With Nathan Ake’s recall from Bournemouth, the topic of Chelsea and the loan system is a topic of conversation once again.
Chelsea are often derided for having so many players away from the club, with 37 players currently out on loan.
Many would argue that because so many of these players will not realistically have a chance of breaking into the first-team squad they are useless to them. But that is not completely true.
First, we should analyse why Chelsea employ such a strategy and look at the reasoning behind their use of the loan market. Ideally, the loan system is there for teams to ensure a teams’ younger prospects get game time and continue to develop while not being at the level suitable for first-team football at the parent club.
With Chelsea having such a high number of loan players, there is statistically a better chance of developing better footballers. If, however, the desired standards cannot be reached by the youth player, they can be sold on for profit without affecting the number of prospects too much. Chelsea can be credited with success with this model having won the FA Youth Cup in four of the last five seasons.
Youth development, however, isn’t the sole reason for Chelsea using the loan system in such a manner. The club generated the fourth highest revenue last year in the Premier League and have consistently done so for years now.
In the last 10 years, the amount of loss the club makes financially has shrunk and although the new TV deals play their part, it is mostly down to player sales. With loses slowly being cancelled out by player sales, their use of the loan system is starting to make more sense.
So, the financial benefit that such a use of the system brings, coupled with the possibility that they develop a player into one that is good enough to play for the first team and it makes perfect sense as to why they loan so many players out.
However, the ability in which loan players have had to make an impact and show the club that they can be part of the future has been limited somewhat. With relative instability in terms of managerial control at the club in recent years, the loan system and the players it has developed have seldom been of primary importance to the club.
Now with Antonio Conte recalling Ake from Bournemouth after making a fantastic start to the season with the Cherries, times could be changing at Chelsea. Michael Emenalo has spoken out recently saying that the club are keen for Conte to stay at the club for a long time and could even be at the helm ‘forever’, no doubt due to the impact he has made in his short tenure thus far and the positive mentality his arrival has brought about.
With Ake rejoining the main team, it has signalled that the Blues may no longer resign their youth prospects to the loan system wilderness and in fact are keen for them to develop and if they are deemed good enough they will receive their chance.
Further proof of this is the revival of one Victor Moses this season. Seemingly another forgotten man at the club, Conte’s arrival presented him with a chance to make his impact. Conte has conjured up something within the Nigerian international and his incredible performances at wing back through the first half of the season have been a revelation for Chelsea, he is now well and truly a first-team fixture.
Chelsea’s FA Cup win against Peterborough United on Sunday saw Conte make nine changes to his table-topping side and while the match saw the return of John Terry and Kurt Zouma to the side, it also meant Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathaniel Chalobah and Ola Aina were given a chance to play.
Although it could be said that it means nothing due to it being just another early round FA Cup game, the performances of the younger players suggested that they knew that with Conte recalling Ake, he sees the youth prospects at the club as viable options for him.
The desire and determined efforts of Loftus-Cheek, driving forward seemingly every time he received the ball, in particular, demonstrated that the younger players at Chelsea see an opportunity arising under the Italian and are keen to impress him.
Another player making waves is Andreas Christensen, currently on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach. Many fans want him to return to the squad next season and fight for his place in the team, a scenario not too far-fetched with Conte looking at options to solidify his defence.
Those out on loan may not be on the outside looking in anymore with no realistic chance of playing for the Blues. It will be a very interesting period for Chelsea’s youngsters and loan prospects with Conte in charge.