Where Are They Now? A Look at Chelsea’s Loanees and Recent Transfers

By
Updated: November 18, 2014

The Grass is Greener

When any professional footballer leaves a club, it is assumed that they are one of three things: surplus to requirements, unhappy with a lack of playing time or looking to impress elsewhere with an eye on returning to the club. At a club like Chelsea, even the best players can find themselves dropped from the squad if they aren’t performing well. However, not every player who fails to immediately make the grade gets sold – certain players who show potential for development but have yet to hit their peak form are loaned to a club where they can excel.

As fans of any club will admit, we develop emotional attachments to those who wear the crest of our favorite club. They are an extension of us and we of them. Some of us develop an all-too-serious attachment to their favorite players when they make their exit. However, it’s important to focus on the fact that clubs make emotionless assessments based on what is best for them financially with an end goal of winning. When I say winning, I mean matches, competitions, the fans’ hearts, new sponsors – anything and everything surrounding the club.

But what about the players? Is the grass always greener on the other side? I took a look at a few former Chelsea players, recently transferred, and some current Chelsea loanees competing for a similar position, to see if their time away has been a success, or not.

 

A Mata of Time

Mourinho’s arrival at Chelsea signified many things. On one hand, it was clear he would bring his own tactical approach; on the other, it wasn’t clear who wouldn’t fit into his plans. A trait for which he’s pretty well-known is the preference for versatile, hard-working attacking midfielders who put in a shift on the offensive and defensive end.

Juan Mata, a Champions and Europa League winner with the club and player of the year in the season prior to José’s arrival, probably never assumed he’d see more of the pitch from the bench than while on it. Still, many pointed to the fact that Mourinho wasn’t keen to let Mata have a ‘free role’ and there was speculation that he found the Spaniard’s defensive capabilities severely lacking. Come January, it was apparent that Juan was on his way out, to the disbelief of some and the sadness of many a Chelsea fan. The real shock, to me at least, was that he found his way (via helicopter) to Moyes’ Manchester United.

‘I would like to win the Premier League. It’s a very special trophy for every player that plays in this country. At this club I believe you can achieve anything.’ – Juan Mata on signing for Manchester United

But how has he done? He left in search of playing time (and, allegedly, titles etc.) but has he been playing more matches? Has he contributed in those matches? What impact would he be making had he stayed, if any? Let’s try to break that down by comparing his performances over recent seasons against each other (stats via Squawka):

 

Mata’s best year was obviously his last before transferring and isn’t really much of a comparison. What I found notable are his stats for the most recent season as compared to the last. In his first half season at Manchester United, most of which he spent under the tutelage of David Moyes, Mata was what you’d call a main man. That he would feature in the starting eleven each week was a given – after all, he was United’s record signing – at least at the time. He was also, for the most part, played in his preferred position with minimal defensive responsibility. As such, his performances for the Red Devils far outclassed his first half of the season spent in West London. United may have struggled, but he was one of few bright sparks.

This season, Mata doesn’t yet seem to have the favor of new manager Louis Van Gaal, who has yet to discover where he could be most lethal. Still, in the matches in which he has featured, his impact has been far greater than under Mourinho at Chelsea. His attack score is almost double that of his 2013/2014 season and he has played fewer matches (this is likely an illustration of the lack of starting places Mata earned under Mourinho). Juan’s other stats impress as well: his key passes [9], chances created [10] and assists [1] during United’s four months of matches this season are on pace to dramatically improve upon those from his five months spent under José at the Bridge. For now, it would appear that his decision to transfer was the right one.

 

Wingmen

Chelsea boast an impressive slew of attacking midfielders currently plying their trade at the club. Hazard, Willian, Schürrle, Moses, Marin, Salah, T. Hazard, Atsu, Traore – the list goes on. Some are currently on loan, and others could soon find themselves doing the same in an effort to impress – after all, each possesses attacking strengths coveted by many a club.

