The November edition of the Loan Report focuses on the players out there right now who are positioning themselves best to break into Chelsea’s first team squad next season. The 2021-22 campaign might be a long way off just now but, make no mistake, plans are already being made for what comes next.
Chief among the most exciting options right now is Conor Gallagher, who has taken to Premier League football like the proverbial duck to water, and continues to look entirely comfortable with every challenge put in front of him. Consider this; two years ago this past week, he was still playing Development Squad football, with only a dozen appearances to his name at that level and barely three months removed from undergoing a procedure to address an irregular heartbeat. He finished that season as the Academy Player of the Year and hasn’t looked back since; a starring role at Charlton led to a promotion challenge at Swansea City last term, and top-flight opportunities came knocking when he joined West Brom on loan back in September.
This weekend saw him score his first goal at that level in a 1-0 win over Sheffield United, a moment that capped a performance that had manager Slaven Bilic waxing lyrical about his young midfield star.
Young players rarely get thrown into Premier League relegation scraps from the very start; even fewer are trusted with midfield roles, and fewer still consistently play ninety minutes week in and week out. That’s what Conor’s achieved so far at The Hawthorns, though, completing every match he’s started in a blue and white shirt, and asserting himself as someone Bilic can scarcely do without. In terms of a Chelsea future, he’s doing all he can and more, and will be looking at the rest of the season as a chance to make his case for a return to Stamford Bridge to feature under Frank Lampard later in 2021.
The midfield down at the Bridge is rather crowded right now, however, which is why Ruben Loftus-Cheek was sent down the road to Fulham at October’s transfer deadline, with Craven Cottage seen as the best place for the injury-hit England international to get regular playing time under his belt at the tail end of his long comeback from a career-threatening torn achilles tendon suffered in a controversial 2019 friendly in the United States. Understandably, he’s had a measured start in Fulham white, starting just twice and playing 193 league minutes so far, but in those minutes he’s been able to showcase that he is by some distance their best player, winning a penalty and scoring a goal in little more than half an hour last time out at home to Everton.
Chelsea fans are often frustrated when they see his name among the substitutes, and manager Scott Parker will have won few friends in references RLC’s ‘tendency to drift’, but Parker may not be long for top-level management and there are still six months of meaningful football for Ruben to play and to find himself in again. This isn’t so much a loan move for him to prove himself, but one for him to get back to a level of fitness that allows him to go back to Chelsea and hit the ground running in 21-22. Yes, he’ll be 25 by then, and will face stiff competition for regular starts again, but at his best he brings something to the table that nobody else can and, as long as that’s the case, he remains a tantalising idea of what could be.
Completing a trio of Premier League loanees is Ethan Ampadu, who is currently a part of a Sheffield United squad struggling to repeat the incredible job they did as promotion newcomers last season. The Wales international has been deployed as both a holding midfielder and a part of Chris Wilder’s back three, on both the right and left sides, as injury and suspension have led to him becoming something of a utility player in a team that isn’t quite sure what it is any more.
And, to his credit, he’s done fairly well, particularly with his ball progression and play in the build-up phase. The knocks on him right now are to do with lapses of concentration and decision-making in defence, which is to be expected of a 20 year-old in a relegation-threatened side, but he has already shown positive signs that he can overcome those and be an asset in their fight to stay up.
As a blue future for Declan Rice looks increasingly likely, Ampadu will want to show that he can be the cheaper and ready-made alternative, and has the platform to do that between now and May.
A recent injury-enforced absence confirmed what everybody already knew; Swansea are a better team when Marc Guehi is in the side. Perhaps the best young defender outside the top-flight, he has been the best part of a defensive unit that has conceded the fewest goals in the Championship this season (just 8 in 14 matches) and is an integral piece of Steve Cooper’s promotion-chasing puzzle.
Operating on the left of a back three gives you an idea of where his Chelsea future might lie and, while comparisons to Fikayo Tomori are easy to make, Guehi is a more assured and laid-back performer by comparison, making everything look easy and playing a very impressive role in the Swans’ ball progression game. Like Tomori, he lacks ideal height, and definitely needs more experience at higher levels both in general and as part of a back four before breaking into Lampard’s plans, but he’s on the right path and making all the right noises.
Armando Broja and Iké Ugbo are at different stages of their careers but are both impressing on loan in the Low Countries, scoring a combined twelve times this season at Vitesse and Cercle Brugge respectively. Broja’s astonishing progress over the last fifteen months has continued at pace in Arnhem, where this weekend he scored his fifth goal for a team keeping pace with Ajax at the top of the Eredivisie; a team in which he is now a regular starter in attack.
Broja 2-0 pic.twitter.com/ImlVPtuXQW
— NielsDigital (@nielsdigitl) November 29, 2020
Ugbo, meanwhile, is building on a comeback season with Roda last year with a breakout display over in Belgium, where his seven goals in eleven matches for Paul Clement’s team has helped to restore a reputation that may have been fading. The Athletic’s Simon Johnson caught up with him recently to talk about how a change of focus both on and off the field helped him to re-find the real Iké Ugbo.
