Chelsea will welcome a loan army member into the first team
Chelsea’s academy is often considered one of the world’s best. The Blues have developed world class players year after year now for quite some time, but the problem has always been their integration.
The path into the first team was hazy until Frank Lampard and Jody Morris shined a light on the walkway in 2019. Before this though, prospects would often join the club’s loan army, where their careers would go one of three ways.
They would either eventually leave to excel elsewhere, get stuck in endless loan hell or, on rare occasions, break into the Blues’ senior side.
Lampard and Morris have now obviously departed the club with Thomas Tuchel taking over as manager. Tuchel has vowed to continue to keep the doors open for players in the academy or loan army to get their chances.
The German gaffer is in his first offseason with Chelsea and it looks as if he will stay true to his word. At least one member of the Blues’ famous loan army is in line to stay in SW6 with the first team for the 2021/22 season.
Chelsea’s first team looks to welcome loan army members back with open arms.
The biggest question is, “who?” This answer is becoming clearer as the transfer window rolls on and senior players begin to depart. There has been a ton of speculation about which loanee will get his shot in Tuchel’s team, so let’s discuss those options and the individuals who have the best chance of wearing the famous “3” on their chest during the upcoming campaign.
Starting with those who have realistic shots at staying and playing for the Blues, one would be ignorant not to list Conor Gallagher first. Gallagher enjoyed a successful loan at West Brom last year where he stuck out like a sore thumb—for all of the right reasons.
The Englishman is everything you want in a versatile midfielder and then some. Billy Gilmour’s likely departure opens the door for Gallagher to stay as the fourth option in the middle of the park, although there was already a high probability he’d break into the first team next season anyway.
There is also a chance that Chelsea keeps one more central defender around to back up the starting trio of Antonio Rudiger, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta.
The Blues already have Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen who can factor into the mix, but a sixth centerback is likely needed. If the club doesn’t dip its toes into the transfer market, Marc Guehi and Malang Sarr are viable options.
Guehi looks ready to make the jump into the first team after successive stints at Swansea and Sarr possesses the ability to play almost anywhere across the back line. One of them could join Gallagher in the first team, regardless of whether or not there is any further transfer activity.
Transitioning into the other reasonable options, there is a handful of individuals who look to be vying for their chance to finally secure a spot in the side. This pool of players is undoubtedly larger considering their current status as it relates to the aforementioned group.
The fact of the matter is, with Gilmour out of the picture, Chelsea cannot carry on for an entire campaign with just three central midfielders.
Tuchel will reportedly give Tiemoue Bakayoko and Ruben Loftus-Cheek chances to fight for a place, but they have both been linked to transfers abroad.
If they don’t impress, they will miss out entirely and perhaps that’ll spell the end of their careers in Chelsea blue.
On the outside looking in is Ethan Ampadu and Trevoh Chalobah. Ampadu possesses a lot of talent, but his development has stalled after consecutive failed loans. Keeping the Welsh youngster in the first team camp may be the only way to continue to grow his game. Meanwhile, Trevoh Chalobah is looking to do something his brother could not—secure a long-term place with the Champions of Europe.
Although Chalobah impressed during his first two loans in the Championship, it was his most recent stint with Lorient in Ligue 1 that saw him break out of his shell.
The 21-year-old’s versatility is seen as a huge plus. He can play in multiple different positions in the defense and in the middle of the park, which is music to Tuchel’s ears.
It’d be rather surprising to see him remain at Stamford Bridge this season, but don’t be shocked if Tuchel takes a particular liking to Chalobah going forward.
Elsewhere, the Blues’ recent departures (specifically Jamal Blackman and Willy Caballero) open the door for Jamie Cumming to potentially play third fiddle in goal again. He was a part of the team during Lampard’s first season, sitting behind Kepa Arrizabalaga and Caballero in the shot-stopping pecking order. If Chelsea doesn’t want to go out and get a third goalkeeper, Cumming seems like the guy in house.
Ian Maatsen and Armando Broja both performed well during their maiden loan campaigns. Their positions could require some attention if Marcos Alonso, Emerson, Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham all depart. Regardless, these two youngsters should be purely emergency options for the Blues. Their development is more important than filling a back-up or third string role in the first team next season; keeping them around would be short-sighted unless Tuchel could find sufficient playing time for the pair.
The only other player in last year’s loan army that stands any sort of chance of getting into the first team is Ross Barkley. Barkley’s season at Aston Villa was largely considered a failure due to the poor second half of the campaign. There is virtually no shot of him coming back to Stamford Bridge, unfortunately, but he had to be mentioned given his history in the team.
All of this can obviously change with one swift swipe of Roman Abramovich’s credit card though (hypothetical, of course, it’d be bold to think football clubs are up to speed with modern technology). Things are quiet on the transfer front at the moment—because of Euro 2020—but it will soon pick up. Chelsea is going to make signings, you can still expect one or two players from the loan army to break through though. The Blues possess a plethora of talented prospects, now it’s just a matter of when they will be introduced.