The Loan Army 

Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Christian Atsuby George Starkey-Midha

Frustration. That’s the only word which can sum up Christian Atsu’s year at Everton last season. After enjoying a positive first campaign as a Chelsea player on loan at Vitesse, scoring five goals in 28 league appearances, a season on Merseyside seemed the perfect opportunity for Atsu to continue his development. Quick, direct and technically adept, with an impressive frame to boot, the young Ghanaian has all the attributes that one might think would allow him to make a serious impact in Premier League. Yet, for whatever reason, Roberto Martinez did not trust Atsu to do the damage in his Everton side. Having spent the first half of the season confined to the bench, with the occasional relief of a Europa League appearance, the African Cup of Nations appeared to be the best chance Atsu had to turn around his woeful season. The winger grabbed that chance with both hands, playing a key part in Ghana’s run to the final, where they were beaten on penalties by the Ivory Coast. Despite the cruel defeat, on an individual level Atsu had an excellent tournament, winning both the Player and Goal of the Tournament awards – the latter for a stunning, curled effort against Guinea in the quarter-finals.

Despite those impressive performances for Ghana, however, on his return Atsu made just three further appearances for Everton, with Martinez seemingly uninterested in giving him a chance as the Toffees struggled to a mid-table finish. At 23, Atsu is now in the last chance saloon to prove that he could have a future at Chelsea, with Premier League newcomers Bournemouth the club where he will be playing his football for the upcoming season. Becoming a bigger fish in a smaller pond may be just what Atsu needs to kick on this year and he will undoubtedly play more games under Eddie Howe, whose attacking brand of football will suit the winger’s own attacking style. Whether Atsu will ever trouble the likes of Eden Hazard or Willian for a first-team place at Chelsea remains to be seen, but we’re likely to have a far better idea by the end of the season.

Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images
Lewis Bakerby Sreya Mazumder

Ten years after the revolutionary overhaul at the Chelsea Academy if one was asked to name some of the brighter prospects produced at Cobham, Lewis Baker would surely feature in the top three. One of the most exciting young talents to come through in recent years, Baker joined Chelsea from Luton Town’s youth setup at the age of nine. He is also one of the three players, alongside Dominic Solanke and Isaiah Brown, whom Jose Mourinho promised to develop into full internationals for England.

Chelsea’s Young Player of the Year in 2013/14, Baker made his senior debut that very season against Derby County in the FA Cup. His brilliance and consistency at all levels of the youth setup led to his inclusion in the first team squad ahead of the 2014/15 season. Technically astute, tactically flexible, inherently gifted and a natural leader, if there was a list of prerequisites for an elite young player, Lewis Baker would check every box.

A genuinely two-footed player, Baker can play anywhere across the midfield. His close control of the ball and ability to manoeuvre it in tight spaces speaks volumes about his talent. Blessed with a diverse passing range, Baker is comfortable in all sorts of scenarios, whether his team is looking to build from the back or trying to initiate a counter-attack. At this point, Baker has all the tools to grow into a world-class ball playing central midfielder. However, should his physique fail to develop further, Baker’s skill set ensures he can be moulded into either an attacking midfielder with positional awareness or utilised in a box-to-box role.

Parallels have been drawn with Frank Lampard, not only due to Baker’s knack of scoring crucial goals at regular intervals, but also because of his propensity to drive forward from a deeper position and link up play in the final third. A potent threat in set piece situations, Baker has a tendency to score stunning long range goals. Baker’s incredible self-belief has been showcased time and again. His ball-juggling trick before his match-winning penalty kick in the shootout against Norwich during Chelsea’s 2011/12 FA Youth Cup triumph is just one example of the measure of composure this youngster possesses.

Baker thrives on responsibility. A constant presence in the English squad at the youth levels, he captained the Under-20 England squad to an impressive win against Romania last year and also earned a call-up to the Under-21 England squad. Although his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday did not go as expected, Baker put up a host of impressive performances during his time at MK Dons, scoring three goals in the process.

Baker will spend the upcoming season at Vitesse Arnhem, alongside fellow academy prospects Dom Solanke and Isaiah Brown as well as new acquisition Nathan. Every season, Chelsea loan out a number of young players to Vitesse, with varied levels of success. But Baker’s development suggests that he is ready to test himself against a tougher set of opponents, and Vitesse provides the perfect opportunity in that aspect. Baker will be a part of a relatively young midfield at the Eredivisie club, which should give him the opportunity to break into their first team. A lot is expected of him, from his new club as well as Chelsea’s fans, and his talent and temperament suggests he is thoroughly capable to deliver on his enormous promise.

Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Patrick Bamfordby Jack Goodson

Patrick Bamford may not be the only Chelsea youth player spawning countless headlines and fevered debate amongst supporters these days, but he is, by far, the most high profile. With a loan move to Crystal Palace now finalized, his profile appears poised to rise even further.

A marvelous season on loan at Middlesbrough in which the 21-year-old scored 19 goals in all competitions and was named Sky Bet Championship Player of the Year placed Bamford in excellent position to challenge for a place at his parent club. However, the arrival of Radamel Falcao on loan from AS Monaco not only pushed him further from the first team but also out of the Chelsea picture altogether, for at least the next 12 months.

Landing at Palace, newly revitalized under Alan Pardew, feels, at least on the surface, like a model environment in which Bamford can prove himself at the Premier League level. A forward quartet of Glenn Murray, Dwight Gayle, Marouane Chamakh and Fraizer Campbell does not look likely to keep Bamford off the field, especially with two of the four rumored to be leaving the club. Even the recent £9 million acquisition of Connor Wickham is hardly a roadblock Bamford cannot navigate, and the two have the potential to complement each other well in a two-striker axis should Pardew opt to move in that direction.

An instinctive finisher, Bamford has exceptional in-box positioning and movement, an acute touch in scoring positions and a knack for finding open areas. He’s good with his head, and the variety of goals scored illustrates his dexterity in the attacking third. Though he remains prone to dwelling on the ball - in the process stymieing potential attacks - and his distribution is not of the highest quality, Bamford has improved his hold-up play and ability to bring others into moves.

That said, perhaps the greatest barrier separating Bamford from becoming first choice at Palace, and indeed working his way into the Chelsea first team, is a general lack of top-line pace and strength. Despite clear work being done to develop the physical aspect of his game, Bamford still lacks presence and relies largely on others rather than creating for himself. Fortunately at Palace, he won’t have to worry much about generating his own chances, not with the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha providing service.

What Bamford lacks in athleticism can be countered, at least in part, by his intelligence and sheer craft. Despite his Charlie Bucket-like exterior, Bamford is eloquent, both on and off the pitch, and possesses a refined confidence that should serve him well as he transitions to the Premier League. Under José Mourinho disciple Aitor Karanka at Middlesbrough, Bamford exhibited top-flight quality in a system strikingly similar to that of Chelsea. He’s ready for the big time; whether he will ever be unleashed at Stamford Bridge depends largely on how he fares at Selhurst Park.

Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images
Izzy Brownby Ollie Glanville

Culminating in realising a childhood dream of playing for Chelsea at the Hawthorns — where he spent his youth at West Brom — 2014/15 was, by his estimation, a ‘top season’ for Izzy Brown. He helped to take the youth team to European and domestic cup successes, scoring 15 times in 67 appearances in all competitions. Brown notched 11 in England, including a goal in the Youth Cup final against Manchester City, and four times in Europe with a brace in the final against Shakhtar Donetsk. Alongside Dom Solanke and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, his pace, physicality and technique left the opposition looking like boys as opposed to Chelsea’s young men. Pivotal in driving the youth squads on to further success, Browne also provided 14 assists in all competitions for the record breaking forward line of Dom Solanke and Tammy Abraham.

Such performances led José Mourinho to suggest that he was part of a key group of young players who were ‘better than the level they are playing at’. Given that Chelsea had essentially walked the league in the final few months it was only natural that the boss would give chances to the kids he believed in, and so Brown was given a small taste of Premier League action in the dying moments at West Bromwich Albion. He was greeted by cheers from the raucous away support and boos from the locals.

Rated very highly at the West Midlands club, he was given his Premier League debut there, and some argued that he had signed away his career by going to Chelsea. In reality, Izzy Brown was backing himself to succeed at an elite level club, under the best manager in the world, and the early signs are promising. Off the back of such a successful season at youth level, he will undoubtedly play some part in pre-season. He is at the stage of his Chelsea career would have been fast-tracked into the first team squad like Nathan Aké, Josh Mceachran, Andreas Christensen or Ruben Loftus-Cheek — had he not been sent out on loan to Vitesse Arnhem. His development in the Eredivisie will give the club a good idea of just how far he can go.

