'Not so ready' – Roberto De Zerbi gives honest Carlos Baleba verdict after his full-debut at Chelsea
and live on Freeview channel 276
Baleba, 19, arrived from French club Lille late in last month’s transfer window for around £25m and had his first taste of Premier League football as a second half substitute in the 3-1 win against Bournemouth last Sunday. He was then handed his first start by head coach Roberto De Zerbi at Stamford Bridge, where he came up against former Brighton man Moises Caicedo – who Baleba was brought in to replace.
The Cameroon midfielder showed glimpses of his potential but on the whole, he had a tough evening against Chelsea. Baleba struggled at times with the pace of the game and also gave the ball away too cheaply too often.
The potential in Baleba is clear to see and it’s worth remembering that former midfielders Alexis Mac Allister, Yves Bissouma and current Albion man Billy Gilmour all took time to settle before finding their best form.
De Zerbi however is keen for his new arrival to get up to speed quickly.
“You are used to watching Premier League and the other European leagues are totally different,” said De Zerbi when asked about Baleba’s display after the Chelsea match. “The Premier League is stronger and tougher and the new players have to adapt in the difficulties of the game.
"He is [born in] 2004 and it was the first game at this level at Stamford Bridge and I am pleased for his performance. Clearly he has to improve and progress. Maybe now he is not so ready to play in first XI.
"We lost Pascal Gross and [James] Milner and so in that position we only have three midfielders but the players and coach have to adapt in this moment.
"We play a lot of games, I don't want to make an excuse but the young players they must… (clicks his fingers quickly) progress.”
The Seagulls will likely be without Gross and James Milner for this Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa. Jakub Moder is making progress but the Villa Park match will arrive to soon, although Adam Lallana could be available.