It was an unusual week on the loan front, as none of Chelsea’s numerous youngsters playing elsewhere this season managed to find the scoresheet; just the second time this season that that has happened.
So, in search of the focus of our attentions this week, we turn to Josh McEachran. The spotlight has been on the young midfielder more than usual in the last seven days, beginning with a 90 minute outing in a goalless draw away to Nottingham Forest before sitting down for a feature interview in the Daily Mail. He then took to the pitch in front of live television cameras on Friday night.
Middlesbrough continued their promotion-hunting form with another win (3-1 over Sheffield Wednesday) which took them temporarily top of the Championship. Josh caught the eye for a number of reasons, not least a mazy, marauding run where he beat five opponents before just failing to find the finish.
It was an interesting game from the England Under-21 international, who is clearly being handed more responsibility by manager Tony Mowbray, and he appears to be thriving with it. Having spend much of the season out wide in midfield, he has most recently lined up alongside Grant Leadbitter in the centre of midfield, and sets the tone and tempo for much of what Boro do.
When they go forward, he takes on the defensive role, positioning himself to clean up loose balls or drop deeper if possession is conceded. His match fitness is back to peak levels and he’s having a positive impact for his team, which is everything that can be asked for right now.
In other English league action, Romelu Lukaku was a substitute for West Bromwich Albion last Monday night in a win over Southampton but started away to Wigan on Saturday as Steve Clarke’s team kept up their superb form with a 2-1 win.
Lukaku flattered to deceive for much of his time on the pitch, occasionally looking threatening with shots and crosses – notably drawing a save from Ali Al-Habsi with a well-hit strike – but proved inconsistent in many other areas and was eventually substituted. It’s for this very reason he’s been loaned out, and rounding out each and every performance into a better body of work is the aim for the campaign.
Nathaniel Chalobah had a solid outing for Watford in a 0-0 draw at home to Millwall on Tuesday night, accruing another yellow card along the way, before taking a rest at the weekend as Gianfranco Zola rotated his squad heavily for the trip to Leeds. The Hornets won 6-1.
Whilst Sam Hutchinson remains sidelined through injury, Nottingham Forest did announce this week that they will be retaining his services for the season, claiming that “his return to full fitness will be a matter of weeks rather than months.” Given the ease with which Leicester opened them up down the right-back’s side on Saturday, manager Sean O’Driscoll will be hoping that is sooner rather than later.
Ben Gordon continues to play for Birmingham’s Under-21 team after injury, but appears to have little chance of playing for Lee Clark’s first team. Come January, he will surely be looking for a new club.
Archange Nkumu remains firmly on backup duty at League One’s Colchester United, whilst Sam Walker returned to the bench this week for Bristol Rovers, who recorded a pair of 3-2 scorelines (one win and one defeat). Not even the fact that his replacement Neil Etheridge dropped one over his own line against Chesterfield will help him return to the team, apparently.
Moving on to the Netherlands, it was a big weekend for Vitesse, as Tomas Kalas, Patrick van Aanholt and Gael Kakuta all started at home to table-topping FC Twente. The game itself ended up a disappointing 0-0 draw, which is still good news for defenders Van Aanholt and especially Kalas, who celebrated a call-up to the full Czech Republic squad this week.
Amin Affane was entrusted with a high-profile start for Roda away to Feyenoord but Ruud Brood’s side returned home on the wrong side of a 5-2 hiding. However, it was a strong performance from Affane individually, as he provided the assists for both Roda goals fom set pieces.
Kenneth Omeruo came back into the fold for ADO Den Haag after being a sub last week and played 90 minutes in a 2-2 draw with AZ Alkmaar.
In Germany, Kevin De Bruyne remains an every-game starter for Werder Bremen, but the team’s overall form has taken a hit recently and they went down 2-1 away to Schalke on Saturday afternoon.
Jeffrey Bruma began Hamburg’s trip to Freiburg on the bench, relegated to reserve duty behind Paul Scharner, who was chosen to replace the ill Michael Mancienne in defence, but he got his chance when Scharner was sent off in the first half and played well to help keep a clean sheet in another goalless draw this week.
In Spain, Thibaut Courtois took his usual Europa League break in midweek but came back for Sunday’s hosting of Getafe and had relatively little to do during their 2-0 victory.
Ulises Dávila played 90 minutes for Sabadell in a 1-0 win over Huesca and generally caused havoc all match, crowning his performance by winning the penalty which provided the only goal and kept Sabadell in the upper reaches of the table.
Jhon Pírez still isn’t playing for Leganés, but he did join his team-mates in a meet and greet for local children this week. A more productive week than usual…
Finally, in Portugal, Vitória lost 3-1 at home to Nacional with neither Milan Lalkovic nor Matej Delac involved. Delac was the backup goalkeeper whilst Lalkovic was the 19th man and didn’t make the matchday squad.