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Chelsea Loan Round-up: February 19 - May 4

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Watford v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
ENGLAND:

Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Ruben’s annoyingly persistent ankle injury kept him out for the whole of February and while he was back in full training by mid-March, his first start since recovery only came on the 7th of April, against Bournemouth. It was his first start in three and a half months, and the youngster looked understandably rusty and a little out-of-sorts. He then kept his place in the starting XI for Palace’s next two games, a 3-2 derby win against Brighton, and a goalless draw versus Watford. Ruben then played some of his best football in a Palace shirt in a 5-0 demolition of Leicester City, this time even finding the back of the net to put the cherry on top of his stellar performance.

(video of RLC vs. Leicester)

In the absence of Christian Benteke and Alexander Sorloth, Roy Hodgson has been deploying a 4-4-2 shape with Loftus-Cheek and James McArthur functioning as “wingers” who tend to drift centrally, keeping play very narrow and crowding out midfield, with Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend leading the line.

The 22-year-old hasn’t been pulling up any trees, but has shown that he’s on his way back to pre-injury form. His ability to retain possession of the ball, hold off multiple opposition players with his physicality and make those typical mazy runs forward have looked as good as ever and he’s shown a marked improvement in defensive work-rate as well. This will, no doubt, come as good news England manager Gareth Southgate who was looking to integrate him into the senior England set-up prior to the injury. A strong run of starts to round off the season should, hopefully, see Ruben on the plane to Russia.

Kenedy

The young wing-back winger has been a catalyst in Newcastle’s strong run of form as of late, which has seen the Toon practically secure Premier League status. Evidently trusted by Rafa Benitez, who’s wanted him since the summer, Kenedy has rapidly become one of the first names on the team-sheet.

He’s started all eight of Newcastle’s games since the last round-up, notably scoring a double in a 3-0 win against Southampton and assisting Ayoze Perez’s winner in a 1-0 win over Huddersfield. Kenedy’s industry, quick feet and willingness to take his man on have endeared him to Newcastle fans, whose calls to sign him up permanently in the summer grow stronger by the week. The only complaints about the winger are his tendency to tire out by the 70th minute and the tendency to make hasty decisions. However, it’s clear that Kenedy is cut out to play at this level but simply hadn’t been afforded the chance. His situation in the summer will be an interesting one to keep an eye on, especially as he’s expressed his desire to stay on at his loan club beyond this season whether it’s on loan or permanently.

Kurt Zouma

Big Kurt has started all but one of Stoke City’s matches that he’s been fully fit for (a knock kept him out of consecutive fixtures against Arsenal and Stoke), conceding 1.2 goals per game on an average among those starts, including a Man-of-the-match showing against Liverpool. He’s continued to look the least incompetent of Stoke City’s defenders, although that does not mean a great deal. The Potters have tightened up at the back somewhat since Paul Lambert took over the managerial reins, but have failed to win a single league game since January 20.

Zouma’s veteran teammate, Peter Crouch, spoke a fair few words of praise about him in his recent Daily Mail column.

“Kurt Zouma has impressed me frequently this season and he did so again on Monday when he was interviewed after the game at West Ham.

I’m convinced he will go on to be Chelsea and France’s first choice central defender.

“Everything you would want from a defender, he has got. Kurt is quick, strong, good on the ball and his leap is absolutely ridiculous. We do tests in the gym to measure your spring and he can get so high his head touches the ceiling.

”Really, he can be anything he wants to be. There was a period when we conceded a lot of goals that he found tough but he came through it and picked up the gears again. I can see him doing that plenty more in the future.”

- Peter Crouch; source: Daily Mail via GiveMeSport

It hasn’t been easy to assess Zouma this season, given the appalling standard of players around him on the pitch but this is an encouraging endorsement at the very least.

Tammy Abraham

Tammy has made 3 starts and 6 substitute appearances for Swansea in the last two months, registering a goal (although it could’ve been a couple of goals more if not for David De Gea’s excellence) and an assist apiece, taking his tally for the season to 8 goals and 4 assists. Despite the absence of Wilfried Bony, Tammy has been well overtaken by Jordan Ayew, who is still the only Swansea player to have outscored him, in the pecking order but has been regularly used off the bench by Carlos Carvalhal.

(tammy goal)

Unfortunately he hasn’t kept his early-season form up, much like the players around him, but this season will have served as a very important learning experience, keeping him in good stead for whatever his challenge next season is. Judging by the words of Antonio Conte in his pre-match press conference to the Swansea game and various reports in the press, Tammy is still seen as an important part of the club’s future and will definitely not be sold this summer.

Lewis Baker

This is plain depressing now. Baker is named on the bench every now and then for Middlesbrough, but the most minutes he’s got in the last couple of months have been 24 off the bench in a 3-1 win against Barnsley, and a paltry 7 in a 0-1 win against Birmingham City.

