Tammy Abraham still hasn’t found the back of the net since his double against Huddersfield Town in October, but remains Swansea’s top scorer in the league with 4 goals. Perhaps that speaks more to the abysmal showings of the Swans this season, who’ve sacked Paul Clement and are now under the stewardship of former Sheffield Wednesday manager, Carlos Carvalhal. Tammy has made three starts of a possible six in the meantime, but has always made an appearance one way or the other when fit. The youngster did miss a couple of golden chances along the way and has displayed indifferent form, however. Most recently, he’s missed Swansea’s 0-2 loss to Tottenham due to an injury he picked up against Watford last Saturday, and had to sit out their last two games for the same reason.
Abraham suffered a similar slump in form with Bristol City last season, only to pick himself up and come back stronger. Hopefully, he’ll do the very same this season.
Kasey Palmer was recalled from his loan at Huddersfield Town due to a dire lack of involvement following his return to fitness from a recurring hamstring injury.
DW: “I wasn’t surprised that @ChelseaFC called back @kaseypalmer45 because he wasn’t involved as much as we thought he would be.— Huddersfield Town (@htafcdotcom) January 5, 2018
“I think he needs a restart and more playing time. We accept and understand Chelsea’s decision.
“We wish Kasey all the best in the future.” (AT)
Kasey needs a restart indeed, which is probably what he will receive before long. However, the chances of being loaned to another Premier League club are minimal, meaning he’ll likely have to drop back down to the Championship.
Izzy Brown made just one more start for Brighton after his impressive outing against Liverpool. It was an unceremonious return to Huddersfield Town, where he spent the second half of last season, with the Terriers running out comfortable 2-0 winners. Izzy only took to the pitch twice after that, with a 15-minute cameo against Burnley and 5 minutes against AFC Bournemouth on New Year’s day. Brown was also absent from the Brighton match-day 18 throughout most of the festive period itself, with Sam Baldock and/or Beram Kayal preferred as bench options.
Brown started Brighton’s FA Cup “derby” clash against Crystal Palace, and much like on his first start for the club, had to go off injured with a knee injury after just four minutes. Izzy then himself confirmed that it was an ACL tear, meaning he’ll probably be out of action until well into next season.
Not the news I wanted to hear, I have torn my ACL & it will need surgery to fix. I will come back fitter & stronger and hopefully be ready for next season. Thank you to everyone at Brighton for the love and support they showed towards me, the fans, the staff, & all the players. I’ve met some amazing people here & these memories will be with me forever. See you all next season❤️
Ruben Loftus-Cheek continued to play his part in Crystal Palace’s resurgence under Roy Hodgson, starting every game he was available for and assisting Bakary Sako’s goal in a 0-3 win against Leicester City. Ruben picked up a knock against Arsenal on the 28th, and has had to sit out the four matches that followed.
Kurt Zouma has remained a vital cog in the Stoke City XI, although the Potters have taken a nose-dive and find themselves in the relegation zone after winning just two games out of the last nine, including last night’s 3-0 loss to Manchester United. Zouma also started in Mark Hughes’ final game in charge, a humiliating 2-1 loss to League Two side Coventry City, in the FA Cup.
Lewis Baker’s move to Middlesbrough has been one of the most disappointing among all Chelsea loanees, barely featuring under two different managers. Garry Monk was relieved from his role as manager after uninspiring performances in the Championship despite being handed ample financial resources to strengthen the side in the summer. He was succeeded by none other than Tony Pulis, who returned to manage in the English second tier after nearly a decade. Pulis has spoken openly about the uncomfortably large squad size at Middlesbrough, with loan signing Connor Roberts sent back to Swansea at the beginning of the month. Baker had begun to make the match-day 18 again after Pulis’ appointment, but has been excluded from their last two squads. A recall and re-assignment is surely around the corner, with Celtic rumoured to be interested.
