After a busier couple of weeks on the loan front, things returned to a state of near normality in the past seven days, with a series of solid if unspectular outings alongside your usual helping of frustration.
It was a case of the defensive players making an impact this week with clean sheets for both Tomas Kalas and Jeffrey Bruma, whilst goalkeeper Sam Walker enjoyed better days than they generally have had of late.
Bruma recovered from a shoulder injury picked up last weekend to take his place at the heart of Hamburg’s defence for their trip to Mainz, and he had a good game in their goalless draw.
Playing with the assistance of painkillers, the Dutchman continued to build upon his partnership with Heiko Westermann and has been one of the team’s best and most consistent performers since Thorsten Fink took over at the Imtech Arena. With a series of injuries happening at the centre back position, he should be good to continue agaisnt Augsburg next weekend in their final game before the winter break.
Vitesse Arnhem’s stellar defensive record continued unabated on Sunday with a 0-0 draw against Groningen at the Gelredome and, as usual, Tomas Kalas was an important part of their effort, completing another solid 90 minutes.
They stay seventh in the table, one place above their opponents, whilst only league leaders AZ Alkmaar and FC Twente have conceded fewer goals this season.
Over in Spain, Thibaut Courtois returned from a one-game domestic suspension to face Espanyol on Sunday night, but it was not the best of nights for Los Colchoneros as they went down to a heavy 4-2 defeat.
Courtois might well have done better with the game’s opening goal and the hosts were well and truly out of sight after just 20 minutes.
Earlier in the week, the Belgian international conducted an interview with Madrid Atléticos which you can read HERE.
In England, meanwhile, Sam Walker and Northampton Town avoided defeat for the first time since late October in holding Crewe Alexandra to a 1-1 draw at Sixfields Stadium.
Having shipped eleven goals in his previous two outings behind a porous defence, it came as something of a relief for the giant stopper to only pick the ball out of his net once.
New manager Aidy Boothroyd will have been impressed with the young loanee he has inherited, and Sam too is pleased to be working under the former Watford boss, as he revealed to BBC East last week:
“We were shot to pieces with two horrific losses which left the team in the gutter.
“We were a team that had no confidence at all. We needed someone like the new gaffer to build us back up.”
He added: “Losing 7-2 [to Shrewsbury] and 4-1 [to Plymouth], and conceding four at Gillingham, doesn’t look good on any of us.
“But you pick yourselves back up and what’s happened has happened.”
“He’s very certain in his ways and he knows exactly what he wants us to do,”
“I think a bit of organisation is what we needed and players to know exactly what they’re doing. But it’s on the Saturday when it counts.
“It’s a big game for us and, speaking on behalf of the players, we’re massively looking forward to it. It’s a game to kick off a big month for us, with three home games that are winnable.”
Up in League One, Conor Clifford extended his stay at Yeovil Town for another month, a move which came as no surprise after his fine form at Huish Park. The deal is the minimum possible under the football league transfer window rules and he will likely further extend the deal until May once the January window opens.
The Irishman completed a satisfactory hour on Saturday before being replaced by Gavin Williams, who scored a dramatic late winner against Notts County.
In the Premier League, Patrick van Aanholt had the weekend off once again as Wigan Athletic continue to leave him out altogether, but there was a rare Gael Kakuta sighting in the last twenty minutes of Bolton’s defeat to Aston Villa.
Sky Sports pundit Chris Kamara opined that the Frenchman was a consistent threat and looked lively in possession, but lacked an end product to go with his dangerous approach play.
Perhaps if Kakuta was afforded the playing time to refine and develop his game, there would be more of a tangible return, but Owen Coyle continues to believe otherwise, with his Wanderers team rock bottom of the league and evidently not in need of a spark…
Finishing off with a check-up on Matej Delac at Ceske Budejovice, he wasn’t in action once again this week, but the Czech League is now on its winter break and will not resume competitive domestic action until February 18th. In previous years the Croatian has spent part of December training in England with his parent club and that is likely – although not confirmed – to be the case once again.