The current round of international fixtures has arrived at what is roughly the quarter point of the season so far. It therefore gives us a good opportunity to take stock of things on the loan front where, as has become customary now, another thirty-something Chelsea youngsters are out plying their respective trades in alternative colours.
No club has more Blues youngsters than Vitesse’s five and things have generally gone quite well so far. Their Europa League elimination at the hands of Southampton was unfortunate in that the fixtures were scheduled at a more favourable time for the English side in pre-season development and it would certainly be a more closely-contested affair if played right now. Peter Bosz’s side sit sixth in the Eredivisie after eight games, they’re within sight of title-chasing Ajax, and are once again one of the league’s most attacking teams.
Lewis Baker has led the way as far as loanees go, playing all but five minutes of their league campaign to date and taking on the responsibility of orchestrating the way his team play. Bosz has entrusted him with a deep-lying role in midfield, where he has typically been joined by a more robust presence in either Marvelous Nakamba or Sheran Yeini and the attacking instincts of Valeri Qazaishvili, and he has generally thrived in seeing a lot of possession and being tasked with setting the tone for developing attacking play.
His two goals so far have come from the penalty spot (as you’d expect, he’s been on their set pieces from day one) and whilst there have been a smattering of complaints that he doesn’t (yet) impact upon things as much as he should, he’s firmly on the right track and in the England Under-21 reckoning to boot.
Dominic Solanke’s arrival was delayed by FIFA paperwork but he’s wasted little time in impressing on his new Dutch colleagues. A maiden senior goal off the bench against Cambuur showed why Bosz had previously declared a reliance on the teenage forward to score Vitesse’s goals this season and he has since displaced Abiola Dauda (and seen Uros Djurdjevic leave altogether) as the first-choice centre-forward; no mean feat for a player who has only just turned eighteen. He scored again versus Groningen last time out and, playing in the team creating the most chances in the league over the last year, he’ll continue to put the ball in the back of the net.
Izzy Brown started the season in the team, playing on the right side of the front three, but a mixture of a loss of form and injury has seen him drop out of the reckoning a little in more recent times. He’s remained upbeat about things, explaining that his manager has been keen to slow things down and change his style of play for the better; helping him to avoid injuries associated with his more combative style and in turn making him a better fit for what Vitesse are trying to do.
Brazilian forward Nathan has been the main beneficiary of Brown’s absence, coming into the team and impressing in fits and starts. He too has a pair of goals and has evoked some reminiscence of Lucas Piazon’s spell at the Gelredome two seasons ago. The impact hasn’t quite been the same yet but he’s started well. Serbian midfielder Danilo Pantic, however, hasn’t fared quite so well. Yet to start, his six appearances from the bench have included flashes of ability but, with a lot of competition for places, he’s got his work cut out to force his way in more regularly.
Opportunities at top-level clubs have been pleasingly forthcoming for several budding Chelsea prospects so far both at home and across Europe. In the Premier League, Marco van Ginkel and Victor Moses have proven to be reliable and positive additions by Stoke and West Ham respectively, whilst versatility and circumstance has proven beneficial for Nathan Aké at Watford. All three will find themselves rotated in and out of the team by the very nature of modern-day squad management but the Blues can be rightly pleased with the first two months of the season as far as they’re all concerned.
They can also be pretty happy with Andreas Christensen’s stay at Borussia Mönchengladbach so far. It didn’t start well as his first appearance coincided with a total team meltdown away to Borussia Dortmund, leading to the Dane losing his place and manager Lucien Favre later losing his job. Interim manager Andre Schubert restored him to the heart of the defence thereafter and three wins from four have followed; the sole defeat coming to Manchester City in the Champions League, a match in which Christensen played very well indeed. He should remain a feature at centre-back for as long as Gladbach’s good form continues at the very least.
A pair of cast-off wingers have unsurprisingly once again found Serie A far more to their liking. Juan Cuadrado has been amongst Juventus’ best players since returning to Italy, whilst Mohamed Salah has started so well at Roma that they have already taken up their option to sign him outright; the deal will be finalised at the end of the season. Marko Marin didn’t share the same fortune at Fiorentina (and latterly Anderlecht) in 2014-15 but fitness and form have held up at Trabzonspor so far – they too have an option to buy him and it’s cheap enough at €3m to be a realistic proposition.
Mario Pašalić shone for Spanish strugglers Elche last term and upped the ante over the summer by joining Monaco. Two goals in their Champions League qualifying campaign caught attention nice and early but after running into Valencia, who dumped them into the Europa League, things have cooled off a little for the Croatia Under-21 captain. Ensconced in a central midfield rotation, there are far worse places for a developing youngster to be in.
Lucas Piazon has settled well at Reading and should be looking to add to his solitary goal against Burnley going forward, whilst team-mate Michael Hector has carried on his upward trend at the Madejski Stadium by re-acquiring his starting place after penning a long-term Chelsea contract on deadline day. Jordan Houghton’s first foray into the adult game a tier down in League One has also gone well so far as he’s stood out as a reliable midfield presence for a club challenging for promotion.