I’d like to focus on just two players, from whom Mourinho would likely be first to choose if he were given the chance. Marko Marin and Victor Moses, who both spent the previous season out on loan, currently play for Fiorentina and Stoke City, respectively. At Chelsea, neither had much success breaking into the first team and, for the benefit of both parties, they left in search of playing time and improved form.

But have they found it? Does their form compare to the current crop of Chelsea wingers on offer to José? Would they, if they returned, usurp anyone? I analyzed several key stats of Moses and Marin over the past couple seasons and compared them to those of Chelsea’s first and second choice players at their position. I started with Moses (stats via Squawka):

Unlike Marin, Moses has only gone on loan to clubs in the Premier League, and, while featuring in the same league as your parent club isn’t a requirement for a loanee, it could be argued that a player facing competition in the same league would be better suited to return. At Liverpool last season, Moses struggled to find his feet. Playing second fiddle to the likes of Sturridge, Sterling and sometimes even Coutinho, Moses found it difficult to get first team minutes and featured most often as a substitute, looking to make an immediate impact with fresh legs. His lack of chances created paints a rather dreary picture: he wasn’t making enough of an impact to break into the first team, and his inability to affect the match once brought on made him even less likely to feature.

At Stoke City, Victor Moses has hit the ground running. He has already seen more minutes in the first nine matches of the season than he did in the 19 matches in which he played for Liverpool. This is no fluke. In his nine matches for Stoke, Moses has racked up three assists (three more than last season at Liverpool), scored a goal (tying his tally at Liverpool), made five more key passes [15] and has created eight more chances [18] than last season. Overall, a marked improvement for the on-loan Nigerian. But where does he compare to Chelsea’s current crop of attacking midfielders (stats via Squawka)?

Many would be surprised by how well Victor Moses appears to be doing at Stoke, especially when compared to those players we chose not to loan out. There is arguably a distinction to be made between the styles of Stoke and Chelsea, but his effectiveness cannot be denied.

Marin’s story is quite different than Moses’. When Marin – dubbed “The German Messi” – made his £7m move from Werder Bremen to Chelsea, many expected to see what about his play gave him such a moniker. Now, years after he failed to impress in England, Marin is still looking to make a major impact elsewhere. With Sevilla last year, Marin was at his best since making his move from the Bundesliga. Still, Mourinho wasn’t keen to make him a part of his 2014/2015 squad, apparently finding Mohamed Salah more suited to his plans for the immediate future. To better understand why, I took a look at Marin’s metrics (stats via Squawka).

Featuring most often as an impact sub for Sevilla, Marin rarely got the chance to prove himself in the starting eleven. However, and despite the fact that he played in far fewer matches, Marin had more assists in league play over last season than André Schürrle and Willian. Still, his inability to convert saw him miss all 17 opportunities he had to score. Further hampered by fitness issues and a recurring hamstring injury, Marin had trouble cementing a place and returned to London.

At Fiorentina, Marin hasn’t had enough match time to realistically analyze his contributions (or the lack thereof) having made just two appearances in the Europa League for La Viola. Unless he makes great strides over the remainder of the season, he may find himself looking at yet another loan spell, or a termination of contract. Salah, despite his infrequent appearances, is not injury prone and plays in a more direct fashion (or at least we’d like to think so), making him the better fit.

 

In Defense of Defending

I have no trouble recalling the headlines reading ‘David Luiz breaks transfer record for defender in £50m PSG move‘ and other such eye-catching wordings. To myself, and undoubtedly many Chelsea fans, it was a rather perfect ending to an imperfect story. Luiz scored his first goal for the club against United in a 2-1 comeback victory – a moment that forever endeared him to millions of Blues fans. He went on to play in and win both the Champions and Europa Leagues – defeating his former club Benfica in the latter – and was a major part of our successes during his time at the club.

