Chelsea’s tradition of sending a host of players out on loan has continued under the new Todd Boehly-led ownership for the 2022/23 season – with over 20 players spending the campaign at temporary destinations across the English football pyramid, as well as internationally.
The reasons for the respective loans vary from individual player to player – with Romelu Lukaku returning to Inter Milan after an underwhelming Stamford Bridge homecoming last season, and the likes of Xavier Simons and Bashir Humphreys looking to pick up consistent first-team minutes elsewhere given Chelsea‘s bloated first-team squad.
How are selected players performing at their loan clubs now the final stretch of the season is in sight?
Callum Hudson-Odoi (Bayer Leverkusen)
With the arrival of Raheem Sterling last summer, and further compounded by the signings of Mykhailo Mudryk and Noni Madueke in the January window, regular first-team minutes for Callum Hudson-Odoi appeared hard to come by in west London. The youngster, who only turned 22 in November, has over 120 Chelsea appearances to his name to date – although only managed 10 league starts last season under Thomas Tuchel, struggling with an achilles tendon issue and lack of an established position in the German’s 3-4-3 setup.
Hudson-Odoi joined Leverkusen in August – hoping to have a similar impact to that of compatriots Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho in the Bundesliga under Gerardo Seoane and force a more concrete role in the Chelsea first-team next season and beyond.
After a debut assist in a 2-3 loss to Freiburg, Hudson-Odoi started the next four league games, alternating between his favoured left-wing position and a more central ‘number 10’ role. The forward also started all of Die Werkself’s Champions League games, scoring his first goal for the club away at Atletico Madrid in a 2-2 draw – Leverkusen finished 3rd behind Porto and Club Brugge in Group B, subsequently dropping into the Europa League.
However, from October onwards, coinciding with the appointment of Xabi Alonso as head coach, Hudson Odoi’s involvement in the first-team declined – picking up just 26 minutes off the bench against Wolfsburg and RB Leipzig, as well as being replaced at half-time in games against both VfL Bochum and Mainz 05. Additionally, the attacker only managed two minutes across both Round of 32 games against Monaco in the Europa League as the German side progressed on penalties. His future in German took a further dark outlook after Hudson-Odoi was left out of the matchday squad entirely in Leverkusen’s 2-3 win over Werder Bremen on the weekend.
Alonso appears to prefer utilising Moussa Diaby, Amine Adli or Florian Wirtz down the left-hand side, with the Englishman only contributing one goal and one assist in 20 games to date, averaging a goal contribution every 530 minutes. According to reports in Germany, Leverkusen have already decided not to make the move permanent in the summer, leaving the winger’s Chelsea future uncertain after 16 years at Stamford Bridge
Ian Maatsen (Burnley)
One of the many academy graduates who made his first-team debut under Frank Lampard in the 2019/20 season, left-back Ian Maatsen spent seasons on loan at Charlton Athletic (where Conor Gallagher also made his first loan move) and Coventry City respectively, accumulating over 70 appearances and becoming a regular for the Netherlands U21 side.
With Chelsea splashing over £60 million on Marc Cucurella in the summer, another loan move for Maatsen appeared wise – Burnley’s project to return to the Premier League immediately under young manager Vincent Kompany presented an ideal opportunity for the 21-year-old, offering regular game time in a demanding league under one of the best defenders in Premier League history.
Maatsen has slotted seamlessly into the Burnley starting XI as the club sit top of the table by 13 points having lost just twice – their last defeat away at Sheffield United in early November. The youngster has started 29 of 36 available league games (playing the full 90 in 19), picking up the 5th most minutes in the squad and chipping in with four goals and five assists. A fine run of form in January which included a brace away at Swansea saw the left-back awarded Championship Player of the Month, his coach also winning the managerial award for January.
Upon receiving the accolade, Maatsen said: “It was a good prize to win. I was really glad it happened because I’ve been through all my loans and I think this one is the best loan so far. So I’m really happy.”
Maatsen is having a remarkable season at the Clarets – as well as exhibiting pace, tenacity and positional poise in abundance, his advanced statistics are also excellent. The left-back has created the most chances in the squad (10) by three, and also ranks third for key passes per 90 with 1.2. With the defender frequently able to overlap Anass Zaroury down the left-hand side, his attacking instincts are fully deployed – ranking 7th in the league for carries into the final third per 90, as well as 10th for progressive carries per 90.
In fact, Maatsen’s statistics are extremely similar to Reece James’ during the right-backs spell at Wigan in 2018/19. Both defenders rank in the top 10 percent for recoveries per 90 when compared to other full-backs in the league, both rank in the top 20 percent for shot-creating actions per 90, and Maatsen outperforms James for progressive passes per 90, progressive passes received per 90 and interceptions per 90.
Having only turned 21 last week, Maatsen certainly has a bright future in the game ahead of him – whether that is in a Chelsea shirt or not remains to be seen, given the intense competition in the left-back role.
