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Keep, Sell, Loan: Jeremie Boga’s 2016-17 season in review

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Granada CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Appearances (starts + substitute):
La Liga: 14 + 12 (1451 minutes)
Copa del Rey: 0 + 1 (30 minutes)

Goals + Assists:
La Liga: 2 + 1

At the start of the season, Granada CF seemed like an attractive destination for Chelsea to send players. Emerging from seven years of ownership by the Pozzo family, who also own Watford and Udinese, they were no strangers to playing the loan market. Despite the change in ownership, or perhaps precisely because of it, no less than 18 players were brought in on temporary contracts over the course of the season, including Jeremie Boga, as well as fellow Chelsea youngster and Cote d’Ivoire international Victorien Angban, as Granada tried to stave off relegation for another season.

Boga has been at Chelsea since 2008, and has always been highly regarded for his skill with the ball, dazzling runs and ability to beat his man (or multiple men, rather) with ease. Although he never got much of a sniff at playing a competitive match for the first-team, much has been and continues to be expected from him. Here’s a highlights reel from his Chelsea youth career, which demonstrates just why Boga has garnered so much hype over the years.

Boga is an attacking midfielder who is most comfortable playing centrally, although he has been deployed on either wing on occasion as well. He provides a lot of energy going forward, is a gifted dribbler with a great bust of pace and a threat on goal from anywhere near the penalty area. His first foray into senior football came last season on loan at Rennes, where he showed glimpses of his quality but was largely used as a substitute. The fact that Rennes’ own starlet, Ousmane Dembélé was having his own breakout season did not help Boga either. That season, Boga was named in the starting XI only 6 times and made appearances from the bench on 21 occasions. He was still quite raw and not quite up to speed with the senior game, especially in terms of physicality.

That he’s managed to develop at least in those terms during his time at Granada is a credit to him, considering that just about everything else at the club was an unmitigated disaster. Four different managers were in charge over the course of the season, from the young tactician and ex-Rayo Vallecano coach Paco Jémez to the eccentric Arsenal legend Tony Adams. None of them could steer the sinking ship that was Granada Football Club, ending the season dead last on 20 points and just 5 wins from 38 games.

While Boga managed about 200 more minutes this season than last, all told, his starts came in spells and he never really managed to keep his place in the starting XI for very long. In what has now become something of a recurring theme in his brief senior career so far, he showed all the skills on the ball but with little end product. He started the season brightly and often looked to be the best attacker on the team but his low defensive work-rate saw him dropped after the first few weeks. He had a brief resurgence around the turn of the year, including six straight starts, but ended the season firmly on substitutes bench.

That’s not to say his time at Granada was a complete failure. He did have his moments, one of which was a man of the match performance against Sevilla in early December. The following all-touches video, and the ones below it, showcase Boga’s tendency of producing one moment of brilliance among a mire of frustrating ones, especially against better opposition.

Boga only turned 20 in January, so let’s compare his statistics from this season with those of other attackers (not named Ousmane Dembélé, Christian Pulisic or Kylian Mbappé) of a similar age who played in Europe’s top leagues, namely, Andreas Pereira (Granada CF, on loan from Manchester United), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Allan Saint-Maximin (SC Bastia, on loan from AS Monaco) and Bersant Celina (FC Twente, on loan from Manchester City)

Statistics may not always be a fair reflection of the reality but in Boga’s case at least, they paint an accurate picture. He takes on a decent number of defenders, but the end product is blatantly lacking. The defensive side of his game also leaves a lot to be desired, and in today’s game even attacking players are expected to make significant contributions off the ball. We should of course take into consideration that he was playing in an absolutely dire team, though fellow loanee-teammate Andreas Pereira played twice as many minutes and with good reason. Pereira, a year older in fairness, was much more consistent, active, and productive.

Verdict:

Jeremie Boga has now had two false starts to his senior career with two uninspiring loan spells in the Spanish and French top flights. This season can be judged with moderation, given the state of the club with which Chelsea saddled him, but Boga will have to add a lot more substance to his game if he wants to avoid becoming the next Gael Kakuta. He is still young fortunately, and for a player as talented as he is, all it takes is one good loan spell under a manager who trusts him to put him straight back into reckoning. My verdict for next season, therefore, is loan. Chelsea have had the right ideas for Boga’s loans so far in terms of the league and I anticipate yet another foreign loan but getting the team right this time around is vital.

Poll

What would you do with Jeremie Boga next season?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Keep
    (98 votes)
  • 58%
    Loan
    (665 votes)
  • 11%
    Sell (cash in!)
    (134 votes)
  • 21%
    Sell at a lower price but with a buy-back clause
    (249 votes)
1146 votes total Vote Now