This was supposed to be up yesterday, but some fairly large piles of snow managed to blow up the internet in my part of the world. The snow has tapered off now, so I'll get back to looking at Chelsea's top ten prospects. No. 6 on our list finished No. 7 in the WAGNH community voting...he is:
Kalas signed with Chelsea in the summer of 2010, on the back of an excellent UEFA U17 tournament. He was originally slated to stay in the Czech republic for the next year, but ended up moving to Chelsea in January 2011 after impressing in a few weeks training with the club over winter break. He was a key player in both the youth and reserve sides that spring before joining Vitesse Arnhem on loan in the summer of 2011.
The young Czech impressed at centerback in his first season long loan with Vitesse, becoming a regular starter almost as soon as he arrived. The two clubs decided that a second loan spell would be best for his development, and Kalas returned to Vitesse this past summer for a second year-long loan. While he started the season at centerback, he's played the majority of the year at right fullback for the Dutch club.
Many Chelsea fans had been looking to see this move for some time. Kalas would be on the smaller side for a Premier League centerback, but his speed and stamina would seemingly make him a prototypical fullback. There also seemed to be very little reason to doubt his skillset would play well on the flanks, as his aggressiveness would likely lead to less disasters there.
Sure enough, the move to right back has been an absolute success. Defensively, Kalas has been even better this season than he was in 2012, as he really has a chance to show off his tackling ability in this role without having to worry about conceding penalties. He's also able to push forward and join the attack when he likes, and he's more than capable of getting back to cover his defensive responsibilities.
What has been a bit of a surprise has been how easily Kalas has adapted to the attacking responsibilities of his new role. Vitesse don't really employ a traditional winger, so much of the attacking width has fallen on the fullbacks. There was little question that Patrick van Aanholt would be able to help in this regard, but Kalas has been nearly as good on the right as PvA has been on the left. His crossing in particular has been excellent, and he's shown flashes of being able to dribble by midfielders with regularity.
Playing time has not been an issue, as Kalas has already logged about 1800 minutes this season. Like van Aanholt, Kalas has been named to several Eredivisie mid-season teams of the year. He's certainly showing signs that he's ready for a step up from the Eredivisie, and he's even made his first appearance for the Czech senior national team this fall.
There have been some rumors that Kalas might be set for a move to the Bundesliga in January, but I find that a bit hard to believe with the season Vitesse are having. More likely, Kalas will finish the season with Vitesse before making a step up to a bigger league next season. For now the focus has to be in continuing to learn his new position, but if he continues to look this good for the next 12 months, he could probably be right at the top of this list next winter.