Young Dutch defender Nathan Aké went on loan to newly-promoted Premier League club Watford with humble hopes of adding a few minutes under his belt and taking a step further in his development.
But after just one League Cup start and two substitute Premier League cameos, the 21-year-old was thrust into a starting role in games that mattered, at left back against Bournemouth in October. He quickly earned the trust of then-manager Quique Sanchez Flores (who has since been, surprisingly, sacked) to become the team's first choice in the position that was largely new to the Chelsea loanee.
After collecting 28 appearances for Watford in all competitions, Aké was quite happy with his season and the opportunity given by the Hornets to aid his development.
"I've really enjoyed it. The first couple of matches was all about settling in and I wasn't really involved. I needed to adapt to the team, after that though I started to get chances, I started to develop more, and I've learned a lot."
"There's been good things and bad things, but it's all new experiences for me, and I think I needed this to help myself develop. I've been really happy that Watford gave me that chance."
-Nathan Aké; source: Watford FC
It's quite likely that Aké will be returning to Chelsea from his loan experience to at the very least fight for a spot in the first team during pre-season, either in the back four as a centre back or as a left back or even as a defensive midfielder given his versatility. It's not often that our loans work out as well as Ake's did at Watford; hopefully we can actually build on that success now.