As the 2011/12 season got underway, it looked like it would be a huge chance for Gael Kakuta to make his mark. Kakuta was heading off to Bolton, a club that had just teamed up with Chelsea youngster Daniel Sturridge for one of our most successful loans in recent memory. Given the success that Bolton had with Jack Wilshere as well, many were optimistic about the situation into which we sent the young Frenchman. The loan was set to run until January 1st, as Chelsea clearly felt that Kakuta might be able to contribute to the first team in the second half of the season.
Unfortunately for Kakuta, he'd barely see the pitch in his time at Bolton. He'd make just 4 league appearances, none of which were starts. Owen Coyle would test Kakuta in the Carling Cup though, rewarding him with a pair of starts. Kakuta would find the back of the net in one of those cup games, notching his lone goal for the Wanderers as they knocked Aston Villa out of the Carling Cup:
Dijon were at the bottom of the Ligue 1 table and had basically nothing going for them offensively, so it seemed a natural fit for Kakuta to be assured some playing time. Dijon also employed a 4-2-3-1 system, something ideally suited to the type of skills that Kakuta brought to the table. In that regard, Dijon seemed a much better fit than either Fulham or Bolton ever had.
Kakuta would indeed receive considerably more playing time in France than he did in England. All told, Kakuta made 13 starts and 3 substitute appearances for Dijon, playing every position in their band of 3 and even once playing back in the double pivot. Gael would find the back of the net 5 times and be credited with a pair of assists in his time at the club. He'd generally be among the club's best players as he helped Dijon climb out of the relegation zone.
The end of Kakuta's loan was a bit surprising though. Dijon failed to find the goal in back to back games against Nancy and Sochaux as the run in approached, and Dijon decided to pull Kakuta from the starting lineup for it's remaining fixtures. He'd make a substitute cameo against Lille in the next contest, and that was the last game Kakuta was involved in. Dijon would go on to score just 1 goal in their final 8 games, taking just 1 point of a possible 24. They'd predictably be relegated after finishing the season so poorly, and with no offense to speak of it's hard to understand why Kakuta was relegated to the basket for the run in.
I felt like Kakuta could play a role for Chelsea during his spell on the pitch this year, but I'm extremely concerned by the fact that Dijon were willing to take such a key contributor out of the squad for such important games. As of yet, I've heard nothing as to why this happened, but I really am a bit concerned. That, combined with the signings of Marko Marin, Eden Hazard, and possibly Hulk should leave Kakuta with virtually no chance at any sort of significant minutes for Chelsea this coming season.
Gael is under contract at Chelsea until June of 2015, so there is no rush to make a decision on him at this point. He's shown flashes of fantastic ability in his career thus far, but he's also shown some pretty poor decision making far too often to be a regular at a club like Chelsea. Another loan seems the most likely scenario for Kakuta, and hopefully the club will do everything in it's power to ensure he'll see as many minutes as possible. As much as I'd love to see Gael have another shot against top competition, the past 18 months just haven't seen him get enough time on the pitch for my liking. Next season will be a big one for Gael, as more struggles will likely see him buried so far down the depth chart that a permanent move away will be his only option. Hopefully the club takes their time with this loan decision, as Gael really needs to play as much as possible. Hopefully the 2012/13 season sees him play more than he did this season so he can show why we brought him in to begin with.