We're up to the eighth spot on our top ten Chelsea prospects list, and today will again feature a youngster who has seen his stock bounce back significantly over the last 12 months. This youngster was once considered a shoe-in for the first team, but he's seemingly been surpassed by another player at his position in the last year and a half, leaving his Chelsea future in a bit of doubt. He also checked in at #8 on the WAGNH community list, our next entry is:
PvA joined Chelsea from PSV in 2007, the first summer in a long while which saw us bring in quite a few talented youngsters form outside of England. He immediately slotted into the reserve side, and played some center back, left wing, and midfield in addition to his regular left back role. The young Dutchman had successful loan spells at Coventry and Newcastle before making his Chelsea debut in 2010.
He'd remain at Chelsea to start the 2010/11 season, scoring his first career goal in a League Cup tie with Newcastle. He went out on loan the following spring, joining Leicester City and continuing to impress. Chelsea were aggressive with him to start the 2011/12 season, sending him to Wigan Athletic where he failed to feature much after their switch to a three man defense. He was sent to Vitesse Arnhem in the spring of 2012, and his loan was extended to cover the 2012/13 season as well.
Van Aanholt got off to a bit of a rough start at Vitesse, seeing only part time minutes due to the presence of Alexander Buttner. After Buttner's summer move to Manchester United, regular minutes were no longer an issue and PvA began to shine. Thus far this season, PvA has logged a massive 1791 minutes, and has been one of the key performers in Vitesse's impressive start*.
*He has impressed enough that Goal.com named him to their Eredivisie 1st half team of the season, for whatever that's worth.
Van Aanholt has always been a personal favorite of mine, as he's unquestionably got the ability to be a Chelsea caliber player. Having turned 22 shortly after the start of this season though, it was getting to be time that he needed to add more consistency to his game. In that regard, Vitesse was an excellent place for him, as he'd have very little to stop him from logging a ton of minutes.
What PvA has done with that time has been nothing short of sensational. It's not very often that a team sells one of their best players to a club like Manchester United and immediately matches or upgrades that position by taking an unproven prospect on loan. Oddly enough, this is the second time in as many seasons that this has happened with a Chelsea youngster replacing a new United first team player.
PvA has always been excellent in attack, and he's been even better in that regard for Vitesse than the attack minded Buttner ever was. More impressive than that is the fact that he's been an absolute rock in defense. The move to the Eredivisie may have been just what he needed to allow him to focus on his positioning, as his defensive decision making was always one of the big questions about his game.
I honestly don't have too much criticism to offer on Patrick this season, as he's been nothing short of fantastic in basically everything that he's done. I really don't have too many things that I can say he needs to work on based on what he's been showing thus far, but I'd be very interested in seeing him do it against a little better opposition. At 22, there should be no reason that he's not ready to make that jump.
Despite that, I'd imagine PvA will spend the rest of the season on loan at Vitesse. This summer will be interesting though, as PvA has looked better during this loan spell than Bertrand ever did in any of his. There is very little reason to think that van Aanholt needs more time on loan to polish his game, and if Ashley Cole does leave, he'd seem to be an excellent backup for Ryan Bertrand*.
*I'm personally not sold on the idea that he'd be the backup for long...He has been that good this year.
Van Aanholt signed a four year extension in May 2011, meaning he's under contract with the club until July 2015. While a decision on his future does not need to be made immediately, this summer would seem to be about as good an opportunity as he'll ever have to push his way into the Chelsea first team. He'll be one to watch closely this spring because of that.