Chelsea FC: Blues on-Loan Starting XI Is a Team in Itself

Kevin StottSenior Analyst IOctober 15, 2013

Chelsea FC: Blues on-Loan Starting XI Is a Team in Itself

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    The queen is back and the boys are feverishly buzzing to make their honey, yet there still isn’t close to being enough room in the hive for all of the bees.

    Such is life at Stamford Bridge these days.

    The nasty byproduct of having a team with high expectations of playing in one of the top leagues in the world with a rich owner is quite obvious. He's able to buy players with ease and too many of them end up having to go out on loan as they wait their turn or for management to figure out exactly what to do with them.

    And this season is certainly no exception at Chelsea.

    When looking at all of the Blues players currently out on loan with other clubs, the number is simply mind-blowing. And some of the talent cutting their teeth elsewhere is pretty impressive by any standards.

    Here is a fantasy team of some current Chelsea players on loan—made up of a goalkeeper, three defenders, three central midfielders, three advanced midfielders and one striker—which could probably compete with most teams in Europe if given some time to some time to play together.

    Only time will tell how many of these Blues will eventually end up on the club’s first team, but it’s a pretty nice problem for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and manager Jose Mourinho and his staff to have.

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid)

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    Does anybody in the world have a better backup goalkeeper than Chelsea?

    No way, Jose.

    As he has been the last two seasons, 21-year-old sensation Thibaut Courtois is on loan at Atletico Madrid, and the young Belgian is again shining in La Liga, a league that boasts sport icons Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Last season, the 6’6” Courtois allowed just 30 goals in 27 games and set Atletico's record for consecutive minutes without allowing a goal both at Estadio Vicente Calderon and away.

    While the previous season he helped lead the club to the Europa League.

    Currently, Courtois is the driving force behind a staunch Los Rojiblancos defense. They have allowed just six goals in its first eight games on a league-perfect Atletico (8-0-0) club which is only behind Barcelona on goal differential (22-15) at the top of the Spanish Liga table.

    With Petr Cech still at, or near the top of his game at Chelsea, loaning Courtois out again was the right thing for the organization to do. More than a handful of teams, mostly high-profile, made the Blues offers to sign the emerging goalkeeper but the club wisely said, “No, no, no” to those drooling suitors.

    Courtois—who is also the starting goalkeeper for the upstart national team in his native Belgium—signed a five-year contract with Chelsea in July 2011 after playing for Racing Genk in the Belgian Pro League.

    In 2010/11 with Genk, Courtois gave up only 32 goals in 40 matches (14 clean sheets) and was named the club’s Player of the Year as he helped lead the team to its first championship in nine years in just his first season as a starter.

    So what will Chelsea do with Courtois next summer? Surely it can‘t loan him out a fourth straight year, right? Maybe. If Cech ends up playing as well as he has, Blues management will have a similar dilemma, and we may end up seeing him spend a fourth year at Atletico. Who knows.

    One thing’s for sure though: Having Cech and/or Courtois in goal will give Chelsea a chance to be in any game in the future no matter how inept the team’s offense in future English Premier League seasons may end up being.

Defender: Patrick van Aanholt (Vitesse Arnhem)

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Left-back Patrick van Aanholt is in his fifth year now at Chelsea and with players like Ashley Cole and Ryan Bertrand available at his favored position, it’s no wonder the 23-year-old Dutchman’s playing time at Stamford Bridge has been limited.

    Van Aanholt has been loaned out on numerous occasions and has played for Coventry City (2009)—where he made his professional debut—Newcastle United (2010), Leicester City (2011), Wigan Athletic (2011-12) and Vitesse Arnhem (2012).

    The defender made his Blues debut in March 2010 at Portsmouth and had his first career score in a September 2010 loss to the Toon in the Carling Cup.

    After going to Holland in January 2012, van Aanholt made 11 appearances for Vitesse and established himself as the club’s regular at left-back, starting in all but four matches.

