Chelsea’s Loan Army: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

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With 38 players out on loan, Chelsea’s Loan Army spans most of the continent and nearly every major league. Chelsea have been at this game for years, loaning out low risk high reward young players. Occasionally, a player grows to be of starting quality like Courtois, or more recently Victor Moses. Usually, the players are sold for a quiet profit and the wheel keeps on turning.

With each club paying the loanees wage, and usually a loan fee on top, the cost to Chelsea is minimal. In 2014, Chelsea community site WAGNH estimated the club made a 9m profit after just 3 sales. This business model is crucial for the clubs compliance with FFP (Financial Fair Play) economic policy. However, given the sheer size of the program, there are definitely going to be some hits and misses.

The Ugly

Baba Rahman

Marred by an ACL rupture, Abdul Baba Rahman has been unable to really push on this season. 24 appearances, the last of which came in December is not the worst of the bunch. But the Ghanaian wingback has essentially missed out on a year of development, with his return expected in August. His attacking ability on the left flank looked promising for Chelsea fans last season. Given the freedom to get forward afforded to Marcos Alonso, Baba could provide much needed depth in Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 system going forward.

Loic Remy

A seemingly astute buy in Chelsea’s last title winning season, his role as a reserve goal poacher vanished as he was sent on loan to Crystal Palace for the season. Hindered by repeated niggling injuries (a thigh, then a calf, then a groin) he has made just 8 appearances without scoring all season. Chelsea will probably look to sell him on sooner than later. If he can regain his fitness there is no question that he still knows where the goal is.

Kasey Palmer

Excelling at youth levels last season, he got a much needed senior loan to Huddersfield Town. The first half of which, he was electric. Palmer added 5 goals in 25 matches in effectively half a season, capped by a Man of the Match performance in a 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest. His season was effectively ended by a hamstring problem, which later became an achilles problem. Its a shame for both the Terriers and for Chelsea, as he looked to be a very good prospect. Time will tell if he can bounce back from injury.

The Bad

Joao Rodriguez

A Colombian striker acquired by the club as a 17 year old in 2013, Joao Rodriguez was at one time a highly regarded prospect. He scored against Brazil at the prestigious Toulon tournament in 2014. After joining the club, he moved around with loans at Bastia, Vitoria, Sint-Truiden, embodying everything perceived to be wrong with the Chelsea youth system. This season has been split between Sante Fe and Cortulua in his native Colombia. But no goals in 3 years and 2 in the last 5 mean Rodriguez will surely be off when his contract expires next year.

Danilo Pantic

9 appearances with Excelsior in the Eredivisie is not the worst of the whole loan squad. But 2 red cards in only 3 starts and 331 minutes played is very poor. The Serbian attacking midfielder was signed for ~£1 million in 2015 on a 4 year deal. He will probably be given some more time to impress, but 13 appearances in the past 2 years is not ideal for a budding prospect.

Wallace Oliveira

Wallace’s first Chelsea involvement was the 2013 preseason tour. The buccaneering Brazilian fullback roamed up and down the right wing against the Singha All-Stars, winning a penalty in the process. Since his sparky first involvement, Wallace Oliveira has been largely a disappointment in Europe. Loans to Inter, Vitesse and Serie A minnows Carpi culminated in 27 appearances. With most of those coming for Vitesse, Wallace headed to Gremio for the 2016-2017 campaign. 9 appearances in 5 months is an improvement on his previous campaign, but at 23 his time to impress may be running out. His contract is up in June, and it may be time for Chelsea to cut their loss.

The Good

I have already written about how good Lewis Baker is here, so although merited to appear here he is excluded to avoid repetition.

Matt Miazga

The young American came in last season after imperiously commanding the New York Red Bulls backline. He played a few fixtures under the tumultuous tenure of Guus Hiddink. His play warranted a loan move to Vitesse despite the feeling he was signed purely as a marketing ploy for the US market. His time at Vitesse started roughly, being extremely capable physically but struggling with the tactical and technical side of things. However with matches and coaching in a more structured environment, he has grown to be an integral part of an ever improving Vitesse side. With the KNVB cup victory securing Europa League next season for the Wolves, his seemingly likely return should bode well for his development. If he can follow the same development trajectory of Hertha Berlin’s John Brooks, Chelsea will have quite the player (or investment) on their hands.

Mario Pasalic

Pasalic is a player who had some pedigree before this season. A spell at Elche graduated to a growing Monaco side last year, where Pasalic was a mainstay prior to a serious back injury ended his season. 8 months and many hours of physiotherapy later, Pasalic signed for the season at AC Milan. He found it difficult to get into the Milan side, making his first appearance as a substitute at the end of October. Since, he has featured in almost every match. 5 goals in 22 appearances, his poise combined with his well rounded play make Pasalic an ideal midfield metronome. The tall, powerful Croatian central midfielder has garnered serious attention from the Rossoneri but it appears that Antonio Conte has plans for him. These rumors are always to be taken with a grain of salt, but Chelsea are not ready to cash in nonetheless.

Andreas Christensen

What would a Chelsea loan recap be without Andreas Christensen? The Danish centerback has been highly touted and highly praised in his time at Gladbach. Manager Dieter Hecking and ex-managers Lucien Favre, and Andre Schubert heaped praise on Christensen during their respective reigns. A composed central defender, with the technical and tactical ability to play both in a pairing, or in each spot in a back three; Christensen has been the poster child of the Chelsea loan system for the past two years.

A two year loan at Borussia Monchengladbach has them invested in his development, with him being voted player of the year in his debut season. He has come on leaps and bounds this season, and is probably the most anticipated player to return to Chelsea. His positional play and versatility means he should slide seamlessly into Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3. Long term, his passing and ability to step into midfield means the Dane is the heir apparent to David Luiz as the middle of the three.

Tammy Abraham

Much the subject of Jason Cundy’s “Tammy’s Whammy’s” on Chelsea TV, Tammy Abraham has had an amazing season. 23 goals in 39 matches, Abraham has been the shining light in a struggling Bristol City side. Fast, strong, good with his back to goal, Tammy has all the strengths of an old fashioned center forward. Coupled with his ability to operate in tight spaces, his sense for goal, and a touch of genius (have a look at this); he might be the best striker to come through Chelsea’s ranks in a long time. Ex Head of Player Analytics at Brentford, Ted Knutson, called Abraham “The best loan striker available to a Championship club.” And that was before the goals came flooding in.

Abraham is really good, but he is not ready to play for Chelsea yet. He is a step away from being a top level Premier League striker, and the next loan in his development is crucial. Ideally, he will get the same Gladbach type loan that Christensen did. A mid-level team that attempts to play good football (Eintracht Frankfurt, Stoke, Lyon if Lacazette left, something of that ilk). Either way, this kid has a terrific future ahead of him.

Chelsea’s Loan Army

All in all, it has been a successful year for Chelsea’s loanees. 125 goals (a new club record), most players getting matches every week, some standout performers. Loanees have been crucial in the promotion push for both Newcastle and Brighton. Vitesse can pin their domestic success on Chelsea loanees as well. Hopefully the influence of the Chelsea loan system can attract bigger and better loan moves going forward.

As Tammy Abraham kissed the turf at Ashton Gate and departed with his Young Player Of The Year and Player Of The Year awards in tow, a Bristol City cult hero. One can hope a few more Chelsea youngsters will follow the same path.

Main Photo – Tammy Abraham

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