Chelsea's Loan Rangers for 2013/14: Who Should Go Where?
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As yet, Chelsea have never particularly reaped much benefit from their serial loaning out of youth and fringe players.
The club's insistence on constantly acquiring young talent has long created a bottleneck between the youth and first teams, and as such, players like Gael Kakuta and Jeffrey Bruma have fallen into a loan vacuum of which a satisfactory conclusion in southwest London looks unlikely for either party.
With avenues into the senior set-up at a premium, it has been a necessity for Chelsea to send players out to continue their football development and keep up the notion that one day a rich production line from stream to mouth will flow between Cobham and Stamford Bridge.
Indeed over the course of 2012/13, Chelsea farmed out an incredible 27 players on 31 different temporary arrangements, with other clubs benefiting from almost 600 games of the Blues resource.
But for once, those numerous spells offered cause for optimism with Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne and Nathaniel Chalobah particularly impressing and excelling away from base camp.
Aside from those, Josh McEachran had a solid stint in the Championship with Middlesbrough, whilst Tomas Kalas, Patrick van Aanholt, Kenneth Omeruo and Thorgan Hazard enjoyed productive spells in the lowlands and Lucas Piazon picked up valuable game time under Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga.
Yet despite this widespread success, there will again be few free slots available for the loanees to impress themselves upon new boss Jose Mourinho, with even Lukaku's and De Bruyne's participation for next season far from guaranteed.
Therefore, expect another raft of departures over the coming weeks as Chelsea's next generation of stars seek to hone their skills and and gather match-day minutes away from the parent club.
However, 2013/14 may well be the last for the likes of Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and John Terry, and in truth many of those listed above have neither the age or experience of English football to make a splash just yet.
So with an eye on the make up of the Blues squad for the 2014/15 season, I take a look at 10 players who should be loaned out and identify some ideal locations to go to.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below, or by following me on Twitter @bainesyDiego10
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If I had my way, Thibaut Courtois would certainly be part of Chelsea's squad for next season.
Personally I think Petr Cech is the elephant in the room, and despite bailing the side out on countless occasions—and arguably being the main man in the 2012 Champions League triumph—the Czech stopper is still too often culpable and responsible for costly mistakes.
This may stem from a lack of serious competition, but with Hilario and Ross Turnbull having gone, the Blues will require a quality deputy to squeeze the best out of Cech.
But whoever comes into the club, it does appear Courtois will be plying his trade at the Vicente Calderon once again, and in the grand scheme of things, that may be the best thing for the Belgian's development.
With the World Cup at the end of the season, Courtois will be reluctant to play second fiddle, but if he continues to progress at the rate he has done in two years at Atletico, the former Genk man may well end up usurping Cech as Chelsea's No. 1 for 2014/15.
Brazil Under-20 defender Wallace will be joining up with the first-team squad this summer after Chelsea won the race for the highly rated Fluminese player at the end of 2012.
But there are already reports that any stay in London will be brief, with his agent suggesting "two Italians and a German club" are keen to take the 19-year-old on loan.
After watching the full-back play against Ecuador in January's South American Under-20 Championships, I was less than impressed with the youngster's display. Certainly on that showing, he looked to need at least a season acclimatising to European football before he's exposed to the rigours of the Premier League.
Paulo Ferreira's retirement means Cesar Azpilicueta is the only recognised right-back at Jose Mourinho's disposal, but with Branislav Ivanovic and Michael Essien offering able support, Wallace may find his chances extremely limited at Stamford Bridge over the next 12 months.
A move elsewhere would be the logical solution, and one could be on the cards if his agent's talk of a stint in Italy or Germany comes to pass.
Another option would be Vitesse Arnhem, with the Blues having strong links to the Dutch club in recent seasons after sending Tomas Kalas, Patrick van Aanholt and Gael Kakuta there last term.
Throwing Wallace in may also sweeten a deal for Vitesse's highly rated midfielder Marco van Ginkel, but knowing Chelsea, he could also end up alongside Wallace at the GelreDome in 2013/14.
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If a loan move to Vitesse can be arranged for Wallace, then the young Brazilian will do well to replicate the form of another Chelsea youngster sent out that way—Tomas Kalas.
The 20-year-old Czech central defender has spent the past two years in Arnhem and has become an integral part of the Vitas's highly impressive fourth-place finish last season.
Kalas has been virtually ever-present at the GelreDome since joining in August 2011 and has gone on to clock up over 60 Eredivisie outings at either right-back or in the heart of the defence.
Ideally though, the recently capped Czech international could do with a year-long stint in the Premier League, and reports suggest West Brom manager Steve Clarke cast his eye over the former Sigma Olomouc man in a game against FC Twente in March.
There are still many questions over who the Blues' current best central defensive figures may be, and that picture is likely to become even more muddied in 12 months' time with Branislav Ivanovic turning 30 and John Terry getting no younger, either.
A spell in the English top flight would test Kalas's mettle and give a better idea as to whether he is one potential incumbent for an area which will certainly need strengthening.