    This past July, Chelsea agreed to loan van Aanholt to Vitesse for another year and with Cole, Bertrand and others in his way, who knows if this prospect will end up ever getting his true chance at Stamford Bridge.

    Odds say someday he will.

     

     

Defender: Todd Kane (Blackburn Rovers)

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    Twenty-year-old Todd Kane has been with Chelsea since the under-8 level and was a member of the Blues 2011-12 FA Youth Cup-winning team.

    The tough-tackling Englishman’s primary position is right-back, and, like van Aanholt and others, faces a logjam with talents like Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of him.

    Last season, Kane was loaned to Preston North End (2012) and he made his professional debut less than a year ago in a loss to Leyton Orient in Football League One play.

    This past January, Kane joined Blackburn on loan, then returned to Stamford Bridge before returning back to Blackburn for the duration of the season.

    In June, Chelsea decided to loan Kane back to Blackburn for another year, so, like van Aanholt, his prospects of ever holding onto a spot on a future Blues first-team roster are debatable.

    But make no mistake about it, this speedy defender deserves a shot and should eventually get one somewhere down the royal blue brick road.

Defender: Wallace (Inter Milan)

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    Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

    Chelsea was intent on signing attacking right-back Wallace in the 2013 winter transfer window and the West London club did just that—then promptly loaned the 19-year-old back to the team that sold him, Fluminense, for the duration of the season in Brazil.

    With Oscar, David Luiz, Ramires and Lucas Piazon all on the roster, the Blues will now have more than their share of Brazilians.

    Wallace played some for Chelsea on its summer Asia tour in July and showed he has the footwork, speed and field-sense to match the hype.

    He is now on loan in Serie A with Inter Milan and made his debut with the Nerazzurri as a late substitute on Sept. 1 in a 3-0 win at Catania.

    With such depth at right-back, it may take some time for this still emerging teenager to get his opportunity to try to crack a first-team roster for the defending Europa League champions.

Midfielder: Oriol Romeu (Valencia)

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    The first player Chelsea fans are really familiar with, Oriol Romeu came to SW6 from Barcelona in July 2011, signing a four-year contract with the Blues.

    The 6’0”, 22-year-old usually plays in a defensive midfield role but can occasionally fill in at center-back if needed and has strong on-the-ball skills and is a solid passer.

    Romeu, who scored his first goal for Chelsea from the penalty spot in a Capital Cup win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2011-12, suffered a knee injury in the second half of last season which ended up sidelining him.

    In July, the Blues decided to loan Romeu out for a season to Valencia in Spain’s La Liga and the Spaniard made his club debut there on September 15 in a 3-1 defeat at Real Betis.

    The moves Chelsea makes to bolster its defensive midfield in the next two years will likely determine Romeu’s chances of realistically becoming a future Blues regular.

Midfielder: Nathaniel Chalobah (Nottingham Forest)

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    Like Wallace, Nathaniel Chalobah is still just a teen (18), but also like Wallace, expect to see Chalobah on Chelsea’s first-team roster in the next couple of years.

    Born in Sierra Leone, Chalobah can play for his native country or England but it’s been for the latter nation where he’s opted to go and really made his mark, making his debut on the under-17 team at the tender young age of 14.

    (What were you doing at age 14, brother? I was throwing snowballs at cars then running away like Bambi in the woods after being introduced to a cattle prod on a cold Thursday morning. Advantage, Chalobah.)

    Chalobah, who has come through the Chelsea Academy stands at 6’1” and his height has proven to be a huge advantage in the central defense or at back.

    Last summer, Chalobah was loaned to Championship side Watford where he ended up staying—and playing regularly—the entire season after having his loan stipulation, originally intending him to return to Stamford Bridge in January, amended.

    Chalobah learned much at Vicarage Road where he played 42 first-team matches, was named the Football League’s Player of the Month in April and helped the Hornets make a real run at a Premier League spot.

