From week to week, the number of Chelsea loanees who receive considerable playing time can fluctuate.
Over the last few years, Blues supporters will be familiar with the stories of the likes of Scott Sinclair and Ben Sahar, who couldn’t buy a place in the starting elevens of teams they spent a short spell with.
It therefore comes as good news that this week, a considerable majority of those available to feature for their loan teams did so, and have done for most of this season.
Many have scored goals in recent weeks, and whilst nobody found the back of the net in the last seven days, it has nonetheless been another productive period.
Daniel Sturridge remains the feature player in Premier League action, but saw his 100% scoring record in Bolton colours come to an end in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa.
He was, however, involved from the start and played an entertaining ninety minutes, with key involvement in a late winner for Owen Coyle’s men.
Picking up the ball wide on the right, Sturridge swung a high delivery towards the far post. David Wheater was unable to get to the ball, but from the ensuing chaos, Ivan Klasnic slammed in a winner to clinch another important three points.
Michael Mancienne missed another match for Wolves with a knee injury which has wiped out most of his season, but Gael Kakuta was back in action for Fulham, turning in an impressive cameo during a thirteen-minute substitute performance for Fulham at home to Blackburn.
Gael’s playing time since joining the Cottagers has been severely affected by being cup-tied, but he displayed typical flair and confidence against Steve Kean’s side, and left home supporters keen to see more.
Indeed, Fulham fans were effusive in their praise of the Frenchman, which is no mean feat given their feelings towards his parent club. A selection of quotes from the Indepedent Fulham Forums demonstrates as much:
– “Kakuta…is immense. No point in having him at the club if we don’t use that skill to secure our position.”
– “Please sign him up, pure class.”
– “Kakuta looks a real deal. Hope we ‘enjoy him’ whilst we can.”
– “Kakuta looks quality. Came on, showed pace, made some great quick passes, nice 1st touches. I’d be tempted to have him and Duff out wide, with Dembele behind Zamora, dropping Johnson.”
– “Kakuta looks class.”
In The Championship, Patrick van Aanholt is sidelined for Leicester City with a tear in his thigh muscle, an injury which will sideline him for the best part of a month.
Compatriot Jeffrey Bruma, however, has worked his way into the starting eleven, partnering Sol Bamba in defence, and had a big challenge on Saturday against league leaders QPR.
Playing in a shirt with no name or number on the back, he stood out from kick off, but soon began to draw attention for more important reasons. In his best display so far for the Foxes, Bruma put in an oustanding display against a potent attacking team, earning some nominations as Leicester’s Man of the Match.
Rangers stole a late win courtesy of an Ishmael Miller goal, with the loanee bulling his way past both Bruma and Bamba, but otherwise he will have gone a long way to earning a regular berth in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s team.
For Ben Gordon and Scunthorpe, things continue to look positive, with another clean sheet proving the foundation for a big win over promotion-chasing Swansea.
Joe Garner’s second-half goal was enough to seal victory for Ian Baraclough’s side, and Ben had another solid outing. He was denied a penalty for what appeared to be a blatant foul on him in the opposition area, and offered more going forward than in defence.
It was a strong performance to bounce back from a 2-0 midweek defeat in a long trip to Portsmouth, another match in which Ben featured for the full duration.
The Iron are now a point away from safety with a game in hand on Crystal Palace, meaning that every match from now until the end of the season is crucial to their chances of survival.
At the other end of the table, Jack Cork and Burnley continue to be a part of the promotion picture, and are quietly playing their way into very impressive form.
Another three points were taken against Crystal Palace on Saturday, with the Chelsea midfielder laying on the pass for Jay Rodriguez’ stunning early goal.
Cork, who revealed earlier in the week that he has been told he will be allowed to move in the summer, has found a home at Turf Moor and the Clarets will be trying to tie up a permanent deal for his services in the near future.
Jacob Mellis, meanwhile, returned from a hamstring problem and played an hour in a drab goalless draw for Barnsley away to Derby County.
There was double duty for Conor Clifford in League One this week, starting in familiar territory, as Notts County headed to Griffin Park, home to Brentford and formerly of Chelsea’s reserve team.
Paul Ince’s team earned a 1-1 draw, but after a good first half, Conor faded slightly in the second, as did many of his team-mates. The trend continued on Saturday with another trip to London, one which ended in defeat at the hands of Leyton Orient.
Concensus on Clifford’s display appears to be that he was keen to get the ball down and play, but the same could rarely have been said of others in black and white shirts.
As a result, the Irishman was starved of possession and options, and was unable to exert an influence over either affair. He has already proven he can play at this level, being a standout for Plymouth before Christmas, perhaps indicating that County may be served well in finding ways to involve a player who can, on his day, be talismanic.
Rhys Taylor and Crewe ended their run of poor results on Saturday with a confident 4-1 win at home to Burton Albion. Taylor had little to do but lost his clean sheet minutes from time when poor defending allowed Sam Winnall time and space at the far post to shoot high into the roof of the net.
In Holland, Vitesse bounced back from a humiliating 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Heracles with a 2-0 victory over VVV Venlo.
Goalkeeper Eloy Room kept his place despite shipping half a dozen goals, and led the way to a clean sheet with captain Slobodan Rajkovic playing much better as well. Matej Delac remains unused in league competition.
Jhon Pirez was not involved in Defensor Sporting’s 1-0 win away to El Tanque Sisley in Uruguayan league action. He did, however, score a goal in a 2-0 reserve team win over Rentistas earlier in the week.