Ike Ugbo played a total of 48 minutes for Barnsley in the last month, and was rightly recalled by Chelsea. The loan move to the Championship perhaps came a year too soon, and Ike was immediately farmed out to League One side MK Dons instead, a club which has received players like Lewis Baker and Patrick Bamford on loan from Chelsea in the past.
Ugbo made his debut in the FA Cup and was generally impressive before being replaced in the 90th minute. His team’s lone goal in the 60th minute ultimately proved enough to upset the Championship side and seal progress to the fourth round.
He then missed the Dons’ derby game against AFC Wimbledon due to an “agreement” with Chelsea which meant that he was originally due to join MK Dons on loan only after that match. Ugbo played with the Chelsea Development Squad against Sunderland instead (scoring after just two minutes in the 5-0 rout), but will be available for MK Dons’ subsequent fixtures.
Michael Hector, Fikayo Tomori and Olaoluwa Aina have been key players in Nigel Adkins’ Hull City side right from the get-go. Hector, who stepped into midfield on one occasion, has been the shakiest of the three since Adkins’ appointment and conceded a penalty against Fulham, sparking a comeback for the Cottagers in a 2-2 draw, a game in which Tomori also hit the crossbar early on.
Aina has been starting at left-back ahead of Max Clark, with Tomori continuing at right-back in his place. Tomori has looked the most impressive, going from strength to strength with increased game-time, and Ola has been solid at best. Aina did, however, score his first senior goal with the only goal of the game against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup.
Super Eagles defender Ola Aina (@Aina2Ola) scored his first Hull City goal today (Saturday) against Blackburn Rovers in their FACup fixture. It was the only goal of the tie. #blacburn #hullcity #aina #ola #supereagles pic.twitter.com/SLFIJRFezX— naijafootballers (@9jafootballers) January 6, 2018
Jeremie Boga has firmly locked down a place in Birmingham City’s starting XI, which shouldn’t be surprising given he’s their most technically sound player, but he’s certainly had to earn it. After a spell on the fringes under Birmingham’s second manager of the season, Steve Cotterill (third including interim manager Lee Carsley), Boga has remained a permanent fixture in the side for the Blues, despite missing a potentially match-saving penalty against Fulham; Boga sent his spot-kick into orbit in the dying minutes of the game, resigning his team to a 1-0 loss.
Birmingham have managed to pick up form as of late, and went on a three-match winning streak across all competitions, before losing to second-placed Derby County 0-3 on Saturday. Boga contributed directly to their 0-2 win against Reading, carrying the ball from inside his own half and sending Southampton loanee, Sam Gallagher, through on goal. He almost linked up with Gallagher once more to create a goal against Derby after a searing run to the byline, but the striker couldn’t get his shot off in time. He also headed just over the crossbar after the ball fell to him following a corner scrap.
Their two wins in the Championship have finally lifted them from the bottom of the league table, although only by one place. Nevertheless, only two points separate them and 21st-placed Bolton Wanderers.
Jamal Blackman had been a regular starter during Sheffield United’s excellent form earlier on, which saw them rise as high as third place. Three winless games at the end of November led to manager Chris Wilder dropping three of his youngest players - Blackman, Spurs loanee Cameron Carter-Vickers and recent Wales debutant, David Brooks - against Bristol City on the 9th of December. The more experienced Simon Moore has started in goal for all of the Blades’ six Championship games since, but only 1 (one!) win has come from them.
Blackman was restored to the starting XI for United’s 0-1 win against Ipswich Town in the FA Cup but went largely untested. He then returned to the bench for last weekend’s Steel City derby.
Tomas Kalas has continued to start regularly at center-back for Fulham alongside Tim Ream, and is well on course to surpass his total appearances and minutes from last season. Lucas Piazon, meanwhile, returned from injury on Boxing Day as an injury-time substitute. He was given a slightly longer cameo in the following game against Hull City, brought on in the 74th minute for Dennis Odoi and helped Fulham successfully draw level with an assist for Aboubakar Kamara in the 85th minute. Piazon was then a 65th minute substitute against Ipswich in the Cottagers’ first game of the new year, before starting in, and completing, their 1-0 loss to Southampton in the FA Cup.
