'So good': Chelsea academy coach says his midfielder has been great this season, Tuchel still hasn't picked him

Chelsea youth coach John Harley praised Lewis Baker’s performances for the development sides this season.

Speaking to The Athletic, Harley highlighted the midfielder’s admirable contribution to the academy set without earning much notice from Thomas Tuchel.

Baker’s blues

Baker is in serious career limbo right now.

Despite joining Chelsea as a fresh-faced nine-year-old, he has only played seven competitive minutes for his boyhood club.

Photo by Clive Howes – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

That rare run-out was way back in 2014.

Since then, he’s been through a cycle of eight separate loan spells, spanning four different countries.

RONALDO NEEDS TO STOP WHINING.

After a decent campaign at Trabzonspor, Baker returned to Cobham for pre-season.

He started in the friendly fixture against Bournemouth, which sparked a small flurry of optimism from the player’s personal fan base.

That brief moment of buoyancy was instantly extinguished.

Despite being named in Chelsea’s Premier League and Champions League squads, the 26-year-old is yet to even make the bench for any game in either competition.

Instead, he’s been resigned to Under-23 matches and a few outings for the Under-21s in the EFL trophy.

Baking up a treat

In fairness to the former England Under-21 international, those minutes with the juniors have not been wasted.

Baker has scored three times and assisted twice this term, including a delightful free-kick against Crystal Palace last month.

Photo by Clive Howes – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

This individual piece of quality alone would usually make a first-team coach sit up and notice.

Yet, Baker is still stationed below the men’s squad.

When asked why the player hasn’t moved away from academy football, Harley said: “I don’t think anyone could give an outright answer on that.

“He’s had different loan spells and, for whatever reason, some of them haven’t gone as he would have planned.

“But the one thing I would say is that he’s come in and his mentality within this group… he’s like the coach on the pitch.

“He’s been so good for us, working alongside us. You can see he stands out. Every game he has stood out. He has run games.”

Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images

So close, yet so far

Baker was on the verge ending his long exile from the senior set-up when Chelsea took on Brentford in the Carabao Cup mid-week.

However, a positive covid result a day before the encounter ensured he did not travel across the capital.

Fortunately, there is another opportunity just over the horizon.

The Blues host National League leaders Chesterfield in the FA Cup after the New Year, a chance for many evolving talents to take the spotlight.

Or, in Baker’s case, for forgotten men to reclaim their name.

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.