy for those who follow and support Chelsea’s academy stars. Many have left for pastures new, so it’s natural some will cling to the idea of Broja staying at Stamford Bridge and having a role in Tuchel’s squad. But every player’s situation must be judged in isolation.
Broja has done magnificently to put himself in the first-team conversation at Chelsea and give Tuchel that difficult decision. The next step is to ensure he stays there. And to do so, he may have to step away once again.
Do you want an exclusive pre-season Chelsea preview – both in your inbox and through your letterbox? Head over here to find out more and secure your copy!
Source by Football London