#CFC striker @IUgbo once struggled on loan but is now one of the top scorers in Belgium after joining Cercle Brugge. In this interview he tells me how a friendship with a sports psychologist who worked with Gareth Bale has helped turn his career around: https://t.co/jYP55HXBSc
— Simon Johnson (@SJohnsonSport) November 24, 2020
Lewis Baker scored his first goal for Trabzonspor this weekend – a typically Lewis Baker free kick – as he continues to impress and hold down a place in midfield despite the recent departure of Eddie Newton as manager.
Ross Barkley is out for a few weeks with a hamstring injury, joining the likes of Izzy Brown, Trevoh Chalobah, Jake Clarke-Salter, Tariq Uwakwe and Davide Zappacosta in being sidelined for a chunk of the first half of the season. Brown and Chalobah are firmly back in the fold now, while Clarke-Salter made a long-awaited second debut for Birmingham this past midweek after recovering from a calf injury. Uwakwe hopes to return soon too, while Zappacosta hasn’t played since September 27th as he first missed out due to Covid-19, then a muscle injury picked up as a result of not being able to train or play regularly.
Started: August 22nd
Finished: May 31st
|Player||Club||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Europe/Cont||Other||Mins|
|Ethan Ampadu||Sheffield United||24 (2)||0||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||2450||27 (2)||0|
|Tiemoue Bakayoko||Napoli||23 (8)||2||2 (2)||0||0||0||5 (2)||0||1||0||2480||31 (10)||2|
|Lewis Baker||Trabzonspor||29 (5)||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0 (1)||0||2733||30 (6)||2|
|Ross Barkley||Aston Villa||19 (6)||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1613||19 (6)||3|
|Michy Batshuayi||Crystal Palace||7 (11)||2||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||897||9 (11)||2|
|Armando Broja||Vitesse Arnhem||21 (9)||10||3 (1)||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||2186||24 (10)||11|
|Charlie Brown||Union SG||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Isaiah Brown||Sheffield Wednesday||4 (15)||0||0 (1)||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||647||5 (16)||0|
|Juan Castillo||AZ Alkmaar||0 (1)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||6||0||457||6 (1)||0|
|Juan Castillo||ADO Den Haag||9 (7)||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||878||10 (7)||0|
|Trevoh Chalobah||Lorient||24 (5)||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2301||25 (5)||2|
|Jake Clarke-Salter||Birmingham City||9 (1)||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||881||10 (1)||0|
|Danny Drinkwater||Kasimpasa||6 (5)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||519||6 (5)||0|
|Conor Gallagher||West Bromwich Albion||28 (2)||2||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||2683||30 (2)||2|
|Marco van Ginkel||PSV||3 (8)||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||351||3 (8)||1|
|Marc Guehi||Swansea City||43||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3950||45||0|
|Kenedy||Granada||18 (10)||4||3 (1)||2||0||0||11 (1)||2||0||0||2516||34 (12)||8|
|Ruben Loftus-Cheek||Fulham||21 (9)||1||1 (1)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2032||22 (10)||1|
|Ian Maatsen||Charlton Athletic||31 (3)||1||0 (1)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2896||31 (4)||1|
|Luke McCormick||Bristol Rovers||36 (3)||6||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3318||39 (3)||6|
|George McEachran||MVV Maastricht||1 (2)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||100||1 (2)||0|
|Victor Moses||Spartak Moscow||18 (1)||4||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1604||19 (1)||4|
|Danilo Pantic||Cukaricki||17 (10)||1||0 (1)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1588||17 (11)||1|
|Lucas Piazon||Rio Ave||6 (2)||2||0 (1)||0||0||0||3||0||0||0||789||9 (3)||2|
|Baba Rahman||PAOK||11 (2)||1||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1383||14 (2)||1|
|Jonathan Russell||Accrington Stanley||12 (13)||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1330||13 (13)||2|
|Malang Sarr||FC Porto||5 (3)||0||4||0||1||1||4 (2)||0||0||0||1401||14 (5)||1|
|Fikayo Tomori||Milan||16 (1)||1||0 (1)||0||0||0||4||0||0||0||1896||20 (2)||1|
|Iké Ugbo||Cercle Brugge||32||16||0 (2)||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||2753||32 (2)||17|
|Tariq Uwakwe||Accrington Stanley||12 (3)||1||0 (1)||0||0||0||0||0||4 (1)||3||1206||16 (5)||4|
|Davide Zappacosta||Genoa||23 (2)||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2048||23 (2)||4|
|Player||Club||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Europe||Other||Mins|
|Apps||Cln Sht||Apps||Cln Sht||Apps||Cln Sht||Apps||Cln Sht||Apps||Cln Sht||Apps||Cln Sht|
|Nathan Baxter||Accrington Stanley||16||6||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||1||1657||19||7|
|Jamal Blackman||Rotherham United||25 (1)||5||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||2543||30 (1)||5|
|Teddy Sharman-Lowe||Burton Albion||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||2||0||270||3||0|