There are currently eight young Chelsea players out on loan both at home and abroad. A further trio – Milan Lalkovic, Sam Walker and Ben Gordon – have already spent time away and are now back at Chelsea.
With the opening of the winter transfer window, attentions not only turn towards the high-profile deals the first team may make, but also to the moves Neil Bath and the academy staff will make regarding the next steps many of the club’s younger generation will take.
Chief amongst these, of course, is Josh McEachran. The 18 year-old midfielder has struggled for playing time under Andre Villas-Boas and is almost certain to find a temporary home elsewhere for the remainder of the 2011-12 campaign.
Bolton, Aston Villa and Swansea have been chief amongst those interested in signing the Under-21 international, but there are a number of other talented youngsters who are in desperate need of first-team football.
Rhys Taylor, Conor Clifford and Jacob Mellis all spent considerable time in the football league last season, but Clifford is the only one to have done so again this term.
His short-term deal at Yeovil is up for renewal in a couple of weeks, and having signed a two-year extension to his Chelsea contract, it would make sense for him to remain at Huish Park until May.
Taylor and Mellis, meanwhile, saw potential moves scuppered last September for a host of reasons, but it is imperative to get both playing regularly after being stuck with a limited reserve schedule so far in 11-12.
Ben Gordon is another who headed out only to return, whilst Sam Walker’s season-long stay at Northampton Town was cut short when the Cobblers hired a new manager who wanted a more experienced goalkeeper.
They too are likely to find themselves embarking upon a new adventure, whilst Milan Lalkovic will be keen to add to his brief sojourn to Doncaster Rovers earlier this season.
Now 19, the Slovakian – who leads the reserve team’s goalscoring charts – is of the age Chelsea most commonly begin to consider loan moves and having shown he can compete at Championship level, it would behoove all parties to start looking there.
Billy Clifford and George Saville (who is still 18) both signed new long-term contracts late in 2011 and could come into the reckoning, whilst Kaby and Marko Mitrovic face an important six months with their contracts due to expire.
None of the four have previously been out on loan but are at the stage of their fledgling careers where they would be tested far more by playing for points and against grown adults every week.
Aziz Deen-Conteh was linked with moves back in August and after a stop-start first half of the season, he could also attract attention. However, with a number of more senior left-backs ahead of him with pressing needs, he could be best served by remaining at Cobham as first-choice in the reserves.
Patrick van Aanholt’s move to Wigan was, in hindsight, an awful decision and he will not remain at the DW Stadium in 2012. Whether he moves elsewhere or comes back to Chelsea is yet to be decided, but it is worth noting that last season he and Ryan Bertrand spent half of the campaign at the club and half away elsewhere.
Bertrand has impressed in brief appearances so far and could attract Premier League attention, so the club have some important decisions to make not long at left-back, but all across the reserve team.
You can keep right up to date with everything that happens to them both in January and throughout the season here at TheChels.net, and on Twitter @chelseayouth.