Gael Kakuta scored his second goal in as many starts for Dijon to mark the highlight of what was generally another productive week for Chelsea youngsters on the loan front.
Not everyone played, but those that did generally did from the start, and made some sort of impact. Kakuta was the only one to get his name on the scoresheet, and in doing so the young Frenchman sent a message to those who have thus far not afforded him a place in the starting eleven.
Since first departing Stamford Bridge on loan, he has only started six matches across spells at Fulham, Bolton and Dijon. In those six starts, he has now scored four times. The latest effort game late in an away game against Brest, and displayed his typically dynamic style, taking the ball down and rifling home on his weaker right foot.
You can watch his strike HERE. It shows the sort of thing he is capable of when played in a central position rather than out wide, and also exhibits a pleasing improvement in his shot selection and ability to use either foot.
Brest equalised in stoppage time to earn a point, but Gael had been replaced by that stage. His brief stay in France has thus far been a microcosm of his career – good and bad in equal measure – but he may just have done enough to earn a start in the next match.
The good times also continue for Thibaut Courtois, who recorded a sixth consecutive clean sheet and maintained his perfect run in 2012 in Atlético Madrid’s goalless draw away to Racing Santander.
The Belgian had just one shot on target to save but has been a key part of Diego Simeone’s ever=improving defence and has earned much praise for his mature, confident performances throughout the season, to the point he has been touted as having performed better than David de Gea at the same club in 2010-11.
In the Netherlands, ADO Den Haag had a double helping of action this week but neither Milan Lalkovic nor Kenneth Omeruo played any part in the action. Lalkovic watched as an unused substitute as ADO were thrashed 6-0 at home against AZ Alkmaar before rebounding with a 1-1 draw away to Utrecht. In the latter, the Slovakian was perhaps unlucky as his team were forced into two substitutions through injury, including one to their goalkeeper Gino Coutinho.
Omeruo, meanwhile, is still to secure a work permit to play in the Eredivisie, but is hopeful of finalising the paperwork this coming week.
At Vitesse though, Patrick van Aanholt and Tomas Kalas are now both regular starters in the back four but they too had a weekend to forget, going down 3-1 away to Feyenoord, for whom John Guidetti scored a third hat-trick in four games.
Kalas performed to his usual good standard but van Aanholt struggled and admitted as much on his personal Twitter account at full time. Ulises Dávila continues with the Jong Vitesse squad, but their fixture this week was postponed due to snow.
Next door in Belgium, Kevin De Bruyne and Genk continue to struggle and surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to Lokeren. Speaking to the media post-match, the Chelsea-bound winger took an ill-advised swipe at certain team-mates:
“It was disastrous. I think some people have no enthusiasm to play football. I am ashamed of these people. I think that those who do not want to play should give up and we must continue with those who want to play.”
Manager Mario Been was less than enthused with his star player’s comments and promised to deal with the situation internally.
In the German Bundesliga, Jeffrey Bruma missed a second consecutive league match through injury but Hamburg continued their upwards momentum without him, winning 1-0 away to Köln with an 88th minute winner from José Paolo Guerrero.
With former Blues Jacopo Sala and Slobodan Rajkovic starting and Michael Mancienne returning from injury as a late sub, HSV extended their record under manager Thorsten Fink to just one defeat in thirteen and have moved into the top half of the table for the first time. Rajkovic was solid as Bruma’s replacement but the young Dutch international should return to the starting line-up as soon as he is fit.
Up in Scotland, there was a double-header of action for Ben Gordon and Kilmarnock, and a pair of 1-1 draws away to Dunfermline and home to Hearts respectively. Gordon played the full ninety minutes across both matches and continues to do well, although has struggled lately to impact the game at the other end of the pitch as he appears to have little help ahead of him when tracking back to defend.
Earlier this week, the young-left back spoke of his return to Rugby Park and the frustration that typically comes with being a young footballer at Chelsea. You can read those quotes HERE.
Whilst both fixtures survived the recent cold snap in the UK, the same cannot be said of football league fixtures in England, as Sam Walker and Yeovil saw their weekend clash with Scunthorpe United called off due to a frozen pitch.
Rhys Taylor and Rotherham did return to action after missing out seven days ago though, and did so in style with a 2-0 victory away to high-flying Southend United. The Welshman was outstanding, making at least one ‘wonder save’ en route to his first clean sheet for the Millers since his debut back on January 2nd.
There was a first Premier League start for Josh McEachran at Swansea City but it was a mixed bag for the England Under-21 international, who went off after an hour of an eventual 3-2 defeat.
He completed a tidy 50 of 52 passes with roughly half being of the forward variety and a handful of chances created. However, for all of his undoubted technical excellence, there was a general feeling amongst Swans fans post-match that he struggled physically and was ‘not ready’ to be a regular at this level at this stage of his career.
It should be noted that it was a particularly frail Swansea midfield lacking the size of Kemy Agustien and the tenacity of Joe Allen, and that he may well be more suited to playing in a trio featuring at least one of the absentees. Manager Brendan Rodgers certainly has his options and has faith in McEachran, so we may well see that as the season goes on.
Finally, as České Budějovice edge closer to the resumption of the Gambrinus Liga after a lengthy winter break, they continued their series of friendlies with a 4-0 win over Český Krumlov. Goalkeeper Matej Delac played the first half in which his team scored all of their goals, before making way for regular starter Zdenek Krizek for the second half.
Delac has performed just as well as the Czech custodian in their winter matches but there is no real indication as to who will don the starting gloves when league action returns next weekend.