Levi Colwill (Brighton)
After a decent campaign last year with Huddersfield Town in the Championship, who missed out on promotion via the play-off final, 20-year-old Levi Colwill has made the step up to Premier League football, joining Brighton for the season and originally linking up with now-Chelsea coach Graham Potter on the south coast.
After picking up just 12 minutes across the opening 15 league games, Colwill started in and completed the full 90 minutes of the following five league games, including a 3-0 win at home to Liverpool, and a convincing 1-4 win at Goodison Park in Everton. The youngster also played every minute in the Seagulls’ Carabao Cup campaign, eventually losing 4-3 on penalties to Charlton in the fourth round.
A torn muscle bundle sadly ended this run of games, although Colwill returned to the matchday squad as an unused substitute in the 2-2 draw at Leeds at the weekend. Despite the relatively limited sample size, Colwill has impressed both statistically and on-the-eye thus far at Brighton, slotting into his favoured left centre-back role alongside the experienced Lewis Dunk in defence.
A defender renowned for his immense on-the-ball abilities and possessional prowess, Colwill has evidenced these qualities in abundance under Roberto De Zerbi, making the move from Championship to Premier League football appear effortless. The centre-back has recorded the third most accurate long balls per 90 in the squad with 2.9 – the same level as that of Kalidou Koulibaly, and always appears calm and composed when playing out from the back.
In fact, when compared to other centre-backs across Europe’s ‘top five’ leagues, Colwill ranks in the top four percent for passes completed per 90 with 82, as well as in the top 13 percent for key passes per 90 with 0.58, 0.34 more than Thiago Silva. At the same time, the defender isn’t afraid to get stuck in with the ‘nitty gritty’ of defending, winning 75 percent of his aerial duels, ranking him in the top one percent for defenders across Europe.
Colwill has said of the move: “As a centre-half, he (De Zerbi) expects a lot more from you, taking time on the ball, finding the right pass, being in control of the game. It’s a lot different to when Graham (Potter) was here. It’s more pass, pass. But you’ve got to learn.
“They (Chelsea) always keep in touch, tell me to keep working hard, good things come to those that wait. I’m gaining things here that I wouldn’t gain anywhere else, so I can’t complain.”
With Thiago Silva turning 39 in September, and Graham Potter seemingly sticking with a back three for the time being, next season may provide a real chance for Colwill to pick up consistent minutes for Chelsea for the first time, having joined the club at U9 level.
Ethan Ampadu (Spezia)
Welshman Ethan Ampadu, 23 in September, joined Chelsea as a 17-year-old and has an array of experience across his various loans – including in Champions League knockout ties with RB Leipzig and frequent Premier League football with Sheffield United, picking up over 65 senior games out on loan, as well as featuring 40 times for the Wales senior national set up.
After a decent 21/22 campaign with Venezia, who returned to Serie A for the first time since 2000, featuring in 29 of 35 available league games across a multitude of positions, Ampadu returned to Italy with Spezia Calcio, based in La Spezia on the western coast, who avoided relegation by six points as Venezia went down.
Linking up with the Italians on matchday five (an unused sub in Chelsea’s defeats at Leeds and Southampton and win over Leicester), Ampadu has only missed one league game so far this season due to suspension as Aquilotti (‘The Little Eagles’) sit five points clear of the relegation zone after 26 games, playing the full 90 in 15. An assist for Sandi Lovric in a 1-1 draw with Udinese was a particular high, securing a crucial point in November.
Ampadu’s versatility and positional adaptability is a huge component of his game – he has experience in a back three or four, at right-back, as well as in a number of midfield roles, and he has applied this attribute well in Italy. Predominantly, the Welshman has slotted in at left centre-back in a 3-5-2 setup, but has also played as part of a midfield two or three on six occasions, as well as once at right-back on his debut.
Throughout his career Ampadu has been renowned for his excellent passing capacity and ability to build out play from the back with accurate long-range balls – a trait he is demonstrating consistently in Serie A. His 3.0 accurate long balls per 90 ranks second highest in the Spezia squad, with his 34.9 accurate passes per 90 coming in at third highest. Additionally, his purer defensive statistics are also highly promising – his 2.5 tackles per 90 and 1.3 interceptions per 90 both second highest in the squad.
In fact, when compared to Trevoh Chalobah, who possesses a similar profile both positionally and stylistically, Ampadu outranks the Chelsea man for key passes per 90 (0.39 v 0.31), passes into the final third per 90 (4.27 v 3.77) and progressive passes per 90 (5.06 v 3.61).
With Ampadu’s Chelsea contract expiring in 2024, the Blues may wish to cash in on the defender in the summer if his loan spell continues to prove a great move, although the youngster has an abundance to offer in terms of both versatility and a top-tier on-the-ball skillset.
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