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Mid-season Loan Army Review: Checking in on Chelsea players on loan in England

SL Benfica v Chelsea FC - UEFA Europa League Final Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Kevin Oghenetega Tamaraebi Bakumo-Abraham (Bristol City, 19)

Appearances: 26 (2012 minutes)

Goals: 13, Assists: 2

Birmingham City V Bristol City- Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

19-year-old Kevin Tammy Abraham burst onto the national scene in his first involvement in a senior professional football, and the goals just kept on coming from August until about early October in a run that saw Bristol City go as high as 6th in the Championship table; the run included Abraham's first goals for the England Under-21 side as well. His form has tapered off a bit since then, scoring only twice in the last two months. Bristol City have, perhaps not coincidentally also fallen on harsher times and now find themselves languishing in 16th place. On many occasions, the youngster has been isolated up front and starved of service but the clinical finishing that catered to his early success also seems to have taken a bit of a back-seat.

Conclusion: It’s understandably difficult but essential to remember that Tammy is all of 19 years old and only in his first season of full senior professional football. Yet, he's already a vital part of the Bristol City side and shouldering responsibility for his team. The goals will return, no doubt, if he continues to work hard and maintains the positive attitude and hunger that his manager, Lee Johnson, has come to praise in recent times. Abraham is a player I can see with the first team after perhaps a loan or two more.

Nathan Benjamin Aké (Bournemouth, 21)

AFC Bournemouth v Southampton - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Appearances: 10 (763 minutes)

Goals: 3

Tackles: 2, Interceptions: 1.1, Clearances: 7, Dribbled Past: 0.4

Nathan Ake was sent on loan to Bournemouth at the very start of pre-season, perhaps with hopes of seeing the versatile Dutchman play primarily as a midfielder in Eddie Howe’s side. It was never going to be easy to stake a claim in the starting XI over Harry Arter and Andrew Surman, two midfielders who were familiar with and well-drilled in Howe’s system and the high-profile loan signing of Jack Wilshere from Arsenal on transfer deadline day only made Ake’s prospects of playing in midfield look even more bleak.

The 21-year-old was instead handed starts in all of Bournemouth’s League Cup games, although at center-back instead of midfield and despite looking one of their better players each time, he still didn't get a sniff of league minutes. Things went from bad to worse after the South Coast side were knocked out of the League Cup by Preston North End, and rumours of a January recall were making the round.

However, opportunity came knocking at Ake’s door in late November.  A suspension for right-back Adam Smith saw Ake slot into the defensive line for his first league start, helping Bournemouth to a win, a clean sheet, and even scoring the game's only goal against Stoke City. An injury to first-choice Charlie Daniels immediately after meant that Ake started the next two games as well, finally impressing Eddie Howe enough to be retained in the starting lineup for the following three matches as well, with Adam Smith getting shunted out into midfield.

Conclusion: Ake hasn’t been flawless despite the recent upturn in minutes. In a sense, he’s learning on the job while playing as a CB and his positioning and decision making at times is lacking, but there are only signs of promise from him.  If not at Chelsea, he’ll surely have a successful career elsewhere at a good level. But he first should be given a chance to prove himself with Chelsea next season, whether it be at center-back, wing-back, or in midfield.

Patrick James Bamford (Burnley, 23)
Loïc Rémy (Crystal Palace, 29)
Robert Kenedy Nunes Nascimento (Watford, 20)

Burnley v Hull City - Premier League Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Nothing to say here, really. Bamford’s time on the pitch might as well have its worth in peanuts, Kenedy sustained an injury at a crucial time and has ended his loan; Remy got himself injured right after signing for Crystal Palace on loan and after suffering a setback in his recovery, should be fit at some point in the near future.

Conclusion: The only one who might have a future at the club looks to be Kenedy, although the next six months should (and will) serve as a better indicator. Bamford may never play in Chelsea blue again, a permanent move away to a manager who will trust him, even if in the Championship would serve him best.

Kasey Remel Palmer (Huddersfield Town, 20)

Huddersfield Town v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Appearances: 21 (1162 minutes)

Goals: 3, Assists: 3

Shots: 2.9, Tackles: 1.9, Dribbles: 3, Aerials Won: 2.4, Key Passes: 2

Kasey Palmer provided us with quite a few spectacular goals and skills at youth level and he's continued to build on that promise at Huddersfield thus far. Palmer did have an initial settling-in period as he was battling an injury at the time of his loan signing and took his time to adapt to manager David Wagner’s system.

The German-American manager rotated his squad regularly at the beginning of the season and eased Palmer in with a bunch of significant substitute minutes (which also saw him score the match-winner in his first appearance!) and eventually, Palmer worked his way into the starting XI and has been one of the first names on the team sheet for a while now. While his spectacular ability on the ball was apparent from the very start, his defensive contributions have been steadily improving as well. Hopefully the latter half of the season will play out just as well as the first half has.

