Position: Central/Attacking Midfielder
Date of Birth: January 8th 1991
Place of Birth: Nottingham, England
Previous Club(s): Sheffield United
Jacob’s arrival at Chelsea in 2007 was another of those deals that attracted more media attention than your average academy signing. Because he’d already played for Sheffield United’s reserve team at the age of 15, and because the reported fee was in the region of £1.5m, all eyes were on him. From the first time he appeared in a blue shirt, onlookers could see why Chelsea wanted to bring him to London.
Born in Nottingham and coming through the same youth set-up as Jermaine Jenas, it’s no surprise that the Spurs and England midfielder is Jacob’s role model and idol. They even bear a physical resemblance. His best position is the same attacking central midfield role, although he can also play on the right if needed, and over the course of his first year at Chelsea was also tried at centre-back, with surprising success.
In his first showing in blue against Malmo in pre-season he was breathtakingly good, and was also impressive against Swindon. He quickly became a regular in the line-up and whilst it took him a while to find the back of the net, over the middle period of the season he netted crucial goals in big games, and made a big impact on Chelsea’s run to the FA Youth Cup Final.
When he plays in attacking midfield he’s given the license to drive into the penalty area in much the same way as Frank Lampard does. Comfortable on either foot and with a decent shot, defenders have to account for him, but his vision and touch allows him to use other players from dangerous positions. At centre-back, he’s clearly not at home but was trusted with the role in the second leg of the FA Youth Cup Semi Finals at Aston Villa, and did a good job. His ball-playing skills from such a deep role allow Chelsea to build moves from deep, and whilst it’s not ever going to be a permanent role, it’s a useful position to have on your CV. For the money they paid, Chelsea have seen positive returns thus far.
Jacob’s season started well as he broke into the England Under-19 squad for the first time, but had to pull out with an injury which would disrupt his first half of the season. His return to fitness in time for the FA Youth Cup was invaluable as he played a big part in Chelsea’s win at Old Trafford, and as the year turned into 2009 he has refound his form, scoring in three successive youth games and taking control of the game in the middle of the park in powerful fashion.