Kasey Palmer

Kasey Palmer’s continued injury woes during the first half of the season meant that he didn’t quite have the sequel to his fairytale loan spell Huddersfield Town in the Premier League. He had to drop down to the Championship in January for regular minutes, and joined Gary Rowett’s promotion hopefuls, Derby County. Since then, he’s mostly been used as an impact substitute with all but two of his appearances coming from the start. Palmer’s situation baffles the mind a little, as Derby were in a huge slump until two weeks ago and he looked a class apart whenever brought on, with the fans calling for him to start week after week. Unfortunately, Rowett has been loyal to Derby’s primary attacking midfielder, Matej Vydra and kept him in the side throughout, making things difficult for the Chelsea loanee.

Palmer is arguably a player of Premier League standard but injuries have prevented him from showing his best form.

Ola Aina

Ola Aina leads all the outfield players in Chelsea’s Loan Army of 2017/18 in minutes played, and was a regular in Hull City’s starting XI in the last couple of months, as he has been all season. Ola registered his third assist of the season in a 0-3 win against Ipswich, assisting the brilliant Liverpool loanee, Harry Wilson. Hull City have waded their way out of the relegation scrap but will finish the season in an ultimately disappointing position after a chaotic season that reeked of an abject lack of planning.

Fikayo Tomori

It wasn’t very long ago that Fikayo Tomori won Chelsea’s Academy Player of the Year award, impressed on an ambitious first loan spell to promotion-chasing Brighton in the second half of last season and then led England to an Under-20 World Cup win. He was then loaned out to Hull City, presumably on Leonid Slutsky’s behest but has failed to make as much of an impact as one would’ve hoped, in his first full season in senior football. Tomori has thoroughly been rooted to the role of a rotation player, serving backup to the right-back and center-back positions but impressing whenever called upon. Moreover, he’s made only four appearances since the end of February.

Michael Hector

Briefly losing out to January signing Angus MacDonald for a starting place in the heart of Hull City’s defence, Hector has made 5 starts for Hull City since February 19. The hefty center-back turns 26 in July and may well leave Chelsea this summer, having proved nothing except that he’s still very much a good Championship player.

Jamal Blackman

Blackman has had healthy competition from the more experienced Simon Moore throughout the season and upon losing his starting spot, has wrestled it back every time. It was testament to his importance that he was immediately reinstated as first-choice after serving his suspension from a red card picked up against Brentford. Unfortunately, Sheffield United have slipped down the table and no longer remain in contention for the play-offs but it’s been a good season for Blackman, who has made the step up from League Two to the Championship with ease.

Tomas Kalas and Lucas PIazon

Chelsea’s pair of loanees down the road at Fulham have played their parts in the Cottagers’ exceptional run of form that’s seen them in with a strong shout at automatic promotion. Piazon has chipped in with important contributions when started, his squad status remaining more or less the same since return from injury but Kalas has fallen down the pecking order with Slavisa Jokanovic’s preference of Dennis Odoi instead coinciding with Fulham’s string of good results. Kalas did contribute an assist to Aleksandr Mitrovic in a 3-0 win against Millwall though, where he was on for the last 7 minutes.

Piazon has made 7 starts and 3 substitute appearances in the same time, scoring against QPR and Sunderland, and assisting Tom Cairney in a 3-0 win against Sheffield United.

I asked Andrew Beck, from Cottagers’ Confidential, about his thoughts on Kalas and Piazon and how they’ve progressed this season. This is what he had to say:

Kalas has turned into a really good centerback. He’s mainly doing it with positioning. He’s not a great tackler and doesn’t attempt that many (he has nearly as many interceptions as tackles). He’s excellent in possession and can easily start an attack out of the back with a pass or even a dribble up the field. He’s better in the air than you would think given his size. I’m still not sure he has a future higher than being a solid player on a midtable EPL club. If Fulham were to get promoted, I’d be fine keeping him as the starter in the premier league, but I don’t think Chelsea should be counting on him to break into their first team anytime soon.

Piazon is a fan favorite. He’s very good at basically any of the attacking band of 3 in 4-2-3-1. His problem has been being unlucky with injuries. He’s not a great finisher and doesn’t get into shooting positions all that often. He’s a strong player in possession and very willing to press high. I think he’s probably at his peak now, and I wouldn’t consider him much more than a bench/energy guy for a lower have EPL team.

Jake Clarke-Salter

Sunderland isn’t a great place to be at the moment, and it’s been particularly bad for Jake Clarke-Salter. Jake was unable to repay the faith shown in him by Chris Coleman, and was shown a straight red in consecutive appearances, after which he managed only two substitute cameos for the Black Cats. Ouch.

Jeremie Boga

Boga has made only two starts for Birmingham City since Garry Monk took over, at the beginning of March. The rest have been fleeting substitute appearances, and he’s managed to make two assists in the mean time.

Jay Dasilva

Dasilva picked up an injury towards the end of February and was subsequently out of action until April 11, when he was an unused substitute against Wimbledon. He’s since gone on to 186 minutes of football, consisting of one start and three substitute appearances and has been unlucky to lose his starting place to Lewis Page due to injury, poor team form and a change in manager. However, Page was stretchered off in Charlton’s previous fixture, which means Jay has an opportunity to stake his claim for a starting place ahead of the promotion play-offs.

