THE REAL MAKOYA
After a bland and ponderous performance against struggling Arsenal, Chelsea fans needed a tonic to lift the spirits. It was a frustrating watch: Alvaro Morata laboured in his target man role, Pedro was as precise as a chainsaw and Eden Hazard’s substitute appearance flattered to deceive.
A fixture against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup (or the Carabao Cup, or whatever irrelevant name Lord Sponsorship has decreed) was just the opportunity to get the team’s mindset back on track. Ultimately, they took it a step further and delivered the type of performance capable of galvanising morale. Antonio Conte took a gamble by starting so many fringe players, but it paid off handsomely with a 5-1 result.
The standout performer: Charly Musonda Jr (20). The unpredictable attacking midfielder stole the show, based not on his performance alone but also the history he brought into his full debut.
Musonda, the son of a former Zambian international, joined the Blues in 2012 at the supple age of 15, before signing his first professional contract a year later. He arrived with his two older brothers — Lamisha and Tika — but there was never much question that their employment was more a favour than an investment. Family relocation is required in the Uefa rules surrounding the signing of young teenagers.
The Belgian youth international has bided his time, working his way up the reserve structure at the Blues. Then, on Wednesday, he got his chance and took it with both hands — or, more accurately, his right foot.
Musonda grabbed the third goal of the night in the 40th minute, ensuring his team could remain on cruise control thereafter. The rifled shot from the corner of the box was just reward for a night of hustle and innovation.
England’s top teams are frequently rightly maligned for not providing an opportunity to blood youngsters — preferring expensive, high-profile players instead. Chelsea are the chief culprits of this tradition. But, in a rare exception to this practice, Musonda was thrust into the spotlight.
For entertaining us and giving the smallest sliver of hope that we may one day see another Class of ’92-esque team, Charly Musonda Jr is this week’s Real Makoya.