Chelsea Loanees

Armando Broja Ian Maatsen Jake Clarke-Salter Levi Colwill Billy Gilmour Nathan Baxter

Orlando Valman

Last updated: September 7, 2021

Another summer transfer window is here, which means more ins-and-outs at Chelsea. Among those moving will be many academy players leaving on loan, be it to establish themselves in senior football for the first time or to take the next step in their career. Orlando Ashton has picked out six interesting moves of the 2021 class so far…

Tino Anjorin to Lokomotiv Moscow

Tino Anjorin completes his move to Lokomotiv Moscow

Tino Anjorin has been ready for senior football for a long time. It would have been very reasonable to suggest that he head out on loan at the beginning of last season, after a dominant campaign in which he led Chelsea’s under-23s to the PPG-determined Premier League 2 title with five goals and three assists in 11 games, and made his Premier League proper debut as a substitute against Everton in the final game before the pandemic-induced break. 

It is a testament to both his confidence and what he’s about as a player that he attempted a highly-ambitious 40-yard volley moments after coming on in that game; the shot went nowhere near Jordan Pickford’s goal, but it endeared him to the Stamford Bridge crowd.

However, for a plethora of reasons – not least Chelsea’s change of managers and runs to the wire for the Premier League top four in two consecutive seasons – first-team minutes have been hard to come by for Anjorin despite him very clearly having outgrown academy football. 

He has managed only five appearances in two full seasons spent training with the first-team squad, and notched four goals and four assists in ten games for the under-23s last season when he dropped down for gametime – despite often not looking particularly bothered.

There is lots to dissect about his move to Lokomotiv Moscow, not least the deal itself: it is initially a season-long move, but the Russian side reserve the right to sign Anjorin permanently for £17m from January onwards. However, if they do end up doing that, Chelsea will have the option to buy the Englishman back in the future for double the sum they sold him for, £34m. 

With Lokomotiv’s current record transfer fee spent on a player only £13m, it seems unlikely that the whole option-to-buy-and-then-buy-back thing is actually going to be used, but there is of course some chance that Anjorin completely explodes at Lokomotiv, in which case breaking their transfer record would be seen as a no-brainer due to the 19-year-old’s potential and consequent resale value. 

However, there are quite a few reasons why it might prove difficult for Anjorin in Russia. First of all, although obvious, there is a new country, new language and new culture for him to adapt to. I

t seems slightly unnecessary to send a player who has never played football in any other shirt than Chelsea’s or England’s overseas for their first loan – other academy graduates who have been loaned abroad this season, like Ethan Ampadu and Thierno Ballo, have previously played football either abroad or elsewhere in England. 

Secondly, there will be huge pressure on him at Lokomotiv. He will be only the second Englishman to have ever played in the Russian Premier League, and the first since 2013, and moreover, to have come from a club as big as Chelsea will mean that all eyes will be on him. Again, this seems unnecessary for a first move into senior football.

Thirdly, getting into Lokomotiv’s team won’t be all plain-sailing. Their best player on form, Rifat Zhemaletdinov, has been playing in Anjorin’s favoured number ten position and is highly unlikely to be dropped – although Anjorin arguably has a higher ceiling slightly deeper in midfield as a number eight and is likely to end up there long-term, he has a lot of work to do – particularly on his defensive game – before he gets to that stage. 

Having said that, he may well end up being thrown in the deep end as an eight despite his defensive shortcomings and lack of experience, although Lokomotiv’s participation in the Europa League group stages means that there will be rotation and chances for Anjorin to play in multiple roles.

It is clear, though, that there is thought behind this deal. There was wide speculation that Lokomotiv’s new Head of Sports and Development, the famed Ralf Rangnick, was behind this deal, and it was confirmed by an Instagram post by Anjorin’s father displaying the German alongside Anjorin and two of the club’s other summer signings in a Moscow restaurant, captioned ‘Project Rangnick’. 

It is also clear to see that it is not only Rangnick who has high hopes for Anjorin – the club have demonstrated a clear show of faith in assigning him club legend Dimitri Loskov’s previously-retired number ten shirt – and what the youngster will get from this loan on a fundamental level is also clear: regular minutes at a level that is well-suited to how good a player he currently is.