Kalas has signed a contract extension to remain with Chelsea until 2017, but in the meantime, games at this level are key, and a sabbatical to West Brom looks like the perfect fit for all parties.
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Although Tomas Kalas has made hay in Holland, one man who has arguably outdone him in those shores is Nigerian youngster Kenneth Omeruo.
The defender was signed by Chelsea from Standard Liege in January 2012 but was immediately farmed out to ADO den Haag, where the teenager helped guide Maurice Steijn's men to a respectable mid-table finish in 2012/13 after narrowly avoiding relegation the season before.
Omeruo's form at ADO was good enough to earn him a spot in the Nigerian national side, and the 19-year-old became the mainstay of the Super Eagles' back line during their 2013 African Cup of Nations triumph in South Africa.
Equally adept at right-back or in the centre of defence, Omeruo is in much the same boat as Kalas and like the Czech starlet, a season back in the Premier League looks like the best place to further his career in the interim.
There should be no shortage of suitors for a mobile and versatile defender who has excelled in the Eredivisie, and potentially Omeruo could do a job for a host of mid-lower table clubs as well as any of the sides promoted from the Championship.
Of those, Crystal Palace could be the perfect place to get games, and Ian Holloway's adventurous style would also bring the best out of Omeruo's penchant for bombing on from full-back.
Being based in London would allow the Chelsea coaching staff to keep a close eye on the player, who doesn't turn 20 until October, and an annual struggle with a side sure to be around the drop zone would sharpen Omeruo's defensive instincts up considerably.
Patrick Van Aanholt
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In the summer of 2007, Chelsea's youth recruitment process went into overdrive with the club moving to secure three players that were earmarked as potential first-team players.
The early signs were good as Jeffrey Bruma, Patrick van Aanholt and Gael Kakuta inspired the Blues youngsters to the final of the 2008 FA Youth Cup, but since then each player has found routes into the senior set up blocked, and have such spent the vast majority of the time playing away from Stamford Bridge.
The Dutch defender has spent the past season on loan with Tomas Kalas at Vitesse Arnhem, and his form there led to inclusion in the Jong Oranje's squad for this summer's Under-21 European Championships.
Initially, it appeared as though the ship had sailed for van Aanholt, as Ryan Bertrand muscled ahead of him to become Ashley Cole's deputy during the second half of 2011/12, but with the England ace coming to the end of his time at the club, a long-term replacement needs to be sought.
Former PSV Eindhoven trainee van Aanholt is in the last-chance saloon as far as staking his claim to be considered Cole's successor is concerned, and the only way he'll prove his value is by raising eyebrows in the Premier League.
Similarly to Kenneth Omeruo, van Aanholt could do a job for plenty of sides around the lower reaches—although a season-long loan to Wigan Athletic was cut short in 2011/12.
Stoke City could be one prospective venue if Mark Hughes decides he wants more mobility from his full-backs, and a match-up with the former Blues striker could be a decent gig.
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One player certainly not in the last-chance saloon is England Under-21 ace Nathaniel Chalobah.
The 18-year-old did himself no harm at all whilst at Watford last season, and had Gianfranco Zola's men not fallen short in the Championship play-off final, then another year at Vicarage Road would have been ideal.
That may well end up being the case anyway, but Chalobah's performances for the Hornets hinted at real quality, and if the Sierra Leone-born youngster is to be integrated into the first-team set-up in the next year or so, then I'd like to see him tested at Premier League level during 2013/14.
The Blues 2012 FA Youth Cup-winning captain was genuinely one of the standout midfielders in the Championship last year, scoring five league goals in 38 games for Watford—including this screamer against Leicester City.
His combative style, combined with real fluency on the ball, can be a major asset for Chelsea in the long-term future, and over the short term, those attributes will be a real boost for any number of teams in the top division.
Being a native London lad, Chalobah may benefit from being posted close to home and that certainly makes Crystal Palace or Fulham an attractive option, and a switch to either of those would be perfect for all concerned.
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There was plenty enough in Nathan Ake's fleeting few performances in the first-team last year to suggest he should be kept as part of Jose Mourinho's squad for 2013/14.
The Dutchman's tall, languid lope and distinctive dreadlocks have drawn ample comparison to Blues legend Ruud Gullit, and handled in the correct manner, Ake is another who could and should have a solid future with the club.
Mourinho and the top brass must now decide whether the former Feyenoord trainee will be better served spending time with the seniors, or gathering games elsewhere, and personally I feel the latter category would be best.
Again, Ake is a versatile layer equally adept in a variety of positions, although anchoring the midfield appears his strongest suit.
Ake made his Premier League debut as a late substitute away to Norwich City on Boxing Day 2012, and Carrow Road would be as good a location as any for the Dutch under-19 international to showcase his skills over the next year.
Josh McEachran is undoubtedly the finest English talent to come out of Chelsea's academy in recent memory, but at the age of 20, it is now time for the Oxfordshire-born youngster to come good on that promise.
