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Chelsea Loan Army dispatch: Slonina, Webster, Casadei off to good starts, but Rankine picks up injury

Checking in

KV Kortrijk v KAS Eupen - Jupiler Pro League Photo by Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images

Chelsea’s Loan Army operates on a smaller scale than it used to, but talk of its demise just because of FIFA’s changing regulations was clearly quite premature. (Though if The FA follow suit, we might see a bigger impact.)

We have no fewer than 20 players officially out on loan for the year — 18 if you don’t include Hakim Ziyech and Lewis Hall, whose temporary moves to Galatasaray and Newcastle, respectively, will turn into permanent transfers at the end of the season.

So let’s see what the others have been up to in first month or so of the 2022-23 season.

Let’s start with Gaga Slonina who chose a fairly obscure move to KAS Eupen in the Belgian top division, and promptly shipped five (5!) goals on his debut just a couple days after his arrival.

Fortunately, it’s gotten quite a bit better since, with Slonina giving up just three total in the three games since, with Keupen winning two of the three. They sit seventh at the first international break, but just three points off the top of the table.

The people love him already!

In neighboring Netherlands, Charlie Webster has had a decent start to life as well, at SC Heerenveen, getting his first start last weekend, and even scoring his first senior professional goal!

Unfortunately, Webster would then get sent off for a late sliding tackle, and Heerenveen would go on to lose, 3-2. Hopefully Webster will get to keep building on this goal once he’s eligible to return.

There’s been plenty of drama for young Cesare Casadei at Leicester City as well, but thankfully it’s all been of the good kind.

Casadei scored on his very first appearance — a late winner in added-on time, off the bench — and also picked up an assist in Leicester’ s 2-0 win over Tranmere Rovers in the League Cup second round.

Also featuring regularly has been David Datro Fofana for Union Berlin, albeit without a single goal to his name thus far, despite a few promising showings for the Bundesliga side in preseason.

Fofana suffered an injury scare a couple weeks ago, but was back in the starting lineup last weekend — though Union would lose 3-0 to RB Leipzig to drop their first points of the season.

Speaking of no goals, Romelu Lukaku’s debut for AS Roma passed without a one, despite all the pre-match pomp and circumstance, as an ex-Chelsea-powered AC Milan took all three points in a 2-1 win last weekend. Milan have started the season with three wins from three, as have, amusingly enough after all the Lukaku drama, Inter Milan.

Football, Italian Serie A: AS Roma v AC Milan Photo by Elianton/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

And speaking of players who’ve cost a fortune but did not live up to those fees, Kepa Arrizabalaga has backstopped Real Madrid to back-to-back victories, including a clean sheet against Celta Vigo. Kepa has made it clear that he wants to stay there long-term, so hopefully he keeps this up.

Far, far away from such limelight, fellow goalkeeper Teddy Sharman-Lowe has played just once for Bromley FC in the National League, giving up two goals in a 2-0 loss to begin the season at the start of August. He’s been out of the starting lineup in all seven games since.

Over in the multi-club land, Ângelo Gabriel has made three substitute appearances for RC Strasbourg, whose fans made their anti-multi-club feelings quite clear at the same time. I’m sure they’ll celebrate just the same if and when Ângelo breaks his duck.

There were no protests against Andrey Santos despite Nottingham Forest crashing out of the League Cup on his debut, losing 1-0 to Burnley. Santos has yet to feature in a Premier League match, but did complete nearly 90 minutes in the Cup (before being taken off in added-on time).

Omari Hutchinson at Ipswich Town has been seeing regular Cup minutes as well (two starts, two twins, 130+ minutes), but in the league, all five of his appearances have been off the bench. He did set up the winner against Cardiff City last weekend, completing their comeback win from two-goals down, so perhaps he’ll earn a few more opportunities in the near future.

Similarly, Harvey Vale has been restricted to just substitute duty for Bristol Rovers, though he did score his first senior professional goal in a 2-1 loss to Wycombe the other day.

Bristol are struggling at the wrong end of the League One table, with just one win from six, so maybe they might try giving Vale a few more chances. He did play the full-90 in a 4-1 win over Cheltenham in the EFL Trophy group stage.

In less great news, Dion Rankine has returned to Chelsea for treatment on a hamstring issue, which will rule him out for several weeks. The 20-year-old right winger/wing-back has been nearly ever-present for Exeter City in the first months of the season, starting 7 of 8 in all competitions and amassing over 600 minutes already.

In his absence, Exeter lost to Leyton Orient this weekend and dropped out of the first place in League One. Get well soon, Dion!

“Dion will be out for six-to-eight weeks. He is back with Chelsea at the moment. He has been amazing for us [so] we hope it is closer to six weeks rather than eight but we will liaise with Chelsea to get him back as soon as we can.”

-Gary Caldwell, manager; source: Devon Live

And that’s about all that’s fit to print, briefly, from the Loan Army for now. Zak Sturge has a 12-minute cameo to his name at Peterborough, but that’s about it. None of the others have featured so far, though many of them — such as Mason Burstow (Sunderland), Bashir Humphreys (Swansea City), Tino Anjorin (Portsmouth), or Diego Moreira (Lyon) — just joined their teams less than two weeks ago, in the final days of the transfer window.

Humphreys did get to spent some time training with the England senior squad during the break (as a temporary fill-in for Levi Colwill), which is nice.

England Training Session and Media Day - St. George’s Park - Tuesday 5th September Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

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