The loan market is now seen as a key component for any team that is hoping to gain promotion to the Premier League. It is certainly no coincidence that the teams at the top of the Championship are often bolstered by a host of top flight talent which allows for rotation and an increase in quality at little price.
It is not very challenging to identify sides that are benefiting from players from top sides, Middlesbrough have the likes of Patrick Bamford, Thomas Kalas, and Kenneth Omeruo. Derby have added considerably to their squad with Darren Bent, Tom Ince, and earlier in the season with the ever-increasingly impressive Jordan Ibe. Bournemouth have added established Polish international Artur Boruc who has played no small part in the Cherries maintaining the fourth fewest goals conceded in the division. The importance of the loan market is not exclusive to sides at the peak of the table, clubs having slightly less successful seasons are also benefiting from the abundance of talent available through the loan market. Reading added FA Youth Cup winning captain Nathaniel Chalobah, Bolton have acquired Ben Amos and Saidy Janko from Manchester United, as well as Barry Bannan from Aston Villa.
This indicates one reason why the loan market is so important to Premier League clubs as they are all aware of how high the quality of coaching has become in the lower divisions, and how the young players that are struggling to make headway in the first team can go and ply their trade at a Championship side who are comfortably seeing attendances of 25,000 a week.
However, these loan deals are not only beneficial to the sides who are receiving a top flight player – they give the player who is shipped out an opportunity to re-establish some form and confidence, as well as potentially taking financial pressure off of the club which he is serviced to. Furthermore, in the cases of the waves of young talent temporarily leaving Chelsea and lighting up the Championship, it gives their employers a chance to see how the players deal with regular first team football, safe in the knowledge that they are receiving high quality coaching from the likes of Steve McClaren, Steve Clarke, and Aitor Karanka among others. The key example from this season is Jordan Ibe. Ibe was struggling to breakthrough in the Liverpool side and was sent on loan to Derby County where he was so impressive that Liverpool recalled him and are now prepared to offer the 19 year old a new deal that is rumoured to more than quadruple his current wages.
There is one growing trend of the loan market that has emerged in recent years and that is centred on the fact that clubs are now run more so than ever in a way that is designed for them to be profitable. This means that while clubs are obviously always looking to develop new talent for the first team, the loan market gives the top clubs in the country the opportunity to loan players all over the world in order for the players to gain form and a reputation. This means that these clubs can then sell these players for a sizeable profit, perhaps without ever having the intention of them appearing for the first team side. Take Chelsea, for example, it is unclear as to whether players such as Bamford, Chalobah, and Kalas will ever break into Chelsea’s first team – but is clear that they are gaining ever-growing reputations within the game and will surely be sold for a handsome fee if they are ever deemed surplus to requirements at the Bridge.
A further issue is that the majority of the clubs in Premier League have no motivation to blood their own academy products for the first team, as they can recruit players from all corners of the globe. This is evidenced once again by Chelsea having Ryan Bertrand and Patrick Van Aanholt as long term replacements for Ashley Cole, before signing Filipe Luis for £16M and seeing both youngsters leave for new clubs. This new business stream that Chelsea have identified is certainly a great way to make profit on players, as we have seen with Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku was signed for a fee believed to be around £19M and was later sold for around £29M to Everton. While Chelsea are clearly the exception in terms of Premier League clubs’ loaning policies, with 26 players out on loan at one point this season – there are likely to be a number of clubs following suit and looking to capitalise on this new form of cash flow that is developing.
It is not just Chelsea who have used the loan market to their advantage in recent times, high profile players are being loaned out across Europe in order to play their trade elsewhere. As we have seen with the likes of Radamel Falcao at Manchester United and Fernando Torres at AC Milan. This certainly indicates a change from the stereotypical view of loanees, which is of a young, raw talented player having a chance to play in the first team – to some of the biggest names in football seeing themselves moving on the loan market.
In a further shift from common footballing stereotypes, we are much more used to clubs in poorer financial positions than the aforementioned Chelsea nurturing young talent and selling them for a profit to make ends meet. The most stand-out example is perhaps Crewe Alexandra, who have developed a whole host of talented players such as David Platt, Robbie Savage, Danny Murphy, and Neil Lennon. Further to this point, Crewe fielded a side that consisted entirely of academy products in the final fixture of the 2012/13 season.
However, Chelsea have taken this style and refined it into an art-form. Chelsea have started to treat the transfer market much like a stock market, they buy low and sell high, finding young talent and loaning them out to build a reputation before selling them for a very healthy profit. In short, they are starting to redefine what it means to be a selling club.