There are certainly questions to be asked whether the same thing could have been achieved at a different club with a greater track record and more guarantees, but, at the same time, travelling a path not travelled before is admirable and could well lead to success.

Ethan Ampadu to Venezia

Ethan Ampadu signs for Venezia

Since Chelsea signed then-16-year-old Ethan Ampadu from Exeter in 2017, the Welshman has started a total of 36 club games — a measly average of nine a season. 

That was set to continue this campaign, with Chelsea communicating to him that he would be needed to stick around as midfield back-up after the man who played that role last season, Billy Gilmour, headed out on loan to Norwich City without a replacement fourth-choice central midfielder being brought in. 

Before being told this, Ampadu was set to join Newcastle United for the season, but they moved their focus to other targets after it appeared that he was no longer available, and, as a result, that deal was unable to be salvaged after Ampadu was given seven hours to scramble to find a loan deal in the wake of Chelsea’s deadline-day capture of Saúl Ñiguez. 

Consequently, Ampadu now finds himself somewhat randomly at Serie A’s newly-promoted Venezia FC. Most famed for their beautiful kits, the Serie B playoff champions of last season play a pretty standard 4-3-3 with two number eights ahead of a number six. Given that they have two strong starting centre-backs – ex-Atalanta Mattia Caldara and club captain Marco Modolo – Ampadu is expected to slot into that defensive midfield number six role.

"Since Chelsea signed then-16-year-old Ethan Ampadu from Exeter City in 2017, the Welshman has started a total of 36 club games — a measly average of nine a season."

The Welshman has played a number of different positions throughout his career so far, both at club level and international level, but anchoring a midfield three is probably what suits him best, especially long-term. At 5’11”, he is slightly too much on the short side to be a centre-back at the top level; although his potential could be maximised in a back three, that role is too uncommon and specialised for it to be what he calls ‘his position’.

Given that loans sorted on deadline day are almost always going to be suboptimal in some way, one that gives Ampadu regular minutes in his ideal position seems pretty good on surface level. However, there are a few caveats to be pointed out when you look a bit closer. 

Firstly, Serie A is not a league that suits Ampadu particularly well. In fact, out of all the top five European leagues it is probably the one that is least conducive to his qualities. There are fewer physical duels – a main strength of his – than elsewhere, and heavy midfield pressing – again, one of his standout attributes – is rare. 

On top of this, Venezia don’t play a particularly possession-heavy system – without having watched them, admittedly, the data suggests that they take goal kicks long – implying a reluctance to play out from the back, which is for obvious reasons a negative from a perspective solely interested in Ampadu’s development and success – and rely on set-pieces to a relatively high degree whilst being passive out of possession. 

There is also the point to be made that playing for a relegation-battling side isn’t likely to develop him much further – the argument that players learn the most in the face of adversity is a fair one, but he already experienced that at Sheffield United last season and would most likely benefit more from playing for a regularly-winning, possession-heavy side this season, perhaps even a step down in the Championship. 

As always in football, though, the circumstances as they are – no matter how frustratingly avoidable – have to be accepted and made the most of. Ampadu has the chance to showcase his abilities over the course of a whole season, and to a new audience too, something the likes of Ola Aina and Jérémie Boga heavily benefitted from in the recent past. 

Even if many of Venezia’s watchers this season only tune in because of how nice their kits are – seriously, lots of people will actually do that – there’ll be a 20-year-old Welshman at the heart of midfield who might catch their eye.

Dujon Sterling to Blackpool

Dujon Sterling signs for Blackpool

It is pretty amazing that Dujon Sterling is in line to be a regular starter in a fifty-game season this year. It has been kept relatively quiet, but the 21-year-old suffered from a serious, potentially career-threatening illness in the UK’s first lockdown, before contracting coronavirus later in the year which complicated things further. T

his was all on the back of suffering a severe hamstring injury in January 2020 that cut short his then-promising loan spell at Wigan Athletic in the Championship. It took him a year from then to recover and be ready to make a comeback, and there was loan interest in January 2021, but the decision was taken for him to remain at Chelsea and build up both match fitness and confidence with the Blues’ under-23 side. 