Todd Kane had seen time in both the Championship and League One over the past two years but, with things looking a little stale heading into the new season, he decided to take a little risk and head to Nijmegen to link up with Eredivisie newcomers NEC. So far it’s paying off as he’s featured in every league match, contributing to a sterling defensive record and a start that sees them just a point off local rivals Vitesse.
The majority of Chelsea fans mightn’t know who Matej Delač and Victorien Angban are but each have given reason for positivity already. Delač’s third spell at FK Sarajevo is going well and he’s developed into something of a leader for the defending Bosnian champions, whilst Angban’s first two months in professional football over in Belgium at Sint-Truiden have gone swimmingly; he recently earned a first call-up to the full Ivory Coast national team.
The chief disappointment so far has to be Patrick Bamford. The ’14-15 Championship Player of the Year had his pick of loan destinations this summer when it became clear that he wasn’t going to get a chance in Jose Mourinho’s first-team squad and so he chose Crystal Palace, in part because it meant he could stay in London. It hasn’t quite gone to plan yet with one League Cup start against Shrewsbury to his credit, and whilst he has typically been a slow starter in all of his previous loan moves, reason for optimism has been minimal.
Competing for one starting spot with Connor Wickham, Fraizer Campbell, Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh, he finds himself arguably at the bottom of the pile. If things don’t look up by the time January rolls around then it would be surprising if Chelsea didn’t act but, by that stage, it’ll have been a wasted five months at a crucial point in his career.
The same goes for Nathaniel Chalobah. A surprising last-minute move to Napoli was exciting if only because it came out of the blue but behind the initial buzz was an underlying concern that he simply might not play. Not only do Napoli already have several very capable midfielders but Serie A teams are generally quite reticent to feature a loan player they have no option to purchase because it simply doesn’t make financial sense for them to do so.
Thus far that much has borne out with Chalobah playing just five minutes of Europa League football, leading to Chelsea stepping in to clarify his position. It probably won’t change much and we’ll be stuck in another frustrating cycle with a switch of club in January, leaving him further away than ever from a Blues future. Juxtaposed alongside the fortunes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and the way he’s been handled as an eighteen year-old, you can’t help but be immensely disappointed.
Christian Atsu was named on the 59-man long list for the Ballon d’Or award for his performances in the African Cup of Nations last February yet neither Everton or now Bournemouth seem to be able to find room for him. Go figure.
Tomas Kalas’ return to Middlesbrough has gone the way of Kenneth Omeruo’s last season; maybe slightly falling into a comfort zone of sorts, his performances have been inconsistent and he’s been in and out of the side as a result. There’s always a question mark when a player makes a push to return to a standard he’s already proven himself capable at as, if nothing else, it raises concerns about their ambition to test themselves at a higher standard, and whilst Kalas is clearly good enough to turn things around and be a star in Boro’s promotion push, it hasn’t gone that way so far.
Alex Davey began well down at Peterborough but the departure of manager Dave Robertson and the arrival of Graham Westley hasn’t served him well; he’s yet to start under the new regime. Looking overseas, Italian-based duo Wallace (Carpi) and Stipe Perica (Udinese) have both idly wasted their time so far with 108 minutes of league football in 2015-16 combined (all for Wallace), and Uli Dávila’s second spell at Vitória Setúbal has mainly been spent on their bench. The 24 year-old (yes, 24) Mexican gets an EU passport in January, at which point he will set about trying to find a home in Spanish football again.
The ‘Wait and See’
Jeremie Boga’s move to Rennes was always likely to be a slow burner and that’s exactly how things have started for the gifted French forward. He’s made a few good appearances from the bench without yet earning a start but he’s in safe hands at a capable club and there’s no reason for alarm yet.
Kenneth Omeruo was a stalwart in defence for Turkish club Kasimpasa before being sidelined through injury and although he’ll clearly play often when he’s fit again, the ‘wait and see’ part here is really whether he can recapture the form and reputation that saw him stand out for Nigeria at the 2014 World Cup.
Joao Rodriguez and Cristian Cuevas joined Angban at Sint-Truiden but had a little more work on their hands to earn playing time. They’re both on course to do so now with things settling down after a managerial change and it’s a good environment for the trio to crack on with their careers. Cristian Manea joined Mouscron rather than STVV in a deal largely controlled by Pini Zahavi but he has so far not been able to feature due to paperwork and fitness reasons.
Islam Feruz hasn’t been in a position to contribute for Hibernian in Scotland because he too has had a knock, and John Swift has only been at Brentford for a week.
You can always keep fully up-to-date with everything relating to Chelsea’s army of loanees here at TheChels.net every Sunday with The Loan Report as well as on Twitter by following @chelseayouth and keeping a look-out for the #CFC #loanwatch hashtags.