So the 2010/11 loan exodus begins.
After seventeen different players embarked on nineteen separate loan spells last season, Daniel Philliskirk became the second of an expected many (following Rhys Taylor) to find a new temporary home for the new campaign.
The midfielder will join up with Oxford United this week and spend a month on loan at the Kassam Stadium; a deal which will likely be extended should he impress.
It’s the 19 year-old’s first foray into professional football, three years after joining Chelsea as a first-year scholar from Oldham Athletic. But what can followers of the Us expect from their new signing?
First off, we should set something straight. Manager Chris Wilder made something of an intriguing statement when revealing the move:
“Chelsea play in the three up front so he is used to playing in that. If he does well then he has a great opportunity here.”
Now this, on the face of it, is true. Daniel does have vast experience at playing in a 4-3-3 formation, which the club had adopted throughout every level from 2004-2009, and still use occasionally at Under-18 level and as the formation of choice for all junior sides.
However, it suggests that Oxford may intend to use him as a forward. Which could be a problem.
Philliskirk was a forward in his more formative years, and came to the club touted as a a striker when he left Boundary Park. Whilst he has occasionally played as a lead striker wearing the number nine shirt in Chelsea Blue, he has most often lined up in midfield.
Indeed, he has probably played in attack as often as he has at centre-back, as he filled in across the back line on occasion during the 2008/09 season.
One Oxford fan has today suggested to me that James Constable will be leading their attack this season, flanked by two wide men. It would be a reach to expect Daniel to play in one of those roles, as he has very little recent experience doing so, and it contradicts his style.
If their intention is, as would make sense, to play him in the middle of the park, then everything changes, and it could be a successful relationship.
Whilst he’s not an exceptionally gifted athlete, he can handle the rough and tumble of adult professional football, and is technically accomplished to play in a team wanting to adopt an attractive style.
He’s a capable passer over all distances, and plays a neat and tidy game, perhaps in the style (not ability) of a Paul Scholes. He may appear rather unassuming, perhaps introverted, but leads by example and has captained Chelsea at youth and reserve level.
The aim for the four-week spell must surely to be to nail down a starting berth early on and making a positive impression which leads either to a longer spell at the club, or a step up to another level.
Everything he’s shown at Chelsea so far suggests he should be good enough to compete in the division, if not stand out should the opportunity be given to him.
Chelsea have tended to shy away from loans to England’s fourth tier in recent years, preferring to find homes in League One.
Last season, only Nana Ofori-Twumasi played in League Two, spending six weeks at Dagenham & Redbridge. The season before saw just Lee Sawyer and Tom Taiwo at Wycombe Wanderers and Port Vale respectively.
However, Rhys Taylor is at Crewe Alexandra to start the season, and with the likes of Jack Cork and Ryan Bertrand having taken their first senior steps at this level with Bournemouth, there’s definitely merit in the idea.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on Daniel’s progress, as well as that of every loanee the club sends out this season, here at TheChels.net throughout the campaign.