Piazon then played an indifferent 85 minutes for Fulham in a 0-1 win against Middlesbrough, a game in which Kalas didn’t start but the center-back replaced Sheyi Ojo in the 52nd minute.
Jake Clarke-Salter is Chelsea’s newest loanee in England’s second division, with a (well overdue) loan to the struggling Sunderland until the end of the season. Jake made his debut for Sunderland on Saturday, starting against Cardiff City. He didn’t play badly by any account, displaying a ball-playing capacity that none of Sunderland’s other defenders currently possess, but was given a harsh reality check about the challenge ahead of him as the Black Cats were mercilessly beaten 4-0.
Jay Dasilva, as expected, has been starting regularly for Charlton Athletic, who sit in sixth place in League One. His brother, Cole should be heading out on loan soon as well, with League Two side Cheltenham Town interested.
Jordan Houghton has been racking up the minutes at Doncaster Rovers as usual, and also had his initial six-month loan extended until the end of the season. Signing him up (preferably permanently) was number one on Rovers’ priorities for the current transfer window but personal terms were unable to be agreed upon, hence a permanent deal couldn’t be concluded.
Bradley Collins has started all the way through an abysmal run of form for Forest Green Rovers that’s seen them lose all but one of their games since the 25th of November. Unsurprisingly, they are back in the relegation zone of League Two (with the chasm of non-league football gaping below them), but safety is well within reach.
Nathan Baxter spent some time out with injury but returned between the posts on Boxing Day and has started Woking’s four games since. Baxter also put pen to paper on a new deal at Chelsea that will see him through until the summer of 2020.
Jared Thompson, too, missed a couple of games for Chippenham through injury but started their last four games - losses to Bath City and Hungerford Town (twice!), and a draw against Braintree Town.
Vitesse Arnhem ended the first half of the season with a whimper, picking up draws against Willem II and Twente, before losing 2-1 to PSV Eindhoven. Fankaty Dabo did not start any of the three matches after losing his starting place to academy player, Julian Lelieveld, but did make substitute appearances in the latter two. Matt Miazga and Mason Mount played every minute, with Mount scoring a half-volleyed goal against Twente.
Marco van Ginkel and PSV continue to waltz their way to the Eredivisie title, sealing a bunch of comfortable victories save for an anomalous 3-0 loss against Ajax and ending 2017 five points clear at the top of the table. Van Ginkel scored twice against Groningen and once against VVV-Venlo, while also assisting Hirving Lozano’s goal in the same game.
Todd Kane has been on the fringes of late at FC Groningen, only managing 36 minutes of playing time in December.
Cristian Cuevas played 90 minutes for Twente in losses to ADO and NAC, and a goalless draw against Excelsior.
Josimar Quintero has been recalled from his loan spell at FC Rostov in Russia after a severe lack of minutes, and has been linked with a fresh loan spell Romanian club CSM Poli, as well as a permanent switch to Valencia.
Mario Pasalic played 24 minutes in Spartak Moscow’s final game before the winter break and added a third goal in the eighth minute of injury time, in what was a 3-0 win against CSKA.
Victorien Angban didn’t have a great December. After his penalty miss saw Waasland-Beveren crash out of the cup against Genk, Angban was slapped with a retrospective three-match ban for a stamp on Standard Liege’s Uche Agbo, which originally only warranted a yellow card.
Nathan was recalled from his loan spell at Amiens SC and will complete a fresh loan to Portugese top flight team, Beleneses, soon.
Kenneth Omeruo played 90 minutes upon his return from injury, in a 1-2 loss against Istanbul Basaksehir.
Danilo Pantic started for Partizan Beograd in a 2-1 win against Napredak and a 1-1 draw against Crvena Zvezda.