He was very much back to his best by the end of the campaign – which is said to have impressed Chelsea’s coaches, and Thomas Tuchel in particular, given what he had been through – and was rewarded not only with the opportunity to train and play matches with the first-team squad during pre-season but also with a two-year contract extension before he heads out on loan to Blackpool, the ultimate proof that those at the club believe he has something to offer in the years to come.

It is easy to forget what a prodigious talent Sterling once was. He scored in both the semi-final and final of the 2015-16 FA Youth Cup as a 16-year old, and made multiple man-of-the-match performances on the way to winning the UEFA Youth League title the same season despite often being the youngest player on the pitch. 

The stand-out academy performances continued over the next couple of seasons as he won pretty much all the silverware there is to win at youth level – including becoming one of only eight players in history to have won the FA Youth Cup three times.

After making his Chelsea first-team debut in the 2017/18 season, Sterling joined newly-promoted League One side Coventry City on loan and helped them to an impressive eighth-placed finish with strong displays throughout the season. He subsequently made the step up to the Championship the following year with Wigan Athletic, before suffering the hamstring injury that ended up taking him up to now.

As seen in his performances for Chelsea’s under-23s in the second half of last season, the former England under-20 international still has plenty to offer despite having been through so much. His trademark burst of pace is still there, as is the ability to tirelessly keep going up and down the right-hand side for the full 90 minutes. 

He has also shown a new level of versatility: whilst in the academy he split most of his gametime between right-back and more attacking positions on the right flank, but he has now shown that he has the capability to play on the right-hand side of a back three too. 

This could come in handy at Blackpool over the course of the season, where Neil Critchely opted for a back three at times last season, but he is expected to slot in at right-back in their 4-4-2. 

They have also signed fellow right-back Jordan Gabriel – who spent last season on loan at the seaside club – from Nottingham Forest, so there will be competition for Sterling, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing given that he is already relatively comfortable at Championship level – or at least was, before injury and illness. 

Ultimately, the thing that Sterling needs most from this loan is regular gametime. The most important thing initially will be simply to work out exactly where his period of halted progress has left him; continuation of his development will obviously also be of interest, but firstly it is about finding confidence to be a regular at Championship level again. 

He clearly has the ability, but he should not be expected to make a rapid ascendancy to being one of the most exciting players in the league – the comeback will take time, and that is absolutely fine.

Armando Broja to Southampton

Armando Broja training at Southampton

Midway through his loan spell at Vitesse Arnhem last season, I wrote a piece for Scouted’s Patreon on Armando Broja, describing his ‘rapid progress over the last couple of years’ as ‘nothing short of remarkable’. It is true, and I quote from the piece: 

‘Almost exactly two years before scoring a brace on his first Eredivisie start in October 2020, Broja was an unused sub for Chelsea in an Under-18 Premier League clash with West Ham. Throughout that 2018/19 campaign the Albanian scored only two goals, playing second fiddle to George Nunn, who, for a bit of context, is currently struggling to get minutes in Chelsea’s under-23 side.

In the space of just a year Broja went from Under-18 deputy to Premier League debutant and Albania senior international, but a loan move straight to Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie still seemed very ambitious considering that he only had ten appearances for Chelsea under-23s to his name, and just four of them starts.’

I then went on to describe how impressive Broja had been at Vitesse — at that point, he was the highest-scoring teenager in Europe’s top 10 leagues. He finished the season as Vitesse’s top scorer, and in only 1,866 minutes too; his 10 goals and 2 assists meant that on average he contributed to a goal 0.58 times per 90 minutes. 

He was impressive in other areas, too: while his back-to-goal play and decision-making on the ball was a bit lacking, he excelled when running the channels and showed a strong ability to set up shots for others inside the box. To have done all this having come straight out of academy football is extremely impressive, but there is still a lot to improve in Broja’s overall game, in particular both his link-up and hold-up play when facing away from goal.

The fact that Broja is still so raw makes his move to Southampton slightly confusing. The only Chelsea loan players to have ever gone straight from Vitesse to the Premier League are Christian Atsu, Tomas Kalas and Patrick van Aanholt — someone as good as Mason Mount took a step in between at Derby County, and Tammy Abraham, who plays the same position as Broja, went on two Championship loans before finding success at Premier League level. 

