Appearances: 7 starts (+13 as substitute).
Minutes: 549 in Premier League; 223 in domestic cups; 107 in Champions League.
Statistics (per 90 minutes, Premier League): 49.29 attempted passes (86% pass completion); 0.16 goals scored; 4.18 successful take-ons (61.90% success rate).
Robert Kenedy Nunes do Nascimento was sold by Brazilian club Fluminense for £6.3 million to an investment group before heading to Chelsea initially on a "trial" during pre-season. It was a dream come true for the youngster who would often play as Chelsea in his videogames and now he was playing alongside them in real life!
He joined up with the Blues at training camp in Canada but as a 19-year-old with only a few games under his belt as a professional in Brazil's weak state and national leagues, it was assumed that Kenedy would eventually join our "loan army" just like Nathan, who also arrived from Brazil last summer but was immediately sent to spend the season at
Chelsea B Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem.
But Kenedy has never been one to settle for low aims. Having lived in Fluminense's football academies hundreds of miles away from his family in Rio de Janeiro State from 2009 to 2013, he wasn't about to settle for the Eredivisie when the Premier League was a possibility. And so, the mostly unknown Brazilian prospect got to work, to try and catch José Mourinho's attention.
His debut for Chelsea against Barcelona wasn't an official match, but it was a great introduction to what Kenedy could bring to the plate. He started the match on the right wing, his natural position, alongside a mostly first-choice lineup, but the youngster who would end up getting tested by Mourinho in training as a left back and even a centre back, showed great determination and willingness to contribute on the defensive end as well. Such tendencies were no doubt music to the manager's ears, and once Kenedy secured a work permit (thanks to a change in the rules that allowed for easy loopholes), he ended up staying with the first-team.
Unfortunately, even though he was a "Mourinho-type" player through and through, Kenedy didn't get too many opportunities. With Mourinho at helm, he got eight appearances and started only two matches — one against Walsall as an attacking midfielder in the League Cup (collecting a goal and an assist), and the other as a left back against Norwich City in the Premier League. Things improved slightly once Guus Hiddink took over. The Dutch manager gave five starts to Kenedy — three of them as a left back, and two as a left winger — and seven cameos from the bench.
It might sound petty to complain about Kenedy's usage since, as a youngster who just turned 20, he got a decent amount of minutes, especially considering Chelsea's previous record in such matters. But having witnessed his offensive prowess during his Fluminense spell, it's difficult not to be a bit bitter over the fact that he spent a good chunk of his time playing left back.
He wasn't able to be as incisive as he was in Brazil, not only due to playing in defense — although still looking to roam forward — but also finding English defences more difficult to break down than the ones in his home country. But Kenedy is still a very skilled attacker with a powerful left foot that can deliver amazing shots at opponents' goals, just as we saw against Norwich City in March.
The Good: His performance against League One side Walsall in the League Cup, where Kenedy gave the assist with a marvelous cross from the left wing for Ramires to open the scoring and got a goal of his own, his first as a Chelsea player, on a 4-1 trouncing.
The Bad: The youngster was thrown to the wolves dressed as swans as he subbed in for defender Matt Miazga at half-time of our game against Swansea City. Playing as a winger, Kenedy didn't manage to get things going for Chelsea in our lacklustre efforts to overcome Swansea's 1-0 lead.
The Ugly: Kenedy got to start at left back over Baba Rahman against Everton in the FA Cup 6th round, and did everything he could to get Baba back into the line-up. That he was voted man of the match says more about the game itself and Chelsea in general than his own contributions.
Verdict: While not an ideal outcome, it's still great that Kenedy was able to turn his versatility into additional first-team chances throughout the season. He might not be confused for a proper left back anytime soon, but he could be useful as depth there and at various attacking midfielder positions.
Kenedy turned 20 in February, and it's clear that he has a lot of potential as well as many areas to work on and improve. As with any youngster, consistent playing time would help his development the most, to get him used to the better defenses in England that feature defenders who actually follow their marks through an entire game. That's not something he was accustomed to just a year ago.
That being said, I'd vouch for Kenedy to stay at the club instead of spending time on loan. While he might not become a first choice player for Antonio Conte, he can provide good depth to our squad as one of the few left-footed attackers/defenders available in our first team.