Conclusion: I suspect he’ll head out on loan once more next season even if his season continues this way, perhaps at a higher level. We’ve had no dearth of attacking midfielders on our books (across the first team and the loan army) for the last few years, but there’s no reason to dismiss Palmer’s chances at Chelsea just yet.

Isaiah Jay "Izzy" Brown (Rotherham United, 19)

Blackburn Rovers v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Appearances: 17 (1244 minutes)

Goals: 3, Assists: 5

Shots: 1.4, Dribbles: 2, Key Passes: 1.5

Izzy Brown had a lukewarm spell at Vitesse last season, to say the least; he never really looked comfortable in the side and was largely outshone by Kosovar winger Milot Rashica. Perhaps it was a jump too large at the age of 18 (the same could be said about Dominic Solanke), but Brown has bounced back well this season at Rotherham. He immediately established himself in the starting XI under Alan Stubbs and was one of their main driving forces in attack, although he often came under criticism from the fans for his lack of defensive work-rate and at times, not showing enough desire to fight for the badge.

Rotherham began their campaign terribly and have not budged from the bottom of the table for some time.  Stubbs lasted till October, with Kenny Jackett taking over soon after. Jackett immediately took Brown out of the side, opting for a more conservative brand of football but he too could not change the fortunes of the Millers; Jackett resigned after barely a month in charge, leaving assistant manager Paul Warne to take the reins. Warne has since reinstated Brown in the starting line-up and the youngster has responded with more positive performances.

Conclusion: Like Palmer, Brown has significant competition for a place at Chelsea but he seems to be doing well for himself at Rotherham, especially given their relegation-fighting circumstances. It’s difficult to comment on his future prospects currently because things can change very quickly in football, but it might be difficult for Brown to make the grade ahead of the likes of Boga, Musonda, Palmer and Traore. A strong second half of the season would do him no harm, though. He's still just a teenager (will be turning 20 next month) and has more than enough time to make an impact. It just goes to show that life isn’t easy as a Chelsea youngster.

Tomáš Kalas (Fulham, 23)

Fulham v Newcastle United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Appearances: 16 (1372 minutes)

Goals: 1, Assists: 1

Tackles: 1, Interceptions: 2.1, Clearances: 5.6, Blocks: 0.6, Aerials won: 2.1

I’ve always liked Tomas Kalas, and it was disappointing that he was given very few chances in the one season that he was with the first team, though he did have that game versus Liverpool. Unfortunately, it didn’t prove to be enough. An utterly failed loan at Cologne was followed by a 1.5-year spell at Middlesbrough, where he started out as a first-choice player but was gradually relegated to the bench. This season has been going very well for Kalas, a couple of injury setbacks aside. He’s arguably the best defender in the team and they’ve conceded a whole lot more goals without him than with. Although that shouldn’t be a measure of direct correlation, it displays to some degree just how important Kalas has been for Chelsea’s nextdoor neighbours this season.

Fulham fans have taken an immense liking to the Czech defender and have been calling for him to sign permanently as well! Hopefully his recent hamstring injury won’t keep him out for very long and he can continue the good work.

Conclusion: The Chelsea ship seems to have unfortunately sailed for Kalas, and perhaps that’s something even he has come to accept (or at least be practical about) by now, judging from recent interviews. Fulham fans seem to think he’s too good for them and should be landing a Premier League move next season; he’ll have only one year left on his contract come the summer, so if he doesn’t sign an extension he probably will be sold. I have no doubt that he won't lack of suitors, and hope to see him playing in the Premier League some day.

Charlie Colkett (Bristol Rovers, 20)

Northampton Town v Bristol Rovers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Appearances: 15 (685 minutes)

Goals: 3

Bristol Rovers’ manager Darrell Clarke seems to be a firm believer in squad rotation, so Colkett has been in and out of the side. Rovers have also played in a variety of shapes but as of late, Colkett has been deployed as an attacking midfielder in a midfield diamond shape, as opposed to a deep-lying playmaker. As any youngster would, he’s had wondrous performances and some games where he’s simply failed to grow into the game and had to be taken off early -- the latter seems to happen more often when deployed in the diamond. Colkett can always produce a defence-splitting in an instant and is always a creative threat, but really doesn’t get on the ball as much as he should and need to work on influencing games more consistently.

Conclusion: Colkett will get enough opportunities throughout the season but it’s up to him to eventually make himself a near-un-droppable member of the starting XI. Hopefully he’ll finish the season strongly enough to head to a higher-level loan destination next season.

Christian Atsu Twasam (Newcastle United, 24)

Wigan Athletic V Newcastle United Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Appearances: 16 (672 minutes)

Goals: 3

Shots: 2.7, Dribbles: 1.4, Key Passes: 1.7, Accurate Crosses: 0.5

Atsu did very well at Vitesse but his progress seriously stalled last season after minimal playing time at Everton and Bournemouth, owing to lack of opportunities as well as injuries. This season, he‘s been used to good effect as a squad rotation and impact substitute option by Rafa Benitez.  He's even been singled out for praise on a few occasions by Benitez and although not exactly a first-choice player, he's clearly not at Newcastle just to make up the numbers.