Obviously, though, development is not linear and all players have different paths, and it’s clear to see why Chelsea, Broja and his camp have made the decision to attempt taking on the Premier League this early. One of the most important things in player development, particularly with regards to playing time and loans, is making sure that momentum is captured, harnessed and not allowed to waste. Broja’s ascendancy since his break at under-18 level at the beginning of the 2019/20 season has, as mentioned, been genuinely remarkable, and it makes sense to try to maintain that upwards trajectory. 

However, there is a strong argument to be made that an upwards trajectory would still have been maintained had Broja been loaned to a promotion-chasing Championship club, without the risk of the Premier League sink-or-swim challenge. 

At a club like Southampton, where Ché Adams and new signing Adam Armstrong are the clear first-choice strikers in Ralph Hasenhüttl’s 4-2-2-2, a decent chunk of minutes will be guaranteed, but they won’t necessarily be stable or consistent. When adapting to the Premier League, stability will be hugely important given that he hasn’t even played in a top five European league before, and he’s unlikely to get that at Southampton under the circumstances.

Development is not linear and all players have different paths, and it’s clear to see why Chelsea, Broja and his camp have made the decision to attempt taking on the Premier League this early

Another thing to consider is that Premier League loans are not typically very successful, especially those involving strikers, for a plethora of reasons. From a Chelsea perspective, neither Patrick Bamford’s nor Tammy Abraham’s PL loans came close to succeeding, but the argument can be made that – although quite a long time ago now – Romelu Lukaku’s did, and the people behind this deal will most likely tell you that Broja has the same quality and determination that the Belgian did.

All this is in the context of Broja having just signed a new five-year contract at Chelsea, spanning to ‘at least’ the summer of 2026. It is fine if Broja doesn’t swim in the Premier League upon the first time of asking, but was the risk of that setback really one worth taking, when there were safer options on the table that would have still provided ample opportunity for progression? 

On the other hand, if he does swim then all of a sudden you have a Premier League-quality striker who is most likely ready to come in and play some sort of role at Chelsea the following season. The evidence of Broja’s time at Vitesse suggests that he is not as likely to swim, given how raw he still is and how much of his wider game still needs refining, but the evidence of his overall development over the last couple of years suggests that he is likely to take the challenge in his stride. 

As cliché as it is, ultimately only time will tell whether the right decision has been made. It is clear that a risk has been taken, but this risk is not one without thought behind it and there is plenty of time to recover and go again if it does not pay off. For now, though, there is plenty to be interested in following Broja’s time at Southampton — even if everything else is disregarded, you can be pretty sure that he will at the very least score a few goals.

Ian Maatsen and Jake Clarke-Salter to Coventry City

In assistant manager Adi Viveash and fan favourite Fankaty Dabo, Coventry City already have Chelsea connections. 23-year-old Clarke-Salter played under the former and alongside the latter in the youth ranks at Cobham, moving up the age groups and winning numerous trophies alongside them. He cites Viveash as having been ‘a massive factor in [his] development’, and with the left-sided centre-back spot in Coventry’s back three free, this loan looks perfectly set to get the ex-England-U21-captain’s career back on track. 

A quick, aggressive defender with an eye for a line-breaking pass, Clarke-Salter has had a complicated last two seasons. Having excelled at Birmingham City on loan in 2019/20, standing out as one of the best centre-halves in the Championship, he was somewhat inexplicably sent back to St Andrew’s for the following season, where a new manager, Aitor Karanka, had just been appointed. 

It is hard to see what Chelsea saw in this; Clarke-Salter had followed up a successful loan at Vitesse Arnhem with an excellent season in the lower half of the Championship, and was ready to play for a promotion-chasing team. As it turned out, the Englishman ended up making only 10 appearances all season as Karanka failed to have any sort of success and was replaced by Lee Bowyer in March. 

Last season was wasted for Clarke-Salter, but it seems that Chelsea have learned their lesson in now sending him out to what looks like a perfect loan destination: both Coventry’s style of play and formation under Mark Robins suit him perfectly; he is comfortable at the level but it is a team with high aspirations pushing to finish in the top half and, perhaps most excitingly from a Chelsea point of view, he will share the left flank with fellow Blues loanee Ian Maatsen.

