With the 2012/13 season having reached its conclusion, assistant first team coach Steve Holland (pictured top) speaks to the official Chelsea website about the progress made by some our squad who spent either the whole campaign, or parts of it, out on loan…
Romelu Lukaku’s season-long loan spell at West Bromwich Albion will certainly be considered as a success after the young Belgian established himself as a regular in their first team, while also winning his loan club’s Young Player of the Year award.
Lukaku impressed to such an extent he was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, and Holland feels he deserves great credit.
‘It took Romelu a little bit of time,’ Holland tells the official Chelsea website. ‘At the start of the season he was in and out of the team, he did well when he had opportunities but wasn’t starting games consistently.
‘He probably needed that adaptation period and in the second part of the season he did very well. His goals-to-games ratio was excellent and he started more or less every week in a team that had a good season.
‘West Brom played with one striker for most of the season. Shane Long was initially the preferred option, with Romelu coming on late in games to use his pace and power. But the longer the season went on the more he forced his way into the starting line-up. He managed to keep Long out of the side, so for a boy of his age he can be very satisfied with his season.’
Another player who enjoyed a productive campaign was Josh McEachran, who spent the season on loan at Middlesbrough in the Championship.
It was important the 21-year-old played regular first team football at the Riverside, and he has ended the year as part of the England Under-21 squad at the on-going European Championships in Israel.
‘After Josh’s experience at Swansea, when he didn’t really play, the main thing with him was that we wanted him to accumulate games. From that perspective it was a success; he played almost 40 games,’ reports Holland.
‘When Middlesbrough were doing particularly well in the first half of the season, he was also doing well. The team tailed off after Christmas and his form coincided with that a little bit. It’s difficult sometimes for a young player in that situation but, having said that, there were enough positives to suggest Josh is a player heading in the right direction and will benefit from having a full season at Championship level.
‘The Championship is a very good development league for our young players, there are some big clubs and they play 46 games. Physically they get pushed, they play twice a week for most of the season, which you have to do if you want to play for Chelsea, so it’s been a good experience for Josh and hopefully there’s a bit more to come from him.’
Elsewhere in the Championship, it’s been a stop-start season for Sam Hutchinson at Nottingham Forest, with injuries limiting his involvement.
‘It’s been a frustrating year for Sam,’ Holland says. ‘He had injury issues which haven’t allowed him to play, but this time two years ago his career was pretty much over and he was doing some coaching.
‘He played some games at Forest at a good level, and when he played he didn’t look out of place. The problem has been his other knee, not the one he had surgery on, but hopefully he’ll be able to work hard on strengthening work during the close season. If he can solve those medical issues he’ll be a player that will have a good career.’
Further afield, Kevin De Bruyne impressed during his loan spell at Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga.
The Belgian was part of the Chelsea squad which visited the US last summer, but was loaned out prior to the beginning of the season.
As Holland explains, it’s a move which has benefitted everybody concerned, none more so than the player himself.
‘Kevin had a good season in a team which struggled a bit,’ he says. ‘He has outstanding qualities in terms of scoring goals and making goals, and he creates chances in every game.
‘He started the season playing in a central attacking role, where he could get forward but also be disciplined. Towards the end of the season he played behind the striker and then finished on the wing, so he’s had experience of a few roles, which will stand him in good stead.
‘He’s a bit like Oscar, in that he’s played in a range of attacking positions. A lot of German clubs have been very impressed with him, he played almost every minute of every game for Bremen, he had a good impact and will be ready to push on.’
Lucas Piazon featured for Chelsea in the Capital One Cup earlier in the season, before making his Premier League debut in the 8-0 win over Aston Villa in December.
In January, the decision was made to send him out on loan to Malaga in La Liga, and while he has featured mainly from the substitutes’ bench, Holland believes the experience will have served him well.
‘It’s always difficult when we try to place these boys because we want them to play at the highest level, but sometimes the higher you push the less you play,’ he says.
‘Lucas has gone from playing regularly in the youth team last year to playing in the Under-21s in the early part of this year. It was good development for him playing in the NextGen Series and it was decided around Christmas that he needed to push on from there. He had a couple of appearances in the Capital One Cup and did well whenever he was asked to play.
Malaga did well in La Liga and the Champions League. Without starting many games Lucas has been in and around the team and played regularly as a sub, so that will have done him good. He now has to go and play 38 to 40 games next season.’
Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie, the Dutch top flight, had three Chelsea players in their ranks last season and Patrick van Aanholt, Gael Kakuta and Tomas Kalas can all reflect on a solid campaign.
‘Vitesse were pushing for automatic Champions League qualification; they fell a bit short in the last few weeks but still qualified for the Europa League,’ Holland says.
‘Patrick and Tomas played more or less every game in full-back positions. Tomas had the odd game at centre-back but played at right-back for most of the season. They beat Ajax, the champions, home and away, and they’ve done well against the other top clubs.
‘Patrick has matured as a player and person; it’s been the best loan period of his career to date. Tomas could ultimately become a centre-back, but he’s been able to develop his football at right-back, where he has to get up and down and work the ball a bit more.
‘Kakuta played more towards the end of the season, mainly on the left wing in a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 formation. He’s only scored one goal so there are parts of his game he can work on, but the important thing for Gael is that he’s regularly managed to hold down a place.
‘He’s working much harder off the ball and makes a good contribution defensively. He’s had a number of assists, and if he can just add goals to his game, he’ll be ready to make the next step.’