    The teen featured in all three Chelsea games in Asia on the club’s preseason tour and was praised by Mourinho. The Blues boss hinted at a sooner-than-later future in West London for the talented Chalobah who said he wants to stay with Chelsea for his entire career after signing a new five-year contract on Aug. 30.

    Chalobah is now back in the Championship with Nottingham Forest on loan where he has three starts and a red card for the sometimes-nicknamed Tricky Trees. Alright, nobody calls them that, but if someone did at one time and Wikipedia has it as an entry, I’m running with it, Pepe. Now go away.

Midfielder: Josh McEachran (Watford)

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    Another promising midfielder seemingly caught up in the embarrassment of riches at Chelsea is 20-year-old Josh McEachran, on loan until Jan. 2 at Watford in the Championship.

    A talented deep-lying playmaker with remarkable passing skills, the young Englishman has steadily improved his game since being with the club since the age of 8.

    Last season, McEachran was loaned out to Middlesbrough where he was named the club’s Young Player of the Yearbut can he eventually stick on the Blues’ first-team somewhere down the road?

    Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Rachel Bascom addressed this question in an insightful story earlier this month and had a very logical interpretation of the McEachran situation.

    “Well, the first problem appears to be that McEachran suffered from a classic case of sky-high expectations,” Bascom wrote. “Chelsea fans are all too often starved for homegrown talent, so it naturally happens that when an exciting young prospect with a natural midfield ability comes through the ranks, the Stamford Bridge faithful are all too ready to accept him.”

    With Michael Essien returning from his loan at Real Madrid and Marco van Ginkel being signed over the summer, there just wasn’t room for McEachran on the squad so he was again sent out on loan.

    And with guys like Chalobah, Nathan Ake and Ruben Loftus-Cheek also in the mix, making Chelsea’s first-team could continue to be a problem for McEachran for the foreseeable future, no matter how much he shines on loan or grows as a player.

    It would certainly be a shame to sell a homegrown player of McEachran’s caliber.

    But the Blues current modus operandi of buying more established players and then simply plugging them in—Andre Schurrle, Samuel Eto’o, Mark Schwarzer, Willian—does not bode well for many of the guys currently in the system just dreaming of one day getting their chance at Stamford Bridge.

Attacking Midfielder: Victor Moses (Liverpool)

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    When Victor Moses was signed from Wigan Athletic last summer, it seemed like a great acquisition and a good thing for both player and team.

    But just a year later, the 22-year-old winger from Nigeria is now on loan at Anfield playing alongside another Chelsea reject, striker Daniel Sturridge for a team that is off to a nice 5-1-1 start and currently tied with Arsenal for first place in the English Premier League.

    A product of the Crystal Palace youth academy, Moses has never really got his fair share of minutes for the Blues. And with such a glut of talent in the attacking midfield, management decided to loan the youngster to Liverpool for the season.

    Moses’s shining moment for Chelsea last season came on a game-winning, last-second header against Shakhtar Donetsk in UEFA Champions league play. And in international play, he was very impressive.

    But this is Chelsea, and with Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar having all solidified their spots, new signings at the position (Willian and Schurrle), Kevin De Bruyne returning and Ramires able to also play on the wing, Mourinho and staff apparently thought it was better for Moses to spend this year in Merseyside.

    Should Moses improve some with the Reds, expect him back on the Blues first-team next season if some of these other “new” attacking options don’t pan out.

    Of course, an eventual sale is also a distinct possibility.

Attacking Midfielder: Marko Marin (Sevilla)

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    EuroFootball/Getty Images

    Chelsea acquired Marko Marin, the “German Messi” from Werder Bremen last April but like so many others, the 24-year-old midfielder is stuck competing in a sea of talent.

    Marin saw very little playing time with the Blues last season (six appearances, one goal) and like several others, was loaned out this summer, and is now getting some valuable playing time in La Liga with Sevilla.

