Nathaniel Chalobah celebrated his 21st birthday this week with his first Napoli goal. It’s therefore appropriate to kick off our Loan Report with a look at that in the first of an Italian double-header.
The young midfielder – yes, he’s still young – hasn’t had much of a look-in during his time at Naples, with just one start in the Europa League to his name alongside a five-minute cameo in the same competition prior to this week. Napoli’s cruise through the group stages afforded him the chance to come in from the off in their final two fixtures and he made his opportunity count at home Legia Warsaw with this wonderfully-taken goal.
Viewing this loan move in its most positive light, he’s training every day with a team very much on course to challenge for honours in Serie A and in Europe, a team arguably better than Chelsea right now, and he’s taking the chance to play abroad and absord a new culture with both hands. He definitely needs to play more often to fully capitalise on that but he’ll finish in Italy next June having refined his game further still and having put himself in a solid position to take the next step in his career, be it at Stamford Bridge or elsewhere.
It would be considerably foolish to write off any 21 year-old with more than 100 quality senior professional appearances to his name; plenty of people are prepared to do just that because of how long Chalobah’s been on the scene (he made his maiden first-team friendly appearance as a 15 year-old) but that’s through no fault of his own and a wider perspective is often needed.
Later on Sunday night in Serie A, after Chalobah had been an unused sub in Napoli’s match against Roma, Juan Cuadrado started for Juventus against his former club Fiorentina and did this:
It was his second goal of the season and helped Juve turn things around to win 3-1.
Nathan Aké is going great guns over at Watford, playing well again as Watford continued their fine season to date with a 1-0 win at Sunderland. The match also saw starts for Chelsea academy products Patrick van Aanholt and Fabio Borini but Aké came out on top and has firmly established himself as a fan favourite for the Hornets. If he continues this sort of form until the next international window, it would not be a surprise to see him called up for what would surely be a new-look Dutch national squad.
Marco van Ginkel played just under an hour for Stoke away to a West Ham United team without the injured Victor Moses, whilst Crystal Palace beat Southampton without naming Patrick Bamford in their matchday squad. Christian Atsu, meanwhile, is some three weeks away from being in contention to play for Bournemouth after suffering a stress fracture of his back. Given the Cherries have racked up back-to-back wins over Chelsea and Manchester United, he faces a tough task to get involved once fit.
Tomas Kalas was an unused substitute for in-form Middlesbrough in the Championship but he too is working his way back to full match fitness, and there was a first appearance under new Brentford manager Dean Smith for John Swift. He performed well in his 25 minutes from the bench away to Fulham, laying on what would have been an assist for Jota but for a disallowed goal.
Managerless Reading left Michael Hector on the bench and Lucas Piazon out of the match squad versus Preston as the odd man out with five other loanees in the eighteen, whilst in League One neither Jordan Houghton nor Alex Davey played yet again.
It was a chastening week for Andreas Christensen as despite being named as the Danish Young Talent of the Year by his home country’s sporting media, his Borussia Mönchengladbach team found themselves on the wrong end of two heavy defeats despite having an otherwise stellar defensive record under manager Andre Schubert.
Their 4-2 midweek reverse at Manchester City belied the fact they led 2-1 until the closing stages, whereupon they rather fell apart under the intensity of the hosts’ late comeback. Christensen played well in that one but was at fault for one of the goals, proving indecisive when challenging David Silva in the air, missing his header and leaving his team exposed.
Things went from bad to worse on Saturday night when a Javier Hernandez-inspired Leverkusen hammered Gladbach 5-0 and, whilst Christensen himself was far from terrible, it was a damp squib of a showing from the whole team. That’s all a part of the loan and development process and he’ll be taking plenty of things away with him to learn from ahead of their final match before the winter break next weekend.
Vitesse played out a rather dull 1-1 draw at Heracles on Sunday with another mixed bag overall for Chelsea’s quintet stationed at the Gelredome. Dominic Solanke started but was largely subdued in his 70-odd minutes before making way for Izzy Brown, who came on with Lewis Baker and added some impetus to Peter Bosz’ side in the late stages.
Danilo Pantic was an unused substitute and Nathan remains injured but for all five, the demands of a first full professional season are there for all to see and the body of work remains positive overall as they too head towards the winter break next week, with high expectations ahead of them for 2016.
The same goes for Todd Kane, who has done superbly to nail down a regular spot at right-back for NEC Nijmegen. They lost 3-1 at Cambuur on Saturday but Kane is one of their most impressive players from the first half of the season and he’s very much made a great move in heading abroad rather than trying his luck with another middling Championship move.
Mario Pašalić endured a disappointing Thursday evening as Monaco were hammered 4-1 by a backup Tottenham Hotspur team in the Europa League and, such is manager Leonardo Jardim’s philosophy, he was on rested as an unused substitute for Sunday’s league win over Saint-Etienne.
Jeremie Boga played half an hour as a Rennes sub again but offered little in a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to ten-man Caen.
Away from Chalobah and Cuadrado, Stipe Perica got twenty minutes for an Udinese team humbled 4-0 at home by Inter, whilst Wallace missed out injured for Carpi and is back in England for treatment at Cobham.
Sint-Truiden were without all three Chelsea youngsters as they took on Champions League surprise package Gent; Victorien Angban is out with an adductor problem, Cristian Cuevas was suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards, and Joao Rodriguez wasn’t selected. Cristian Manea did at least make the bench for Mouscron at Kortrijk but still awaits his league debut.
Kenneth Omeruo was suspended as Kasimpasa beat Konyaspor whilst Marko Marin played twenty-five minutes as a sub in Trabzonspor’s disappointing 3-0 defeat at Rizespor.
There was no Islam Feruz for Hibs against Falkirk, suggesting his loan move is another one that is approaching its final days.