It’s an interesting predicament Chelsea have fallen into. They’re one of Europe’s best clubs, yet are undergoing one of the worst seasons in their Premier League history.
Crowned champions not 10 months ago, the west Londoners have stopped and started, tripped and fallen all season. It has cost them the greatest manager in Chelsea history, Jose Mourinho, and seems destined to cost them Champions League football coming into the 2016/17 season.
Despite these woes, this tumultuous year has created at least one bright spot: Bertrand Traore.
Along with the developing Kenedy, Kurt Zouma, Baba Rahman and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the Burkina Faso international has quickly become a Blues spark plug and fan favourite. His willingness to run, create trouble and unquestioned clinical nature has given Chelsea’s interim manager, Guus Hiddink, a legitimate alternative to Loic Remy behind Diego Costa’s indisputable permanence.
Scoring five goals from nine appearances in three competitions this term, the 20-year-old attacker (who can play winger or centre-forward) was on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in 2014/15.
Waiting for his English work permit, Traore was Vitesse’s top goalscorer last season; the then-teenager finished with 17 goals (and seven assists) in 36 matches. An obvious, natural goalscorer, all he needed was a chance to prove himself – for the past 18 months, both in Holland and England, he’s done just that.
What Traore’s emergence has shown (other than his seemingly boundless potential), though, is the flaw in Chelsea’s loan system.
One supposes the youngster could thank the English government and FIFA for being stingy in their migration policies but – were it not for the work permit issues – Traore would’ve likely been in Mourinho’s squad two seasons ago.
His spell with Vitesse surely gave him confidence but wasn’t exactly “optimal” after he shined with Chelsea during their 2013 pre-season tour of Asia.
Many players have gone to Vitesse and never been heard from again. It’s a roll of the dice going on loan. If you do well, you aren’t guaranteed a place at Stamford Bridge, and if you don’t succeed, you are replaced and eventually disappear.
The flaw in Chelsea’s loan system is: the best way to break the Blues’ first team, is actually being at Chelsea – not going to the Netherlands, Germany, Spain or wherever else, but staying put at Cobham and/or Stamford Bridge.
As much as many fans would like to suppose they do, they don’t keep up with every loanee Chelsea have. They are far too many, in far too many places. Wikipedia is never that reliable, but the current count of Chelsea players on loan is 31.
How can they all get the attention required to break the proverbial doors down? It’s a simple answer: They can’t.
The best way to earning a first-team place at Chelsea is, well, being available at Chelsea – then taking your chances when they come. 20 goals in Holland is fantastic, but 10 goals in west London (where every player, staff member, board member and supporter fully comprehends the challenge and scarcity of minutes) goes infinitely further.
Experience is wonderful, but an opportunity is a chief component for young players attempting to crack the safe called Stamford Bridge.
Traore has displayed this concept masterfully; here’s hoping the 20-year-old continues his development and shows others the way isn’t necessarily leaving Chelsea, but staying as close as possible.