Ike Ugbo

Ugbo has made 6 starts and 3 substitute appearances for the relegated MK Dons since the last round-up, scoring his side’s only goal in a 1-2 loss against Doncaster Rovers.

Jordan Houghton

Doncaster Rovers will finish their first season on return to the League One comfortably in mid-table, and 22-year-old Houghton has been an important part of their efforts. He’s made eight starts in ten games for them, in his usual central midfield role.

Todd Kane

Kane is a well-past proven player in League One but had to make the switch in January to Oxford United, in search of regular minutes. He’s received exactly that at Oxford, starting every game and quickly becoming a fan favourite. Todd scored a penalty in the 83rd minute last weekend, to give his side a 2-1 win against Rochdale.

Bradley Collins

Brad Collins has certainly played his part whilst undergoing a huge learning curve at Forest Green Rovers, helping them stay in League Two with numerous crucial saves. He kept four clean sheets in the Rovers’ last ten matches, before going off with concussion in the 59th minute of their goalless draw against Yeovil Town two weeks ago. He’ll be fit to resume action on Saturday.

Nathan Baxter

Baxter, the youngest first-choice goalkeeper in the top five footballing divisions of England, could not prevent Woking from being relegated from the Vanarama National League but his efforts were recognised in the form of Woking’s Player of the Year award.

You may listen to the 19-year-old speak about Woking’s relegation here. It doesn’t take much to tell that Baxter has a mature head on his shoulders, and hopefully he’ll be plying his trade in the Football League next season.

Jared Thompson

Thompson, playing a division below Baxter for Chippenham Town, has been first-choice throughout the season and impressed in his first season in the men’s game. He was befittingly voted Man of the Match by both sets of fans in his last match for Town, against Welling, by both sets of fans.

SCOTLAND:

Charly Musonda Jr. has played exactly four (4) minutes of league football for Celtic since the last round-up. That’s going well, then.

GERMANY:

Michy Batshuayi was in fine scoring form before an injury during the Revierderby ended his season prematurely. He scored twice against Eintracht Frankfurt and one apiece versus Hannover and Stuttgart. Next up for Michy is the World Cup, should he regain full fitness by then.

Baba Rahman has been training hard to make his first appearance in over a year. With two gameweeks left in the Bundesliga, he may well make his return before the season is out.

THE NETHERLANDS:

Fankaty Dabo hasn’t played for Vitesse since March 11, after losing his place in the XI to winter acquisition from Sparta Prague, Vyacheslav Karavayev. Mason Mount and Matt Miazga, on the other hand, have been among Vitesse’s best players as the Arnhem side look to have recovered from a slump under former manager Henk Fraser, following his sacking. Mount, in particular, has been excellent with direct contributions to the scoreline against VVV-Venlo (2-2, 1G), FC Utrecht (5-1 loss, 1A), Sparta Rotterdam (7-0, 2A), AZ Alkmaar (4-3 loss, 1G+1A) and Twente (5-0, 1G+1A). Mount was also named Vitesse’s Supporters’ Player of the Year but his season is far from over, with the Europa League Qualification Playoffs yet to come.

Marco van Ginkel led PSV to the Eredivisie title, which was their second in three years. With one game left to play, he stands at 16 goals and 4 assists to his name, the most recent of which came against VVV-Venlo (3-0, 2G), NAC Breda (5-1, 1G+1A) and AZ Alkmaar (2-3, 1G).

Cristian Cuevas has started 8 games for the relegated FC Twente since the last loan round-up. Strangely enough, it’s still unclear as to whether he’s on loan there from Chelsea or has signed for Twente permanently.

BELGIUM:

Victorien Angban started all of Waasland-Beveren’s games save for their last two, which he’s had to sit out due to suspension brought about by an accumulation of yellow cards. Waasland-Beveren currently sit at the bottom of their Europa League qualifying group.

SPAIN:

Josimar Quintero has only made 6 substitute appearances for Betis II, which make a total of 76 minutes.

RUSSIA:

A month ago, Mario Pasalic made his first start for second-placed Spartak Moscow since December 1. He’s played only 158 minutes for them in 2018.

PORTUGAL:

Nathan has been involved from the bench for Belenenses more often than not, although he made three starts in the month of April. One of them came against Porto, in which he scored his second goal for the club.

TURKEY:

Kenneth Omeruo has now surpassed the number of minutes he played in his previous two seasons in Turkey (2240), having played 2354 minutes for Kasimpasa this season. Kasimpasa are 8 points clear of the drop with three games left to play, and should be finishing in mid-table.

SERBIA:

Danilo Pantic started all twelve of Partizan Beograd’s matches since the last round-up, and now is only second to his teammates, striker Tawamba Kana and defender Nemanja Miletić, in appearances made for the team this season. Pantic scored his third league goal of the season in a 5-0 win against Borac Cacak, a month ago and bagged one in the cup as well, versus Čukarički.

IRELAND:

Mitchell Beeney has had his longest run of starts in professional football at Sligo Rovers, playing 720 minutes for them since his move but keeping only one clean sheet.

(All streamables via @chelseayouth)