After making his Premier and Champions League debuts under Carlo Ancelotti as a 17-year-old in 2010, the stylish midfielder's career has rather stagnated away from Stamford Bridge—first at Swansea and then with Middlesbrough last season.
With Frank Lampard unlikely to be around much longer, McEachran needs to show something fast to warrant inclusion in future squads, and a good spell in fertile ground could kick-start the England Under-21 star's fortunes.
A switch to the Liberty Stadium in 2012 looked to be a good match, but McEachran's time at Swansea was interrupted by the form of Gylfi Sigurdsson and as such, his impact was minimal.
But ironically, a return to south Wales could be a good choice for club and player, with Michael Laudrup potentially the perfect mentor for a midfielder moulded in the Dane's elegant image.
The Swans play the type of football which would bring the best out of McEachran, and in the right set-up, the left-footed schemer could well demonstrate just what a technically accomplished player he can be.
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Spanish midfielder Oriol Romeu has routinely impressed for the Blues since arriving from Barcelona in 2011, but those performances have been few and far between for various reasons and as yet, there's not enough evidence to suggest the 21-year-old is the finite answer to Chelsea's defensive midfield conundrums.
Rafa Benitez had just started to give game time to his compatriot after taking over as interim manager last November, when a knee injury sustained against Sunderland in December curtailed Romeu's season.
With doubts persisting over John Obi Mikel's future at the club, Jose Mourinho will require an anchor man to stiffen up the centre of the park, but with Marco van Ginkel set to sign, questions need to be asked about how much Romeu will feature next term.
The Catalan's game is based around tenacious tackling and slick distribution, but after spending six months on the sidelines, Romeu will require regular starts and plenty of them to recover the zip he relies on.
The smart thing to do may be for Chelsea to allow Romeu to leave for a half-season loan over the opening months of the season to regain his form and fitness before returning to Cobham for the business end of things.
Failing that, a season-long switch would return Romeu as a more rounded individual and if rumours of a deal with Celta Vigo are true, that may be a welcome outcome for all involved.
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Lucas Piazon is yet another one of Chelsea's much-fabled 'next generation' that needs handling more astutely than the club did with the likes of Gael Kakuta and Jeffrey Bruma.
The Blues beat off competition from a number of top European sides to secure the services of the Brazilian youngster from Sao Paulo in March 2011, but like many others, the 19-year-old has found concerted first-team time hard to come by.
The attacking midfielder looked a cut above in leading Chelsea's academy to yet another FA Youth Cup success in 2012, and marked his Premier League debut by instantly teeing up a goal for Ramires in the 8-0 rout of Aston Villa in December.
The Kaka lookalike was sent away to Malaga for the second half of last season and featured in 10 La Liga games for Los Boquerones, but Andre Schurrle's arrival at Stamford Bridge now further congests the places for players of Piazon's ilk in the current squad.
With Juan Mata, Kevin De Bruyne, Oscar, Victor Moses and Eden Hazard also ahead of him in the pecking order, there seems scant chance the Brazil under-17 star will see much meaningful action for the Blues over the coming season.
However, I for one have reservations about Moses in particular and Piazon could offer a viable alternative further down the line depending on him getting plenty of games and goals in a strong European league.
He has already been linked with loan moves to Liverpool and Crystal Palace, but with Malaga star Isco reportedly set for a move away from La Rosaleda, there seems a natural opportunity for Piazon to be able to shine on the Costa del Sol.
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As Chelsea's pursuit of a top-class striker continues to run into dead ends, connoisseurs of the club's youth ranks suggest there is a ready-made solution already on the books.
Somalian-born Scotland youth international Islam Feruz has been a prolific scorer for the Blues academy sides since signing from Celtic in September 2011, and the 17-year-old's penalty-box prowess could indeed be a welcome wild-card addition to Jose Mourinho's plans for 2013/14.
Feruz may be short on inches and experience, but his strike rate over the past two years highlights what a dangerous player he could become.
After graduating into the academy, Feruz scored six FA Youth Cup goals in eight appearances during 2012—including two in the final— before rattling home another 16 in 20 starts for the 19's and 21's last year.
The 5'7" striker was top scorer in the NextGen series as Ade Viveash's finished runners-up in the competition, and he also marked his Scotland under-19 debut with a hat-trick in a 4-3 win over Switzerland.
Feruz's pace, penetration and finishing ability would make him a handful for any defence, but with Romelu Lukaku returning and Jose Mourinho still in the hunt for a marquee marksman, it's probably best the native Glaswegian sharpens his teeth with plenty of games and goals.
After noting the success of Nathaniel Chalobah at Watford, I would be doing my utmost to tee up the tiny terror with another vertically challenged forward—Gianfranco Zola.
There's nobody better for Feruz to master his art with than the diminutive Italian, and a season in the Championship playing regular football under Zola would be perfect preparation for Feruz's elevation into the seniors.