The last full week of fixtures before many European leagues embark on a winter break saw four more goals added to the Loan Army tally, taking us to 67 for the season , whilst ensuring the streak of at least one being scored in every full week of the campaign so far continued.
Three of them came in midweek, with a pair of them arriving at the Gelredome as Vitesse Arnhem secured safe passage into the last eight of the Dutch Cup. Having never won a major trophy in their 126-year history, they are within realistic sight of silverware for the first time and a 4-1 win over amateur outfit Jodan Boys on Tuesday took them a step closer. Matt Miazga and Lewis Baker both found the back of the net to help them on their way.
Unfortunately, Saturday’s 3-1 league defeat at Feyenoord leaves their Eredivisie ambitions rather dented, with manager Henk Fraser under increasing pressure as they go into their mid-season hiatus. Baker played the full 90 at De Kuip, with Nathan getting 23 minutes from the bench and Miazga an unused substitute.
Christian Atsu, himself a former Vitesse man, also found the net on Wednesday with an emphatic late strike to help Newcastle beat Wigan 2-0 and continue their march towards promotion. He had barely been on the pitch ten minutes before scoring and was rewarded with a start on Saturday away to Burton Albion, playing 90 minutes in a 2-1 win.
Then on Sunday, Nathan Aké continued to grab the headlines by scoring his third goal in Bournemouth colours. Five days removed from playing his part in a 1-0 win over champions Leicester, he stooped to conquer early to head the Cherries into the lead against Southampton.
That, alas, was as good as it got, with Southampton winning 3-1, and Aké now gets Boxing Day off as he can’t play against his parent club at Stamford Bridge.
Patrick Bamford played a handful of stoppage time seconds for Burnley in their midweek defeat at West Ham, then missed the trip to Tottenham on Sunday altogether, whilst Kenedy has returned to Chelsea and Loic Remy remains injured as usual.
There was plenty of action in the Championship this week, beginning with Tammy Abraham at Bristol City. He was on the losing side at home to Brentford and Preston, missing a big chance in the former of the two outings, but manager Lee Johnson opted to defend him post-match, clearly understanding the need to keep his leading scorer confident:
LJ: "Tammy is an infectious character; we can't be too critical because he keeps getting those chances." #BRCvBRE
— Bristol City FC (@BristolCity) December 13, 2016
It was also a frustrating period for Izzy Brown at Rotherham. Having scored or assisted a goal in his previous three outings, he lasted just 36 minutes away to Fulham on Tuesday before being substituted by caretaker manager Paul Warne, who would later explain that the young forward was at risk of a more serious injury and was being managed accordingly, also being left out of Saturday’s defeat at Sheffield Wednesday at Chelsea’s request.
Tomas Kalas started the match against Brown at Craven Cottage and completed the full 90 in a 2-1 win, but he then picked up an injury of his own against Derby four days later, complaining of a hamstring problem just after half an hour into the 2-2 draw. Team-mate Lucas Piazon played 45 minutes from the bench versus Rotherham and then completed a rare full match against Derby.
Kasey Palmer was a 56th-minute substitute in Huddersfield’s 1-0 win at Burton and then claimed Man of the Match in another narrow, 2-1, win over Norwich on Friday to help ensure the Terriers remain in the promotion mix. Manager David Wagner was effusive in his praise of his young starlet post-match:
DW: "@kaseypalmer45 was outstanding tonight; his performance was superb. How he worked and played with the ball was great." (AT)
— Huddersfield Town (@htafc) December 16, 2016
Charlie Colkett got 47 minutes in a defeat for Bristol Rovers at Shrewsbury in League One, but there was better news for Jamal Blackman and Wycombe in League Two. A 1-0 win at home to Leyton Orient moved the Chairboys into the playoff places whilst ensuring a fifth clean sheet in six league outings for the 23 year-old stopper, who now has 11 for the season overall.
Jordan Houghton got his customary ninety minutes as Doncaster beat Grimsby to remain third, and although Alex Kiwomya also played all of Crewe’s trip to Cambridge, he ended up on the losing side in a 2-1 reverse. Alex Davey and Mitchell Beeney were unused substitutes as Crawley beat Newport County 3-1, whilst in the National League Dion Conroy played the duration of Aldershot’s 2-0 defeat at Chester.
Nathan Baxter kept a clean sheet for Met Police in their Surrey Senior Cup tie against rivals Kingstonian, but ended up on the losing side 7-6 on penalties after a 0-0 draw. He picked up an injury in stoppage time, rendering him unable to take part in the shootout, and leaving team-mate Ollie Robinson to deputise in his stead.
He was fit to resume his duties for Saturday’s league win over Wingate & Finchley, keeping his first league clean sheet in a 2-0 win.
Jeremie Boga endured another disappointment at Granada as they suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to Real Sociedad; once again he found those around him not quite up to the same standards of technical or mental ability and much of his good play was wasted accordingly. Victorien Angban played no part, whilst Charly Musonda – as previously reported – is back with Chelsea having ended his stay with Real Betis.
Mario Pašalić has now established himself as a regular in Milan’s midfield, leading to talk from various figures at the club in recent weeks about the possibility of a permanent stay in Serie A. He picked up a booking in a full outing against Atalanta on Saturday, the match finishing 0-0.
Juan Cuadrado came on in the 53rd minute to help Juventus beat Roma 1-0 and extend a seven-point advantage at the top of the table.
Borussia Mönchengladbach’s inconsistent season continued this week in the form of a 1-0 defeat at Augsburg; Andreas Christensen getting his usual full match at centre-back. Baba Rahman played the last half an hour of Schalke’s 1-1 draw at home to Freiburg, whilst Michael Hector played an hour of Eintracht Frankfurt’s 1-0 defeat at Wolfsburg, for whom former Chelsea defender Jeffrey Bruma scored the winning goal.
Danilo Pantic was absent from Excelsior’s squad for their 2-2 draw against NEC Nijmegen, and Bertrand Traore is back at Cobham receiving treatment on his recent injury.
Cristian Cuevas was rested for Sint Truiden’s midweek cup exit at the hands of Zulte Waregem before being restored to the starting line-up for Saturday’s home win over Gent, where he played 90 minutes on the left wing, picking up a yellow card along the way.
Matej Delač and Excel Mouscron lost 2-0 away to Charleroi, with Islam Feruz also getting some time as an 83rd-minute substitute.
Kenneth Omeruo is another player to have returned to Cobham this week after suffering a thigh injury, meaning he missed Alanyaspor’s fixture at home to Akhisar Belediyespor.
Wallace played the full match as Gremio were beaten 1-0 at home by Botafogo last Sunday evening, their last match of the season. They begin their State Championship campaign in late January.