Conclusion: His time at Chelsea is almost certainly up, I foresee him leaving next summer (or perhaps as early as January with Newcastle rumored to be wanting to make the move permanent).

Jake-Liam Clarke-Salter (Bristol Rovers, 19)

Chelsea v Manchester City: FA Youth Cup Final - Second Leg Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Appearances: 8 (596 minutes)

Goals: 1

Clarke-Salter joined Bristol Rovers almost a month after actually signing due to injury, but once he did, he slot right into the squad and impressed in his starts. Unfortunately, Jake suffered another injury in late November that will keep him out for at least two months more.

Conclusion: Although a promising prospect, Clarke-Salter has had terrible luck with injuries this year. Let’s hope he has a strong finish to the season at least, and progresses from there onward.

Gustavo Lucas Domingues Piazon (Fulham, 22)

Appearances: 13 (889 minutes)

Goals: 2, Assists: 1

Shots: 1.6, Tackles: 2.6, Key Passes: 2.1

After blowing hot and cold at Reading, like his teammate Kalas, Piazon seems to be adapting well to life at Craven Cottage, although he hasn't exactly locked down a place in the starting XI. Fulham's style of football seems to suit him better though, and his manager Slaviska Jokanovic is also pleased with his work ethic. His loan lasts only till the beginning of January, though I expect it to be extended soon.

Conclusion: I once had great hopes for Lucas Piazon, I think we all did. Why his development has stalled after a scintillating first half of the season at Vitesse seems to be down to a multitude of factors, including his attitude. He seems to be finding his feet again though, and will almost certainly move out permanently soon.

Jamal Clint-Ross Blackman (Wycombe Wanderers, 23)

International Champions Cup 2015 - Chelsea v New York Red Bulls Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Appearances: 24 (2160 minutes)

Clean Sheets: 11

Ah, Jamal Blackman. It seems as if he’s been in and around the first team (for pre-season at least) for many years now, although his senior professional career only really kicked off last season when he spent a few months in Sweden at Ostersunds.  This season, Blackman has been outstanding for the League Two side, who are currently on a Chelsea-esque winning run that has seen Blackman pick up 6 of his 11 clean sheets for the season.  Mercurial manager Gareth Ainsworth has been chuffed to bits with the young goalkeeper's attitude and commitment towards his loan club, and and even pegged him to play in the Premier League some day.

Conclusion: It’s good to see Blackman come into his own and do well, even if it's only in League Two. His path at Chelsea might be blocked but I’m sure he’ll flourish wherever he heads next (probably for good).

Jordan Gerald Houghton (Doncaster Rovers, 21)

Tottenham Hotspur U21 v Chelsea U21: Barclays U21 Premier League International Cup Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Appearances: 25 (2118 minutes)

Jordan Houghton’s previous loan moves to Gillingham and Plymouth Argyle seemed to start well but didn’t quite pan out as hoped. It’s proved to be third time lucky for the central midfielder; he’s been ever-present in a Doncaster side who are two points off the top of the table and are strong contenders for promotion this season. His loan deal was initially agreed to only run till the beginning of January but will, in all likelihood be extended.

Conclusion: Houghton’s enjoying a great season, it’d be nice to see him get promoted with Doncaster and maybe join them (or a Championship club) permanently.

Andrew Alexander "Alex" Kiwomya (Crewe Alexandra, 20)

Crewe Alexandra v Bolton Wanderers - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Appearances: 21 (1625 minutes)

Goals: 7

Kiwomya is another Chelsea youngster whose first two lower league loans didn’t work out (at Barnsley and Fleetwood Town), but who's found some excellent form this season. With seven goals and a player of the month nomination to his name, Kiwomya too will likely see his loan extended at Crewe past the initial January end date.

Conclusion: He’s got the pace and dribbling, that much was apparent at the youth level and it’s good to see him play to his strengths in the Championship. I expect him also to move on soon.

Alexander James Davey (22, Crawley Town)

Mitchell Ryan Beeney (21, Crawley Town)

Appearances: 18 (1212 minutes), 4 (360 minutes, 1 clean sheet)

Davey and Beeney have been under the care of former Chelsea youth coach Dermot Drummy at Crawley Town and have both played somewhat bit-part roles at the club this season.

Conclusion: Not much to see here.

Dion John Conroy (Aldershot Town, 21)
Nathan Baxter (Metropolitan Police, 18)

Appearances: 13 (1005 minutes), 22 (1980 minutes, 3 clean sheets)

Well, er.. I can confirm that Nathan Baxter hasn’t become a police officer.

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