Chelsea sent a total of eleven players on loan to clubs in the English footballing pyramid. Now that we've reached the half-way point in the 2015-16 season, let's check on how the soldiers of our English loan brigade have been faring!
Wulfert Cornelius van Ginkel (Stoke City):
The midfielder, bearing an uncanny resemblance to heartthrob of the world (don't deny it), Justin Bieber, has made 15 appearances this season (total playing time of 735 minutes), although only 8 of them were starts. Marco enjoyed a run of six starts at the beginning of the season but Stoke picked up only 3 out of a possible 18 points in those games and changes were made. After a spell on the bench, which coincided with Stoke's transformation into Stoke-alona, Van Ginkel has started getting a few more looks as of late. I'd say his loan spell hasn't gone too badly thus far, although he really needs to step up his game if he's to return to the Chelsea first team next season.
Nathan Benjamin Ake (Watford):
It's been just over three years since Nathan Ake made his debut in a Chelsea shirt, replacing Juan Mata in the dying minutes of a 1-0 victory over Norwich. (That was the first match I'd ever streamed; sweet memories.) Since then, he's only made 4 more appearances for us in the Premier League, despite being part of the first team and often impressing in the limited minutes he'd received. Clearly a talented player, he was allowed to leave on loan to Reading towards the end of last season and impressed there, leading to a loan at Premier League newcomers Watford this season.
After two substitute appearances and a start in the League Cup, Ake was handed his first Premier League start for the Hornets in the beginning of October, against Bournemouth. Since then, he's started 9 out of the 10 games he was eligible to play in, and was brought on at half-time in the one that he didn't. The youngster had made the left-back spot his own, and was a vital cog in the well-organised Watford defence, impressing more with each appearance. He even scored his first professional goal last week against Liverpool, the hilarity of which only added to its glory. What's more, his hair is fabulous and reminds of Chelsea hero Ruud Gullit.
Ake's loan had been going superbly, but hit a bit of a snag on Monday, with him getting sent off for a street-football-esque challenge on Erik Lamela. However, he continues to have the manager's backing, and hopefully will continue in the second half of the season like he has in the first. If he does, there's no doubt that he can prove to be (at least) a valuable squad member next season.
Patrick James Bamford (Crystal Palace):
It's been a five months to forget for the prolific striker. After excelling in the Championship last season with Middlesbrough, and getting named Championship Player of the Year, big things were expected from Bamford this season. He opted for Crystal Palace as his loan destination for the season. However, the 22-year-old striker has suffered from a serious lack of opportunity at the South London side, facing competition from the likes of Frazier Campbell, Marouane Chamakh, Dwight Gayle and fellow summer signing, Connor Wickham. He has had a meagre 299 minutes on the pitch this season, split evenly between Cup competitions and the Premier League. The fact that Palace have been gelling so well as a team and sit pretty in fifth spot certainly hasn't helped either, despite the fact that their strike force at large has been misfiring.
The only way is up now for Patrick, who confirmed yesterday that he'll be ending his stay at Palace prematurely. Although a lot of us are clamouring to retain him in the first squad and dispose of Radamel Falcao, I think we all know there's a better chance of me playing for Chelsea than that happening. Bamford will now most likely head to a new club for the latter half of the season, with many indications hinting at a return to Championship table-toppers, Middlesbrough. Here's to better times in 2016!
Fun fact: Bamford turned down a scholarship offer from Harvard to take up football professionally.
Victor Moses (West Ham United):
After proving to be the best player in pre-season (wait, is it still pre-season?), it was expected, or hoped rather, that the Nigerian would be part of Jose Mourinho's plans for this season. However, that was all quickly dowsed with the arrival of Pedro and retention of Bertrand Traore and Kenedy, which meant that the writing on the wall was for Moses to leave yet again, on loan. This time, he stayed in London, with West Ham United and had no difficulty in fitting right into the Hammers' team. He's made 10 appearances in the League, all of them starts, but only completing the entire 90 minutes on two occasions. His most recent appearance came against Manchester United in the beginning of December, in which he had to be taken off early after sustaining an injury, which has kept him out ever since. If he can keep himself fit and play regularly over the course of the next half of the season and with impending new management at the beginning of next season, maybe Moses might still have a chance of playing in a Chelsea shirt again.
Although having just turned 25, surely his next move away from the club will be of a permanent nature, if at all.