Earlier in 2015, Mourinho suggested that he would have ‘failed’ if Brown, Baker and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were not in the England senior team at some point in the next few years. Given that each of them have already represented England at most levels up to the seniors, it would seem a natural progression. Mourinho hates to fail at the goals he sets himself, and when Brown gets back from Vitesse it will be interesting to see just how hard José pushes to make his prediction come true.

Andreas Christensenby ChelseaYouth

Mourinho showed more trust in him than most by giving him Cup starts rather than substitute outings, but it’s now time for him to get regular minutes. Made his Denmark debut in early June, did well at the Euro Under-21s and now he’s off to Germany with Borussia Monchengladbach. Being used more and more in midfield; does his lack of height preclude him from a top-level career at centre-back?

Nathaniel Chalobahby ChelseaYouth

Immensely frustrating to see him scale the heights he achieved at Watford only to have it well and truly wasted since by going on several pointless loans to the same standard. A real shame that a stupid FIFA ruling prevented him joining Bordeaux in January, whilst the Under-21 debacle means his stock won’t exactly be high this summer. It’s a big, big summer and season for him; does he have a future at Chelsea? Any move may be a precursor to an eventual permanent departure.

Cristian Cuevasby ChelseaYouth

Signed from O’Higgins two years ago, spent 13-14 in Holland doing … not a lot, and then went back to Chile last season with Universidad de Chile, to play just six times. There’s talent there, he’s had a full Chile call-up already, but Chelsea don’t seem to have a plan for him.

Uli Dávilaby George Starkey-Midha

It was after playing a star role in Mexico’s 2011 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship win that Ulises Davila caught Chelsea’s eye, the club swiftly handing him a five-year contract. A 20-year-old attacking midfielder with lightning pace, an eye for a pass and some impressive dribbling skills, Davila seemed well on his way to a successful career in Europe, if not West London. Fast forward four years, and the Mexican’s development has stagnated. Like many of the Blues’ loanees, Davila has yet to make an appearance for the club, but his four seasons on loan in Spain at second-tier sides such as Sabadell, Cordoba and Tenerife give little indication that fans will see him at gracing the turf at Stamford Bridge any time soon.

Aside from the scoring the goal which saw Cordoba clinch promotion to La Liga in 2013/4, Davila’s spells abroad have been distinctly average. In an interview with ESPN in June, Davila expressed his hopes that the resolution of long-standing work permit issues would allow him to finally make his Chelsea debut in 2016. However, considering the fact that the Mexican forward turned 24 in April and is still yet to score a goal in any top flight European league, one might suspect that a low-key transfer to a low-key European side may be in the offing.

Matej Delačby ChelseaYouth

At least with Delač it’s not for the want of trying. His career CV is quite funny, a list of teams nobody’s ever heard of: Inter Zaprešić (twice), Vitesse Arnhem, Dynamo České Budejovice (loan), Vitória SC, FK Vojvodina, FK Sarajevo (twice) and Arles-Avignon. He actually helped Sarajevo (and Vincent Tan) to the Bosnian title last season and has a contract until the end of 2015/16, but seems set to end up settling at a solid club in Serbia/Bosnia etc.

Tomas Kalasby ChelseaYouth

Went from excelling on debut at Anfield to going on loan to Köln, where he didn’t play a single minute. Came back and went to Middlesbrough, loved it, seems like he’s going back there again next season. Is 22 now though, and you get the impression that as good as he is, he’s been looked over as far as a Chelsea future goes.

Todd Kaneby ChelseaYouth

Despite the new contract, another who should probably view the coming season as a chance to find a suitable new home. Every time he gets a go in the Championship he flirts with playing well but ends up being left out. He can play there, he just needs trust. Bristol City used him in central midfield during his time there and he did well.

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Kenedyby Fellipe Miranda

Robert Kenedy Nunes do Nascimento is another Brazilian with a name inspired by international celebrities. That’s a custom of a country in it’s very difficult to rise from the bottom to the top of the social structure. Brazilians have little room to miss out on opportunities; and Kenedy has certainly done the most out of everything that has come in his way.

In 2009, Kenedy (that’s one n) left his home in a small city in Minas Gerais state to try out a career as a professional footballer at Fluminense’s famed youth. He was 13. A fighter on and off the pitch, he beat every obstacle in his way, joining Fluminense’s professional ranks after an impressive spell for Brazil’s under-17s.

It wasn’t until 2015 that Kenedy established himself as one of the club’s key players. A bullish runner with a strong left foot, the 19-year-old knocked the socks off almost every opponent he found. He was a perfect counterpart to his colleague Gérson, another promising player coming through Fluminense’s academy.