Maatsen joined Chelsea from PSV Eindhoven as a 16-year-old in 2018, so is a few years younger than Clarke-Salter and has never played with the Englishman (apart from unofficially in preseason). All the same, he possesses much to be excited about. Primary a left-back but very versatile – he plays in midfield at youth level for the Netherlands and played very well on the left-hand side of a back three in Chelsea’s run to the 2019 UEFA Youth League final – he joins Coventry off the back of a successful loan in League One with Charlton Athletic, his first foray into the senior game. 

His versatility found even further bounds there, as he popped up with his first professional goal playing on the right wing, but there will be a defined role for him at the Ricoh Arena: left wing-back in their 3-4-1-2, playing ahead of Clarke-Salter and with the license to get forward and make the left flank his own. 

Unlike Clarke-Salter, who still has Premier League potential but will be happy with a career as a solid top-half Championship player, Maatsen is seen as someone who can make it into Chelsea’s first team in the next few years. With Ben Chilwell firmly the first-choice option on the left side of defence (whether it’s left-back or left wing-back will likely change frequently over the years, and it doesn’t really matter anyway), there will soon be a spot open as his number two. 

Emerson Palmieri has been the latest inductee into the loan army with his move to Olympique Lyonnais, and Marcos Alonso – despite for the moment still being an effective contributor – is nearing his 31st birthday; with Maatsen only aged 19 and playing at a very decent Championship level, there is reason to believe that there could be an opportunity if all goes well. Of course, that is a very large if, and there is still much work to be done just to excel at Coventry, but there is reason to be excited about his chances of doing so.

Levi Colwill to Huddersfield Town

Levi Colwill at Huddersfield

If you were to have a magical footballer-creating machine and input all the instructions for the ideal left-sided centre-back, Levi Colwill is not far off what you’d come up with.

Strikingly composed on the ball and an excellent defender too, the Englishman — who has played up an age group for the Three Lions’ under-19 side — has been a standout performer for Chelsea’s youth sides in recent seasons, and was rewarded with a chance to train with Thomas Tuchel’s first team in the lead up to their season-capping Champions League final.

Colwill is a prototypical modern centre-half: his greatest strengths lie in his ability on the ball. You would do well to find a player in the same position more cool on the ball than the 18-year-old, and although this can at times mean he takes slightly too much of a risk and ends up losing the ball, it is overwhelmingly a net positive for both him and the team he plays in.

"If you were to have a magical footballer-creating machine and input all the instructions for the ideal left-sided centre-back, Levi Colwill is not far off what you’d come up with."

Not only is he able to alleviate pressure on the backline by bravely but calmly carrying or passing the ball through a press, Colwill is also an extremely adept progressive passer. He possesses a beautiful left foot that is capable of both flat, pacey switches of play and incisive, purposeful balls between the lines at high frequency throughout matches — Colwill is a defender whose natural first intention is always to inject pace into the game and move the ball forwards.

Despite him being so impressive with the ball at his feet, Colwill is still a very accomplished defender. He has a built frame and stands at 6’2”, but remains agile and is particularly good at defending space in behind the defensive line. The Southampton-born teenager is also excellent in 1v1 duels, using a mixture of physicality and wits to overcome his opponent.

Even though he has been so impressive at youth level, senior football is a different beast, and even more so the Championship. The task ahead of Colwill is greater than it may seem: to be a starting centre-back for a full season in the English second division at the age of 18, he would have to become the first to do so since Steven Caulker in 2010/11. 

On surface level this may seem daunting, however Huddersfield looks to be a wisely-chosen loan destination which makes the prospect of Colwill achieving it very much realistic. Firstly, they favour a back three, which means that Colwill will have both more defensive protection and more opportunities to get into the team. Secondly, head coach Carlos Corberán likes to play a possession-based style which will suit Colwill down to the ground. 

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Colwill has joined Huddersfield extremely early in the transfer window. The Terriers’ Head Of Football Operations, Leigh Bromby, said upon Colwill’s arrival that ‘Chelsea have shown real faith in [Huddersfield] by making an early decision to send Levi here to continue his development, which is testament to the hard work our team has put in to showcase our plans for him’, showing much encouragement for both Huddersfield’s hope for Colwill and the chances of him doing well.