Christian 'Ballon d'Or' Atsu Twasam (Bournemouth):
Not many of us pegged Christian Atsu for stardom at Chelsea when he was signed by us in the summer of 2013 and immediately farmed out to Vitesse Arnhem, but his spell in the Netherlands that season showed that the winger definitely possessed a good bit of talent. The last one and a half seasons though,have been ones that the Ghanaian winger would like to put behind him, with loan spells at Everton and most recently, Bournemouth marred by injury and a general lack of match action. His displays in the World Cup and the African Cup of Nations, where he was awarded Player of the Tournament, proved to be some redemption and even earned a spot on the initial shortlist for the Ballon d'Or award (!).
This year, his only minutes of club football have come in the League Cup, tallying to 158 in total. Injury then followed, keeping him out of the team ever since. Atsu should be fit to play yet again now, after a lengthy lay-off, but will have to regain his match fitness first. His situation is also similar to that of Moses's, but it will take a bunch of scintillating displays for him to be in the reckoning for Chelsea any time soon.
Gustavo Lucas Domingues Piazon (Reading):
It's been more than three years since we gloriously thrashed Aston Villa 8-1. On that day, many of us were also introduced to the dashing Kaka-lookalike, Lucas Piazon. Brought on as a substitute, he assisted one of our goals but also missed a penalty. Chelsea's 2011-12 Young Player of the Year was touted for great things, but after a lukewarm loan spell at Malaga and a rather stop-start one at Vitesse Arnhem, which brought about reports of the player's negative attitude, he found himself rather far away from the first team at the beginning of last season. He was loaned out to Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany, where he managed only 11 starts in the league in another year on inconsistency. This season, perhaps in an attempt to increase his physicality, he opted to grind it out in the Championship with Reading. Although he was handed his fair share of starts by then-manager Steve Clarke, and has three goals and two assists to his name, he has failed to impress, often looking too lightweight for the rigours of the Championship and almost always taken off early.
The young Brazillian's Chelsea future looks bleak, to say the least.
Michael Anthony James Hector (Reading):
Indeed, that's four common first names right there. Mysteriously purchased towards the end of the most recent transfer window and immediately loaned back to Reading, the acquisition of the 23-year-old Jamaican centerback, who can also be deployed as a defensive midfielder, seems like an Atsu-esque investment. As Reading struggle in mid-table mediocrity in the Championship, Hector too, hasn't been covering himself in glory. He has had minutes aplenty though, with 22 appearances and 19 starts in all competitions. Most recently, he has been shifted to a midfield role by new manager, Brian McDermott.
With John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic not getting any younger, what Hector's future at Chelsea might be is anyone's guess, really.
Tomáš Kalas (Middlesbrough):
Remember when Tomáš Kalas kept the likes of Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling at bay, back in 2013/14? Things have gone south for him too, since then. After a horror spell at FC Koln in Germany, Kalas found his feet again with Middlesbrough half-way through the 2014/15 season, and has returned there once again this season. With 16 starts in all competitions so far, most of them coming at right-back, Kalas has been reduced to playing a bench role lately with the emergence of Emilio Nsue Lopez as worthy competition.
Amidst all the John Stones drama and Andreas Christensen's rise at Borussia Monchengladbach, Kalas' Chelsea ship seems to have sailed as well. It just goes to show how quickly things can change in football, for the better or for the worse.
John David Swift (Brentford):
After being handed his first senior appearance for Chelsea with a minute off the bench on the last day of the 2013/14 season, Swifty has been on three loans, to Rotherham, Swindon Town and most recently, Brentford. His loan spell with the Bees has so far been his most impressive, seeing him make 12 starts (and his first England U-21 appearance) after initially joining on an emergency loan. With 3 goals and 4 assists, Swift has impressed more than enough to have his loan extended in January, though talks are still ongoing between the two clubs in that regard.
As much as I'd love to see Swifty play in a Chelsea shirt again, I wouldn't be surprised if Brentford try to sign him on a permanent basis (and succeed).
Alexander James Davey (Peterborough):
After seeing 1,105 minutes on the pitch last season with Scunthorpe United, Davey began his loan spell with Peterborough United this season well, starting six consecutive games, but made a only solitary appearance ever since. Having recently signed a new deal, Davey will probably return to Chelsea in January and look for a kinder temporary assignment.
Jordan Alexander Houghton (Gillingham):
Jordan has been at Chelsea since the under-8 level, and is under contract with the club till the end of next season. So far, he's made 11 appearances for League One promotion contenders Gillingham, 10 of them starts. Unfortunately, Houghton hasn't stepped on to the pitch since the 24th of October, and it looks as if he will return to Chelsea in January.