As Chelsea academy players return for pre-season, a hive of activity has already begun to determine just how well-stocked the 2017-18 Loan Army is set to become.
With Danilo Pantic (Partizan Belgrade), Nathan Baxter (Woking) and Fankaty Dabo (Vitesse) already having secured moves, the Blues have wasted little time in getting down to business, and plenty more are expected to follow. To celebrate the beginning of another campaign, here’s something of a primer on what to expect between now and the end of the transfer window.
First Team Fringe Players
Ola Aina, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathaniel Chalobah, Kenedy and Charly Musonda all finished last season as part of the title-winning first-team squad but it would be a surprise if they each remained a part of Antonio Conte’s group come the end of the summer. They came together for just two league starts in 2016-1 – with Kenedy and Chalobah both playing in a dead rubber against Watford – and all need regular action now they’re in their 20s.
Chalobah is likely to depart on a permanent basis with Watford increasingly interested in bringing the England Under-21 midfielder back to Vicarage Road after a wildly successful loan spell four years ago, but the other four are expected to secure loan moves instead. Aina’s name has come up in conversations involving Hull City, with new manager Leonid Slutskiy having spent the first five months of the year embedded within Chelsea’s academy, and he could quite conceivably be joined by a number of other young Blues given the Tigers’ lack of squad depth.
Loftus-Cheek has unsuccessfully pushed for a loan for two years now, but is expected to get his way this time around, and a lengthy queue has already developed to secure his services. Newly-promoted Brighton and Newcastle are keen, as are a number of European teams, and he could have his pick of the most suitable destinations. Kenedy, after failing to impress at Watford a year ago, should turn his own attentions towards the continent at this stage, having made just five starts in two years in England.
Musonda represents this season’s wildcard in terms of staying around at Stamford Bridge though. He’s already dismissed another registration of interest from his former club Anderlecht and, despite Celtic sniffing around with rumours of a £5m bid to follow, he will join the first-team squad for pre-season and seek to earn a place in the squad. He’s got the talent and mentality to achieve that and, if he doesn’t, would be able to quickly finalise a loan to a team in a top European league.
Last Season’s Loan Army
We’ve waved goodbye to Nathan Aké, Christian Atsu, Juan Cuadrado, Alex Kiwomya and Bertrand Traore from last season’s loan army as each have departed on a new permanent adventure, and many others will follow. Victorien Angban, Mitchell Beeney, Cristian Cuevas, Matej Delac, Tomas Kalas, Mario Pasalic, Lucas Piazon and Loic Remy all have one year remaining on their contracts at Chelsea and aren’t expected to pen extensions, leaving them instead in search of the right move to take their respective careers forward.
Kalas and Piazon earned rave reviews at Fulham last term, and both would like to return to Craven Cottage, but Kalas appears the more likely of the two to do so at this stage despite confirmed interest from Hull. Pasalic has been linked with moves from Leeds to Galatasaray to Betis to the Bundesliga and might go a lot cheaper than a 22 year-old with his resumé might ordinarily do, whilst the rest of the group could land anywhere without making too much of a splash. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Angban and Beeney re-up with the club and take the longer road either.
Tammy Abraham will officially be unveiled as a Swansea City player when he returns from a mini-break at the end of England’s European Under-21 Championship campaign; the prolific marksman will sign a multi-year extension to his Chelsea contract before embarking upon a Premier League campaign under former Blues coach Paul Clement.
Izzy Brown and Kasey Palmer look set to join him in the top flight one way or another and both could do so in Huddersfield Town colours again. Premier League rules preclude the Terriers from taking them both on loan, leading to negotiations over an £8m permanent deal to take Brown back to the John Smith’s Stadium, enabling Palmer to be one of their two allowed loans from fellow top-flight clubs. Bournemouth are also keen on Palmer but the player prefers to return to Yorkshire following his successes there last term.
Andreas Christensen, like Musonda, will go into the first team squad for pre-season and be given every opportunity to force his way into the squad; if he doesn’t – and depending on any further transfer activity to come at the back – don’t be surprised if he agitates for a move away on a full-time basis. Marco van Ginkel will start the summer back at Cobham but is in talks with PSV to turn his two successful half-season loans at the Philips Stadion into a permanent stay.
Jay Dasilva is close to agreeing a return to Charlton Athletic after spending the second half of last season at The Valley; manager Karl Robinson has confirmed negotiations have been taking place, with the Addicks hopeful of a deal for the duration of the forthcoming campaign. Jordan Houghton could join him in League One despite recovering from a torn ACL back in February. His recovery is going well and Doncaster manager Darren Ferguson would love to bring him back to the Keepmoat Stadium after his integral role in their promotion efforts. Charlie Colkett, however, is chasing a continental adventure after splitting ’16-17 between Bristol Rovers and Swindon; a proposed move to Spain fell through in January due to FIFA rules on representing more than two clubs in the same season, and he’s reported to have turned down a switch to Vitesse, but his playing style is perfectly suited to playing overseas.
Lewis Baker spent the last two seasons doing just that to great success and will be chased by Premier League and top-end Championship clubs upon his return to domestic shores, and there’s similar uncertainty over his fellow Vitesse team-mates Matt Miazga and Nathan ahead of the big kick-off. The Gelderlanders have seemingly moved on from Nathan, leaving the Brazilian in limbo, but would like Miazga to return after he became their first-choice partner for Guram Kashia at centre-back. They have Europa League football to offer but the American has interest from Germany to mull over before deciding where he plays his football over the next twelve months.
Mukhtar Ali, Jamal Blackman, Jeremie Boga, Jake Clarke-Salter, Islam Feruz, Michael Hector and Fikayo Tomori will all return to the loan front for another year, and Todd Kane will join them after fully recovering from a year on the sidelines with a torn ACL of his own (a move to Groningen in the Eredivisie is close), but Kenneth Omeruo and Wallace are heading for the exit door without a future at Stamford Bridge; Omeruo has already confirmed his intention to move on, citing a familiar refrain that he needs stability at this stage of his career.
The Next Generation
Finally, whilst a number of last season’s vintage are gone never to return, their places will be taken by the next batch of academy hopefuls ready to leave academy football behind to test their mettle against adults. Mason Mount leads that particular queue and he should join Vitesse after his involvement with England at the European Under-19 Championships has finished. A switch to his favourite club Portsmouth was mooted but quickly dismissed and, despite interest from Norwich City, the Eredivisie is his most likely home.
Trevoh Chalobah is pushing for a loan but Chelsea would like him to extend his contract beyond the current 2019 expiry before he can head out, whilst Brad Collins, Ruben Sammut, Kyle Scott and Iké Ugbo are all at the right stages of their careers to take that next step. Scott had a trial at Willem II last summer only for the club to move in a different direction and he too has a style very well-suited to playing European football, and Ugbo’s immense development over the past six months has attracted the attentions of suitors from Championship and League One sides keen to find a goalscorer.
Fourty-four different Chelsea youngsters underwent a total of 49 loan moves last season in a record-breaking campaign that saw them rack up 126 goals overall. We might not hit those same highs again in 2017-18, but it’ll be hectic nonetheless, and you can keep fully abreast of everything as usual here at TheChels.net.