    So enamored with the creative Marin and wanting him to stay at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, Sevilla fans have actually tried to find him a wife, according to Bild.

    With so many younger players already situated in Chelsea’s attacking midfield and many others in the pipeline, Marin may never get his chance to become a first-team Blues regular. And should he thrive with Los Rojiblancos, it would be no surprise if the management tried to sell him off next summer.

Attacking Midfielder: Lucas Piazon (Vitesse Arnhem)

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    Stanley Chou/Getty Images

    Another skilled, young midfielder out on loan is Lucas Piazon, who will be at Vitesse Arnhem—Dutch Chelsea—for the year along with Blues teammates van Aanholt and four other Blues players (in the conclusion slide).

    Last season, the 19-year-old Piazon—who signed an extension to his original contract which will keep him at Stamford Bridge until 2017—joined Malaga during the winter transfer window where he was primarily used as a substitute. 

    The Brazilian can play on the wing, forward or as an attacking midfielder behind the striker.

    This versatility may give him a real leg up on the competition over the next couple of years as players fight for precious spots on the club’s roster.

    Whether or not everything works out for Piazon at Chelsea remains to be seen but it does seem the club has shown a real commitment to the teen who has a number of Brazilian internationals around him in West London in Oscar, Ramires and Luiz.

Striker: Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

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    Few would have ever thought Chelsea would have loaned Romelu Lukaku out again after his 17-goal season on loan last year at West Bromwich Albion—especially with the club’s now seemingly chronic striker problems.

    But Mourinho apparently wants to ride it out with Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and the newly signed Eto’o, who is probably the reason Lukaku is in Merseyside right now. So insert the obligatory sentence here saying how Lukaku has scored X goals so far this season while Chelsea’s sexy troika is still sitting on zero in the Premier League.

    Fun, right? I know. It’s painful. So much hope heading in and now we get to talk about anemic strikers for the next eight months while the 20-year-old Belgian likely ends up tearing it up for the Toffees.

    It leaves us writers wondering what to write and the fans what to say about this man who could make things so much better for the Blues at the striker spot.

    But it’s blasphemy to second guess Mourinho, right?

    Not in my world, Bubba, although this current striker situation situation at Chelsea is definitely not Mourinho’s fault. It’s just hard to imagine that this team could have Didier Drogba, Sturridge and Lukaku on its roster right now if everything fell into place.

    Anyway, the good news is that Lukaku—who joined the Blues from Anderlecht in 2011—should some day shine for Chelsea but the bad news is that it won’t be this season...again.

Conclusion

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    Zulte Waregem's Thorgan Hazard.
    Zulte Waregem's Thorgan Hazard.EuroFootball/Getty Images

    These 11 players are just some of the Chelsea players currently listed as being out on loan on the club's website and there are many others who also could have made the cut including Eden’s little brother Thorgan Hazard (Zulte Waregem) who may also eventually suffer from being on a team with too many talented young midfielders.

    Along with the aforementioned Vitesse duo of Piazon and van Anholt, Blues Gael Kakuta, Christian Atsu, Cristian Cuevas and Sam Hutchinson are all also playing at the GelreDome for the Netherlands side.

    Also out on loan are Patrick Bamford (MK Dons), Milan Lalkovic (Walsall), Stipe Perica (NAC Breda), George Saville (Brentford), Sam Walker (Colchester United), Daniel Pappoe (Colchester United) and Ulises Davila (Cordoba).

    All in all, Chelsea probably has too many players out on loan—maybe a byproduct of too much money and too many men having a say over the last decade in what direction this ever-evolving club should head.

    The Blues could actually go a transfer window or two without doing anything but giving the best three or four young players in their system a chance to make the big club but the way things have gone lately, that would end up being a pleasant surprise.

    The bottom line for all of these guys, as well as all of us fans, is that Mourinho will be making those crucial decisions over the coming years, for better or worse.

    So, what would your Chelsea current on-loan starting XI be?


    >Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11