It is clear the loan system is still as effective as ever as a tool for developing young talent at a competitive level, and is a win-win situation for the clubs involved when used in the right way. However, it has also emerged as a prominent financial stream for certain sides as the lack of restrictions on how many individuals can get loaned out has allowed for players to develop domestically or abroad with little financial pressure on his employers due to reduced wage and fee demands. This in turn allows these clubs to sell these players on for a significant profit, potentially without the individual ever pulling on the colours in a first team game. While Chelsea at this moment of time remain the exception, it is likely that it won’t take very long for this sort of interaction with the loan market to become the norm.
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
The Spanish international has been inconsistent since his £60 million move.
When Antonio Conte sealed the signing of Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid in the summer, many Chelsea fans lauded him as one of the signings of the window.
He was an instant hit at Stamford Bridge following his £60 million arrival, scoring on his debut off the bench in a 3-2 loss against Burnley on the opening day.
Morata has been most commonly used as an impact sub especially at Madrid, but at Chelsea, he was quickly given the responsibility of spearheading the Blues’ attack.
He repaid the faith Conte showed in him early, notching a hat trick away at Stoke in mid-September.
There was early talk of him being involved in a four-way battle for the golden boot alongside Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Gabriel Jesus.
Since then, it hasn’t worked out as well for Morata at Chelsea.
He went on a scoring drought soon after, although he did score a crucial winner against title rivals Manchester United in November.
He still received criticism, however, culminating in a poor performance against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup, where he missed several guilt edge chances to give Chelsea the advantage.
He then played 40 minutes in the FA Cup against Norwich, managing to receive two yellow cards in a matter of seconds, first for diving, and then for dissent.
The cold weather has been blamed for his lack of form, as well as a back injury which at one point Conte suggested could force him to miss the rest of the season.
The English climate is different to what Morata will have previously experienced in Spain and in Italy with Juventus, although whether that can be used as a real argument is debatable.
He proved that theory wrong today, finishing off a fine Chelsea move in one of the coldest games of the season.
The Spaniard has looked bereft of confidence in recent weeks and months, and it appeared that Olivier Giroud had overtaken him as Chelsea’s leading marksman until today.
Morata proved his class against a Leicester side that, had it not been for a late mistake, would have taken the current Premier League champions to penalties.
His well placed shot after an excellent Willian through ball opening the scoring before an audacious flick hit the crossbar.
Although not at the heights of the likes of Kane (24 goals) and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (28 goals), Morata has notched 10 goals of his own – a decent return considering he has missed a fair amount of games with injury in a team that is equally reliant on goals from wingers Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian.
With the cold weather subsiding, if that can be used as an excuse for some of Morata’s poor performances, and Chelsea’s chances of silverware increasing with an FA Cup semi-final, now is surely the time for Morata to produce some of his best form and lead Chelsea’s charge going into the back end of the season.
Tieumoue Bakayoko disappoints again for Chelsea against Leicester City
The Frenchman looked to struggle against his FA Cup opponents.
Tieumoue Bakayoko was one of the big-name signings for Chelsea during the summer as the club tried to push on under Antonio Conte after their Premier League triumph.
The Frenchman had been a standout player for AS Monaco during their surprise Ligue 1 winning campaign and cost the Blues a reported £40 million.
Although they are one of the richest clubs in the world, that remains a big spend and they would have been expecting a first-team ready player.
That hasn’t been the case as Bakayoko has struggled to adapt to English football and has found himself sidelined for Danny Drinkwater on several occasions.
The England international is an experienced Premier League player, but he was brought in to provide cover. It is a worry that he has been performing better than the player brought in to partner N’Golo Kante.
Chelsea managed to qualify for the semi-final of the FA Cup with an extra-time victory over Leicester City. However, Bakayoko was underwhelming once again after being brought back into the starting eleven.
He lasted until half-time before being replaced by Cesc Fabregas. During the first half, the Blues were too predictable in central midfield as neither player offered creativity from deep.
Wilfred Ndidi was arguably the best player in that area of the pitch as he dominated Bakayoko and Kante for the first-half.
The summer signing from Monaco was booked just before the break and didn’t re-emerge for the second-half. It was another disappointing performance from him as he failed to take the opportunity provided by Antonio Conte.
During the match, Bakayoko had a tackle success rate of 33% and he failed to make a single key pass to influence proceedings in the attacking half.
It was obvious that he was lacking in confidence as he often chose the simple pass and wasn’t as aggressive as the Leicester midfield players that he was competing with.
As the season has progressed, central midfield has emerged as an area of weakness for Chelsea. They often play with two defensive-minded midfielders and that makes them predictable to play against.