Unfortunately for Fluminense supporters, the partnership only lasted a few months. On the radar of European clubs since 2013, Kenedy was sold to an investment group in July this year for £6.3 million, possibly transferring to Chelsea for the same fee. There seems little other reason he’d be appearing in pre-season friendlies if not, but as of writing the club hasn’t made his signing official.

On the pitch, Kenedy resembles Hulk: a left-footed right winger with a penchant for cutting inside. That’s the sort of play Jose Mourinho favours in his inside forwards, and given his playing style and his frame, he will have little to no trouble adapting to the Premier League’s physicality. Without confirmation of the signing or a work permit, however, it’s anyone’s guess where Kenedy ends up this season.

Marko Marinby ChelseaYouth

Went to Fiorentina, got injured. Went to Anderlecht, got injured. Was recently linked with Sporting Kansas City, where he’ll probably get injured.

Nathanby ChelseaYouth

By most accounts is actually quite overrated, and probably the latest example of someone getting rich off a Chelsea development transfer. Comparable to Piazon; gets the attention for his looks more than his actual ability, and doesn’t have a work permit so will be away on loan. I’m being cynical though, so there’s a chance I look back in a year and he’s embarrassed me.

Kenneth Omeruoby ChelseaYouth

Excellent progress right up to this time last summer, after a good World Cup, and then things went wrong. In hindsight made a big mistake going back to Middlesbrough, because he’d fallen into a comfort zone and should have challenged himself by going elsewhere. All fell apart at Boro, form disappeared, injuries hit, and then fell out with Karanka. That might prove fatal to his Chelsea career.

Photo: Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images
Mario Pasalicby George Starkey-Midha

While £3 million is not the eye-watering fee for an unknown 19-year-old that it once was, Mario Pasalic is still a player Chelsea fans should pay close attention to. At 6′1, Pasalic is a well-built, towering presence, and poses a significant aerial threat at set-pieces, yet his physical qualities have not left him short in the technical department. The young midfielder possesses an excellent range of passing, and is more than comfortable switching play with either foot (fans of FIFA should note that he has a five star ‘Weak Foot’ rating on the console game). Equally, Pasalic has a keen eye for goal – it was after netting 11 league goals in his final season for Hajduk Split that Chelsea pounced to secure his signature in the summer of 2014.

Unsurprisingly, Pasalic was immediately shipped out on loan, but it is a measure of the club’s faith in the Croatian’s talent that rather than facing a spell somewhere in the Netherlands, Belgium or the Spanish second tier, he was given a chance to shine in La Liga at Elche. After a slow start, Pasalic established himself as a first-team player in Spain, going on to make 31 league appearances (including 26 starts) as Elche finished an impressive 13th place. The upcoming season provides Pasalic with another great opportunity to make the next step as he joins Monaco on loan as part of the deal that brought Falcao to Chelsea. If Pasalic can fill the sizeable gap left by Geoffrey Kondogbia at Monaco, then it may not be long before Blues fans get the chance to see him in the Premier League.

Stipe Pericaby ChelseaYouth

From one Croatian to another. Perica is a big, stocky forward who is still quite raw but has made the step from NAC Breda in the Eredivisie to Udinese in Serie A, where he spent the second half of last season and will be all of next. If he does well there, Chelsea will at worst net a profit. He definitely has the physical assets to interest José, it’s just the rest of his game that requires a season or two of work yet.

Lucas Piazonby ChelseaYouth

You’d be forgiven for forgetting he’s still a Chelsea player. Was at Eintracht Frankfurt last season without making a notable impact and doesn’t have a hope of being at Chelsea next season, so it’s pot luck as to where he goes.

Joao Rodriguezby ChelseaYouth

Interesting Colombian 19 year-old forward who went to Bastia under Makelélé last summer. Played six times, Makelélé got sacked, Rodriguez was dumped to the reserves. Went to Portugal with Dávila, didn’t play at all. Scored at the Under-20 World Cup though, and if given a chance somewhere should score goals.

Oriol Romeuby ChelseaYouth

Seems optimistic about a Chelsea future, which makes him and … him. Will fetch a fee as he signed a new deal last summer, but he lost his place in a terrible Stuttgart team last season and will probably end up being signed permanently by a middling La Liga side.

Photo: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
Mohamed Salahby Graham MacAree

This summer’s finest running joke. Mohamed Salah’s future was supposed to be easy. He’d gone to Fiorentina to replace Juan Cuadrado, turned into the Great God Of Wingers, and was meant to live in Florence happily ever after. Fiorentina had a loan option on him for 2015/16, which they’d already activated, and were expected to buy him next summer. The the Viola sacked manager Vicenzo Montella and things got a little bit strange.