Huddersfield have a track record of doing well with Chelsea loanees — Kasey Palmer, Izzy Brown and Trevoh Chalobah have all enjoyed productive spells at the John Smith’s Stadium in recent years. He is at a different stage in his development, but the case is no different with Colwill than it was with them: if given chances, he’ll show his quality.

Billy Gilmour to Norwich city

Billy Gilmour at Norwich

It may come as a surprise to some that Billy Gilmour is even going out on loan at all this season. After all, he played 90 minutes as Chelsea defeated Premier League champions Manchester City, and was the star of the show at Wembley in Scotland’s valiant display against England in the EURO 2020 group stages. 

However, aside from the odd start for rotational reasons, minutes have been very hard to come by for the 20-year-old under Thomas Tuchel. Since the German coach came in, Gilmour has played a measly 14% of all possible minutes, and, despite Tuchel waxing lyrical about the Scot on multiple occasions, it is clear that a loan move that guarantees regular minutes is the best course of action for the upcoming season.

Gilmour’s initial rise to the mainstream fore came when he made two consecutive man of the match performances under Frank Lampard as a number six — the deepest of a midfield three — against Liverpool and Everton just before the March 2020 lockdown. From that position, he was able to display not only his magnificent on-ball ability but also the combative side to his game: scrapping for second balls, challenging for aerial duels and making shuttling forward runs.

It may come as a surprise to some that Billy Gilmour is even going out on loan at all this season. After all, he played 90 minutes as Chelsea defeated Premier League champions Manchester City, and was the star of the show at Wembley in Scotland’s valiant display against England in the EURO 2020 group stages. 

However, aside from the odd start for rotational reasons, minutes have been very hard to come by for the 20-year-old under Thomas Tuchel. Since the German coach came in, Gilmour has played a measly 14% of all possible minutes, and, despite Tuchel waxing lyrical about the Scot on multiple occasions, it is clear that a loan move that guarantees regular minutes is the best course of action for the upcoming season.

Gilmour’s initial rise to the mainstream fore came when he made two consecutive man of the match performances under Frank Lampard as a number six — the deepest of a midfield three — against Liverpool and Everton just before the March 2020 lockdown. From that position, he was able to display not only his magnificent on-ball ability but also the combative side to his game: scrapping for second balls, challenging for aerial duels and making shuttling forward runs.

Nathan Baxter to Hull City

Nathan Baxter at Hull City

There are very few goalkeepers aged 22 who have more senior minutes under their belt than Nathan Baxter. Having started out on loan at step 3 with Met Police aged only 17, Baxter has worked his way up the pyramid with Solihul Moors, Woking, Yeovil Town, Ross County and last season League One’s Accrington Stanley. 

There, he was comfortably one of the best goalkeepers in the division, and has been vindicated in his strongly-held belief that going out to get experience from a young age is the best course of action for a goalkeeper.

By virtue of having come through the Chelsea academy since the age of 8, Baxter is strong with the ball at his feet. Comfortable under pressure and able to play off both feet, the Englishman’s tally of 11.18 progressive passes per 90 last season was a league-high. He is also an excellent shot-stopper, boasting particularly good reflexes, and is confident at coming out to collect crosses.

Referred to by manager Grant McCann as Hull City’s ‘number one target’, it looks like Baxter will have a relatively easy path to starting games for the Tigers. 27-year-old Matt Ingram was their first-choice ‘keeper last season in League One, but he didn’t particularly stand out at that level, and the consensus among Hull fans seems to be that — given their promotion — an upgrade was required to match the raise in standard. There is a strong argument that, for a goalkeeper, a loan to a relegation candidate — like Hull this season — is a good idea, because it means that they will face more shots. On top of this, Hull are also a good fit for Baxter because of their willingness to play attractive, attacking football; the Englishman’’s distribution when consistently playing out from the back is something yet to be fully tested at senior level.

As always, one good season in the Championship can change everything, and should Baxter continue his upwards trajectory then Chelsea may well have a ready-made replacement for now-29-year-old Edouard Mendy. At international level, all four current England goalkeepers — Jordan Pickford, Sam Johnstone, Nick Pope and Aaron Ramsdale — have played in the Championship at some point in their careers, and there is real reason to believe that Baxter could follow in their footsteps.

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