Last season, Nemanja Matic was more dynamic in central areas and he wasn’t afraid to step into the attacking half to contribute to attacks. The decision to sell him to a rival club now looks a huge mistake as the Blues are less effective in the middle of the park.
It was hoped that Ross Barkley would provide more energy to that position, but he has struggled with injuries since moving to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have a difficult task to save their season, as they must finish in the top four and lift the FA Cup to restore pride.
Bakayoko needs to have a strong end to his season if he is to prove himself worthy of another chance next season. There is likely to be a new manager at Stamford Bridge with Antonio Conte’s position looking more untenable by the day.
A managerial change will lead to a squad overhaul and the 23-year-old will be one of the first to go. He doesn’t offer anything different to Kante and his compatriot is far superior in every area.
His most ardent supporters will allude to his inexperience and suggest that he needs to be given more time. However, when watching him against the 21-year-old Ndidi, it became clear that he isn’t good enough for a club like Chelsea. He was outclassed and outbattled by his younger opponent.
Since Roman Abramovich bought the club, there have been several mistakes made in the transfer market. The decision to sell Matic and sign Bakayoko was another.
Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: Three talking points from the Etihad
Manchester City managed to beat Chelsea for the second time this season as they continue their march to the Premier League title. The contest was far from entertaining, as the visitors showed no interest in playing football and instead to soak in pressure.
Pep Guardiola’s team didn’t have to get out of second gear and it was a more comfortable victory than they would have been expecting. The Citizens are now 18 points clear at the top of the table and remain on target for 100 points, which would be a superb achievement.
Meanwhile, Chelsea sit outside of the Champions League places and are now five points behind Tottenham in fourth position. They will need a near perfect end to the season if they are to avoid missing out on qualification for next season’s competition. Here are three talking points from the Etihad Stadium…
David Silva showed his class
The 32-year-old has been at Manchester City for the majority of their journey from Premier League also-rans to elite super club and he remains a crucial player for them under Pep Guardiola.
If he had been in the team for the entire campaign, he would be running Kevin de Bruyne close for the PFA Player of the Year award. He is a classy operator who seems to get better with age.
He got the important assist for the winning goal with a superb piece of play and that is becoming par for the course for the Spanish international. Silva completed 95% of his passes and made three key passes during the contest. Meanwhile, he was very good out of possession as he made three ball recoveries.
It has been incredible to watch Pep Guardiola get all of his attacking talent on the pitch at one time, but the improvement of both Silva and De Bruyne off the ball has helped achieve that.
They are now complete midfielders and capable of thriving in both halves of the pitch. The midfielder is a club legend and supporters will be hoping that he has a few years left in him.
Antonio Conte continues to make puzzling decisions
Last season, the Italian was lauded every week as his side won the league title comfortably, but he has failed to follow it up with a good second campaign. There have been a lot of problems for Chelsea this season including recruitment, tactics and player performance.
They have been reliant on Eden Hazard and as the campaign has progressed, the team have lost their intensity, which suggests they no longer believe in Conte.
Their 3-4-2-1 formation was revolutionary, but they have moved away from it frequently this season and haven’t been able to settle on a first eleven. That was one of Chelsea’s strengths last season. Gary Cahill and David Luiz have been sidelined, while Alvaro Morata has failed to replace Diego Costa sufficiently.
On Sunday, Conte chose to field Hazard as a lone frontman, but he struggled to impact the game in that role. He is best when having space in front of him to run into and he didn’t have that against Manchester City.
The Belgian international was isolated and touched the ball only 31 times. It was a tactical error and one that blunted Chelsea’s attack before a ball was kicked.
Ilkay Gundogan is flourishing in the middle of the park for Manchester City
The former Borussia Dortmund midfielder has had his problems since arriving in the Premier League.
He has suffered a few injuries and that has seen him struggle to secure a regular starting berth, but he has featured prominently in recent weeks and is perfect for the system. Gundogen recycles possession effectively and that is required, especially when the opposition team sits deep.
Gundogen touched the ball more than any other player on the pitch with 181 touches and was very good at distributing the ball quickly. He finished the match with a 96% pass success rate, which shows his role.
He wasn’t taking any risks and he didn’t have to. City have a lot of attacking talent and the German international isn’t required to try risky passes to influence the game.
Although Chelsea didn’t get on the ball much, Gundogen broke up the play when required with four ball recoveries. Fernandinho’s absence could allow the 27-year-old to secure the place on a permanent basis and he does offer more in the role, especially in possession. It was a strong performance and one of the standouts in a dull affair.
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