Ranking Chelsea's Loan Men on Their Chances of Stamford Bridge Success

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2017

Ranking Chelsea's Loan Men on Their Chances of Stamford Bridge Success

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    Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori joined promotion-chasing Brighton & Hove Albion on loan this week.

    The defender will remain at the Amex Stadium until the end of the season, going head-to-head in the promotion race with fellow Chelsea loanees Christian Atsu (Newcastle United), Izzy Brown and Kasey Palmer (both Huddersfield Town).

    Tomori's move to the Seagulls makes him the 36th player currently on loan from the Blues. That figure, being as high as it is, got us thinking: Out of that number, which players stand the best chance of making it at Stamford Bridge?

    We've already seen Patrick Bamford depart Chelsea this January, joining Middlesbrough in a permanent deal after his loan move to Burnley had been cut short. But while Bamford was sold, Nathan Ake was recalled from his own loan to Bournemouth after impressing at the Vitality Stadium.

    That move shows the door is open for Chelsea's loanees. If they impress enough, under the current regime at least, it means they can get their chance to shine.

    So who else can we expect from the 36 current loanees to follow Ake and get a chance at cracking it under Antonio Conte? Bleacher Report ranks our top five.

5. Charlie Colkett

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    Silky midfielder Charlie Colkett is now with Swindon Town, having spent the first half of 2016/17 on loan with Bristol Rovers.

    The early part of that six-month spell was impressive enough. Not only did Colkett find a fair amount of assists, but he scored some vital goals, notably a late winner against Northampton Town in October.

    When Rovers started struggling, Colkett became a victim of the cliched requirement of experience for the League 1 side to scrap their way back up the table. When that happened, his loan move was cancelled, and he soon joined Swindon Town.

    Colkett didn't waste time in making his mark for the Robins, either. On his debut he grabbed the assist for Swindon's winning goal against Bolton Wanderers.

    The 20-year-old is a unique player. He comes with plenty of skill, but it's his vision that stands him apart from so many others. He's the sort of player who would complement what Conte has at the club now, demonstrating an ability to unlock defences in a similar way to Cesc Fabregas.

    League 1 football doesn't necessarily suit Colkett's vast abilities. Play him in a better, more technical league, and he has everything to shine.

4. Kasey Palmer

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    "Start as you mean to go on," they say. Well, Palmer did that with Huddersfield Town this season, scoring with his first touch for them on his debut way back in August.

    That was Palmer's first taste of senior football, too, and he hasn't looked back since. He has gradually forced his way into David Wagner's side, breaking free from the shackles of youth to become a key part of Huddersfield's promotion push.

    What impresses about Palmer is that of all of the young players coming through at Chelsea, he has the physique to match his skill. Playing as an attacking midfielder, he has the fancy footwork to beat defenders yet is capable of facing up physically.

    Sometimes the latter can be a big factor in youngsters' not getting a chance at the top level. Physically, they just don't look ready. Palmer does, though, and judging by his form this season, he's suggesting he also has the mentality for top-flight football.

3. Tammy Abraham

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    Like Palmer before him, Tammy Abraham has done the one thing every attacking player must in order to get themselves noticed: He's scored goals. Plenty of goals.

    Repeating Palmer's feat, Abraham found himself on the scoresheet on his Bristol City debut earlier this season, too. All in all, he's scored 18 goals this term for the Robins, which is an incredible return for a player who only celebrated his 19th birthday in October.

    That Abraham is still so young shows he has much more to learn in order to develop his game, and this season has proved pivotal in that. Not only has he scored goals, but Abraham has overcome a big problem that can plague the career of any striker: the dreaded goal drought.

    From scoring 12 goals by the end of October, Abraham didn't hit the back of the net in all of November. Rather than allow his confidence to take a hit, the youngster would overcome a month without a goal by scoring in early December.

    That speaks volumes for his mentality, not to mention his ability as a player.

2. Lewis Baker

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    Summer 2017 has a now-or-never feel about it for Lewis Baker and his Chelsea career.

    Currently on loan with Vitesse Arnhem in Holland—it's Baker's second successive such move there—he will be 22 by the time Conte calls his players back for pre-season training. If Baker isn't part of that squad, it's probably curtains for him.

    It's not because he lacks the ability, but more in light of his age. Baker has spent three seasons in the loan system, also turning out for Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons, impressing wherever he has travelled.

    Baker has assisted, scored important goals and also made headlines with the odd golazo. He has done everything asked of him when we think about what clubs want from loan players, and Chelsea should give him his chance this summer.

    He has everything to his game—he can beat players, defend and create goals—and the way he has progressed in the past few seasons has been a major positive for how the loan system can help a player's development. From leaving for Sheffield Wednesday as a boy over two years ago, he'll return to Stamford Bridge a man.

    He can occupy central midfield but also the inside attacking areas that have seen Eden Hazard and Pedro flourish this term.

    Such has been Baker's form with Vitesse that, were he not already a Chelsea player, he's the sort the Blues would be linked with in the transfer market.

1. Andreas Christensen

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    Andreas Christensen has long been seen as the jewel in the crown of Chelsea's loan army. The Danish defender is now in his second season with Borussia Monchengladbach, where his performances have seen the hype surrounding him only intensify.

    The feeling is that had Chelsea not allowed for him to be loaned for two years without a break clause, Christensen would've been a Chelsea player under Conte.

    He will arrive back at Stamford Bridge this summer at the perfect time. Not only is John Terry expected to hang up his boots, but the Chelsea defence is still in need of recruitment as Conte adapts the system that has seen his team break records this term.

    Christensen, with his continental style and confidence in possession, will suit that famed back three perfectly. He's mobile, reads the game well and understands how to hold his position.

    What's more is that he's young, and when we consider Nathan Ake's progress, not to mention Kurt Zouma's continued comeback from injury, we could be looking at a back-three pairing that will serve Chelsea for a generation.

    Christensen has the potential to be at the heart of it.