We'll be taking a closer look at Chelsea's top prospects leading up to the new year, center back Jeffrey Bruma just missed our top ten
Earlier in the week, we gave you the chance to tell us who you felt Chelsea's top ten prospects were. We're now done accepting responses, and I've put together the 2013 edition of the list. All of the votes of the readers were combined to form a collective opinion, and most of the staff here also submitted their own opinions on the matter as well. After combining those votes, we are left with a list that I feel pretty good about on the whole.
For today, we are going to look at a pair of players that just missed the top ten. These two posts should give you all an idea of the players that most felt were on the fringes of consideration, as both were very close to having the votes required to crack the top ten. First up is the player that the We Ain't Got No History community ranked as their #10 prospect, but that didn't get quite enough love from the authors to make it into the final top ten.
Bruma has been on the radar of most Chelsea fans since he first put on the shirt in 2007. Because of that, it would probably surprise most to learn that he only just turned 21 years old in November. Bruma made an impression with Carlo Ancelotti when the Italian first took charge at Stamford Bridge, and made his senior debut for the club in October of 2009.
While it was clear that Bruma possessed loads of talent, some time on loan was needed to polish his overall game. He'd join Leicester City in early 2011, and he spent all of last season at Budesliga side Hamburger SV. The road to the Chelsea first team was still blocked this summer, so both clubs and the player all agreed to a second spell at HSV.
Thus far that decision has been a bit of a disappointment. After logging over 2000 minutes for the Bundesliga side last season, Bruma has played just 604 thus far this season for Hamburg. He's been pushed out of the regular starting lineup after missing time with injury, and Chelsea and Bruma are rumored to be considering ending this loan early.
Despite the disappointment, Bruma has shown some things that make me very happy this year. One of my big complaints with his defensive work was his inability to defend balls in the air. he has shown massive improvement in this regard over the past twelve months, to the point that I'd even begin to rate it as a real strength. He's probably not ever going to be elite in the air, but he's showing enough to make me believe he can more than hold his own in that regard in the Premier League.
His new-found aerial prowess has not come at the expense of the things he's typically done well, as he's still very good with the ball at his feet and generally makes sound decisions in that regard. He's quite capable of delivering a fantastic long ball, although he does tend to do so a little too often for my liking. I'd imagine this is something that could be corrected with some more time on the pitch, but for now, it's something he needs to work on. That's probably still better than an over-reliance on the short pass, as turnovers tend to come in far less dangerous areas that way.
Despite having show the occasional flashes of David Luiz while on the ball, he's usually been the Anti-Luiz in the defensive decision making department. He looks to be a solid tackler, but very rarely tries. He also rarely goes for the interception, often opting to clear the ball emphatically instead. While he doesn't tend to be very aggressive in taking possession from his opponent, Bruma generally does an excellent job of blocking incoming shots. This low-risk approach has its merits, but he's a bit extreme in that regard.
Bruma has also been adjusting to a new role of late, as the bulk of his playing time over the last few months has been at fullback. This doesn't tend to play well with his strengths, as his far from aggressive approach plays much better in the center than it does on the wings. He's also shown basically no feel for crossing the ball in any game that I've watched. While it's nice to know he can play fullback in a pinch, I'd say it's fair to conclude that he'll never be a Chelsea-caliber fullback. His future value to the club should certainly come as a centerback, albeit one that could cover either flank in the case of emergency.
In the short term, I'd be a bit surprised if Chelsea decide to keep Bruma at HSV. He's shown all the requisite skills to be a top class center back in the future, and the things he needs to work on will be improved more by from regular time on the pitch than by facing top level opponents. A switch to a club where his role is more secure would likely allow him to be a bit more aggressive, and without that, his tremendous skill with the ball will always be somewhat wasted.
Long term, the future for Bruma is a bit less certain. He is under contract with Chelsea until July of 2014, so the next 6-8 months will probably determine if he ever has a future with Chelsea. He absolutely has the skill required to factor into Chelsea's long term defensive plans, but he needs to learn how to utilize his gifts if he's ever going to get there. Without a doubt, he'll be one to watch very closely this spring.