It was a rare quiet week on the loan front for Chelsea’s youngsters, with no goalscorers for only the third occasion this season and only a smattering of assists. Nonetheless, there’s plenty to talk about, so let’s dive right in and head to the Netherlands.
Vitesse Arnhem have been the revelations of the Eredivisie season to date as the Gelderlanders have mounted an unlikely title challenge. Their trio of Blues loanees – Tomas Kalas, Patrick van Aanholt, and Gael Kakuta – have been central to their fortunes and have increased in importance as the season has gone on. Kalas and Van Aanholt (the latter of whom was a front page feature in a prominent Dutch football magazine this week) have been mainstays in the defensive full-back positions since August, whilst Kakuta has emerged as a key offensive contributor in recent weeks.
They all started this weekend away to VVV Venlo, but it proved to be an unfortunate weekend for Vitesse as they went down 3-1 and suffered a blow to their hopes of topping the table come the winter break. Kakuta and Van Aanholt were amongst the bright spots in a poor overall team performance, whilst Kalas suffered ‘one of those days’ where the bounce of the ball proved to be consistently against him despite his trademark work rate being present as usual.
Over in Heerenveen, Amin Affane came off the bench for the final fifteen minutes for Roda in a wild match which finished 4-4 and featured an unlikely comeback by the visitors. Affane was involved in a goal, although he didn’t directly provide it, and continues to stake a claim for a more regular berth. There is a high chance he makes his move to Holland a permanent one in the new year, but he will be hopeful of more regular starts than he’s been given so far.
Playing time has scarcely been a problem for Nigerian full-back Kenneth Omeruo at ADO Den Haag though, and he got another 81 minutes in a 1-1 draw at home to Zwolle. He continues to impress athletically and is coming along very well for someone who had almost no senior experience before the start of last season. He’s also only 19 years old, and has plenty of time on his side to become a very good player indeed. Unfortunately, on this occasion, he lost his man from a free kick and directly cost ADO a goal.
Back in England, the usual regular faces were up to their usual tricks all weekend. Romelu Lukaku was back on the bench for West Brom away to Arsenal and saw half an hour in the second half as Steve Clarke’s side fell to a third consecutive defeat. His omission from the starting eleven will almost certainly have been a tactical decision for a defensive approach, and as we’ve seen all season, Clarke is prepared to dole out more time on the pitch in the right situation.
Josh McEachran played 78 minutes for Middlesbrough in a 3-2 win away to Peterborough as Tony Mowbray’s team continue their promotion hunt. Josh has been playing in the middle of the Boro midfield for some considerable time now and has spoken of his desire to remain up north for the rest of the season as speculation mounts that he may be required to return to Chelsea in January to bolster a depleted midfield.
Nathaniel Chalobah, who turns 18 this week, played 90 minutes in midfield for Watford as they suffered a rare home defeat to a very good Hull team, whilst Sam Hutchinson is still out injured for Nottingham Forest.
Ben Gordon played – and played well – at centre-back for Birmingham’s Under-21 team in a midweek draw with Barnsley, but is no closer to the first team. Youngster Mitch Hancox has been preferred ahead of him in his favoured position for both the Under-21 team and the backup spot in Lee Clark’s first team squad, so the outlook here isn’t particularly good.
In League One, Patrick Bamford remained absent for Milton Keynes Dons with a recent injury and wasn’t present for their weekend defeat at Brentford, but Todd Kane continues to play for Preston and got a first start at right-back in the league at home to Crewe this weekend, after making his league bow at right midfield two weeks ago.
He was booked and replaced after an hour as North End lost 3-1 in an appalling team performance, but Todd seems to have come away with some credit from the disgruntled home fans and certainly isn’t in the firing line for their ire after this particular result.
Conor Clifford watched on as an unused substitute for Crawley in their 2-2 home draw with Shrewsbury Town, whilst Archange Nkumu is not on the first team radar at Colchester United.
Sam Walker and Bristol Rovers lost 1-0 at home to Dagenham & Redbridge in League Two.
In Germany, Jeffrey Bruma and Hamburg played two games in less than 30 hours on two continents in what was a hectic weekend for the club.
They began on Friday night with a 2-0 win over managerless Hoffenheim, with Bruma playing a handful of seconds in stoppage time. The entire team then hopped on a plae to Brazil, where they played Gremio on Saturday night to inaugurate the club’s new stadium in a re-match of the 1983 Inter-Continental Cup Final.
Like that match nearly 30 years ago, the Brazilians prevailed 2-1. Bruma started at right-back, playing the full match.
Kevin De Bruyne completed the full duration of Werder Bremen’s 4-1 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt.
In Belgium, Thorgan Hazard was back to his influential best for Zulte-Waregem, laying on an assist in a 2-1 win over Kortrijk to keep his team second after nineteen games of the season.
In Spain, Thibaut Courtois had his usual midweek break for Atlético Madrid in the Europa League before resuming league action at home to Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday evening. It was a quiet evening for the Belgian custodian as five goals from Falcao ensured a 6-0 win for the hosts.
In the Segunda Division, Ulises Dávila continued his run of starts for Sabadell and did well in a 2-2 draw with Murcia, playing 90 minutes, which hasn’t always been the case this season. He had two or three good chances, but was unable to add to his tally of four goals this season.
Jhon Pírez didn’t play for Leganés in their 2-2 draw with Rayo Vallecano B. Does he ever?
In Portugal, birthday boy Milan Lalkovic was on the bench for Vitória Guimarães alongside Matej Delac for their home game against Olhanense. The Slovakian forward got five minutes with his team 2-0 up but hasn’t really made an impact this season, and rumours of a switch to the Dutch league in January are rather interesting.