Depending on who you ask, Salah was either so upset by the sacking that he turned against his adopted club or he was led astray by his agent, who used it as an excuse to get his client more money after his Serie A breakout. Either way, it rapidly became clear that Salah and Fiorentina were not quite as attached as it had previously seemed, and suddenly he was involved in a transfer saga despite a loan already having been agreed.

One can only imagine the bafflement in Chelsea’s boardroom as Fiorentina threatened legal action against the player while also thanking the Blues for being good sports and asking nicely for their €1 million yet. Granted, they were already plenty baffled by Salah setting Italy on fire in the second half of the season — he’s just a baffling sort of man.

After taking to the Serie A like a duck to whatever it is ducks like (bread?), Salah will be staying in Italy. Roma seem the likely destination, but it’s best to remember that for a while Fiorentina did, then Inter did. There’s no telling what further twists this summer’s most ridiculous transfer saga will take before all’s said and done.

Dominic Solankeby ChelseaYouth

Mourinho didn’t think he was ready for a loan, but it’s Solanke ended up at Vitesse Arnhem anyway. Turns 18 early in the season but 41 goals last year saw him boss Under-18, Under-19 and eventually Under-21 football. He averaged a goal per game overall, more at some levels and less at Under-21 but 15 in 18 at that standard is still sensational. Whether that translates to the Eredivisie is an open question, if it does that’s a very good sign.

John Swiftby ChelseaYouth

Got to grips with adult football last season; it didn’t go to plan at Rotherham but he was alright at Swindon. Needs another good year, ideally in the Championship, to ascertain what the future holds.

Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Marco van Ginkelby Priya Ramesh

Marco, oh Marco. Once touted the natural successor to Lampard in the Chelsea midfield, Marco van Ginkel’s life and career have been upturned in the last two years by an anterior cruciate ligament tear and subsequent knee issues. Given his ability as a box-to-box midfielder, many expected van Ginkel to be retained at Chelsea to provide depth to the midfield, behind Matic and Fabregas, but he was instead sent over to Milan where he again missed a significant portion of the campaign through injury. His season never quite took off and while he seemed to put in decent shifts toward the end of their campaign, did not do anything that warranted a call back to Chelsea for this season, where Ruben Loftus-Cheek has perhaps already moved above him in the pecking order.

So, another loan beckons for the young Dutchman. This time, he’ll be under the care of Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes at a Stoke side that does look rather impressive, being the prime destination for former Barcelona players in Afellay and Bojan. He did not start his Stoke career in great form, missing the eventually-decisive penalty in the Barclays Asia Trophy semifinal versus Everton, but has since started all but the first of Stoke’s friendlies. With N’Zonzi leaving the Potters for Sevilla, there is a spot in midfield for van Ginkel to take up, and he could be expected to feature regularly alongside Whelan and Adam in the league.

Stoke have played some decent football under Hughes but also retain their famous physicality, so van Ginkel might need to take extra care of his knee to prevent excessive wear. He was signed in 2013 but it’s worth noting that van Ginkel only has 13 minutes to his name in the Premier League. This stint should therefore get him acclimatised to the league and then hopefully, serve as a trampoline for him to bounce back into the Chelsea squad next season.

Wallaceby Priya Ramesh

Having impressed in the pre-season tour in 2013, but lacking a work permit, Wallace spent one season on loan in Italy. He got just about zero playing time there, and then spent last season at Vitesse. In Gelderland, Wallace was expected to naturally take up the right back spot vacated by Kelvin Leerdam. That didn’t quite work out. Wallace offered a lot in attack but was found defensively lacking, and at just around the halfway mark of the season, was replaced by youth product Kevin Diks. He never got his place back, and his final appearances for Vitesse came as right winger. In the middle of all this, Wallace also found himself arrested on suspicion of sexual offence, but was later released without any charges being made. Vitesse, however, made it clear that they did not want him on loan again, so the Brazilian has been sent to recently-promoted Carpi in the Serie A instead. At this moment, Wallace’s future does not look to be in Chelsea blue.


We Ain't Got No History's 2015/16 season preview was edited by Joe Tweeds and designed by Graham MacAree. If you've enjoyed the work of the authors who generously donated their time to this project, please share with your friends and consider supporting The Chelsea Foundation as a way of saying thank you.