That being said, the Brazilian centre-back-cum-holding midfielder also had his fair share of frustrating moments while with the Blues. Described by Gary Neville as a ’10-year old on a Playstation,’ Luiz’s decision-making and understanding of his role in the team were often called into question. Sometimes playing too far forward, other times rash in challenge and overzealous with his defending, the big-haired geezer was never going to be a Mourinho player. Above all, Mourinho craves consistency, especially in defense.

It’s understandable why so many were shocked when Paris Saint-Germain came calling to the tune of £50m for Luiz as a defender to partner countryman Thiago Silva in the heart of their defense. But is he as lackadaisical as many think? Has Ligue 1 proven more suitable to his style of play or has he just become more accustomed to the position following his performances in the World Cup? I took a look at his progression (stats via Squawka).

It appears that Luiz is remaining honest about his defensive duties, reflected in an increased amount of short passes, yet coupled with more defensive errors already this season as he had the entirety of his final season with us. To get a better idea of how he’d shape up if he were still at the club, I compared his numbers against those of our most established centre-back pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill (stats via Squawka).

At a glance, it would seem like Luiz’s quality passing and limited loss of tackles indicates a dependability and consistency for PSG (especially when compared with Cahill’s numbers for the beginning of the season). It could also be argued that Cahill has more responsibility in Chelsea’s new system than Luiz does at PSG, but it is certainly notable that he is seeming to settle in quite well. Considering the fact that his partnership hasn’t been exclusively with Silva, as Marquinhos filled in during the former’s injury spell, Luiz’s start to the season seems quite impressive. Still, his propensity to make defensive errors in what many consider a less competitive league is reason enough to collect his fee and find new talent (which, in Zouma, Chelsea have done).

Sticking with the defenders, I wanted to see how Ryan Bertrand has been doing on loan at Southampton. He spent last season on loan at Aston Villa, hoping to impress. This season, facing competition from the likes of Filipe Luis and César Azpilicueta, Bertrand’s best option was to again leave the club in search of playing time. It would appear that he made the right choice. Under Ronald Koeman at Southampton, Bertrand has been nothing short of impressive as an integral part of a miserly defense that has conceded a league best five goals in the first 11 matches. To see just how well he has been playing, I took a look at Bertrand’s progression over the past few seasons (stats via Squawka).

This season, Ryan Bertrand is on pace to better his previous seasons’ successful passes and pass completion percentages by Christmas. Considering the fact that Southampton play an attacking style in which Bertrand and his opposite, Clyne, get high up the pitch to supplement the attack, the Chelsea loanee deserves a good amount of praise. Still, would he match up to Luis and Azpi? I compared their numbers so far, and threw in Ivanovic just to get some symmetry (stats via Squawka).

Although it appears he is winning the majority of his one-on-one duels, his high number of lost tackles could suggest he is getting caught out of position and having to cover more ground than he is responsible for. Azpilicueta has also lost numerous tackles, three more than Bertrand, but few would label him a porous defender. If Bertrand can maintain his form at Southampton this season, he will provide Mourinho with a difficult choice come August of next year.

 

Final Thoughts

Transfers

For Juan Mata, transferring to United was the right choice at the right time. Had he not left when he did, he would have likely ended the season having made sparse appearances, dissatisfied with his football and upset with the manager and the club. Whether he will have continued successes in Manchester isn’t certain, but leaving Chelsea was definitely the right move.

Likewise, for David Luiz, a transfer was the best option. The introduction of Matic to bolster the defensive midfield suggests that Luiz was unlikely to break into the first team in that position. With Mourinho preferring Cahill and Terry at centre-back, he was even less likely to oust them from their places. His best option was a departure to a club who really wanted him – PSG was it.

Loanees

Victor Moses may well find himself back at Chelsea and competing for a place in the first team next season, as he has had an impressive start to the season at Stoke. Players like Salah could be sent out in his stead, and there may be other new faces to compete with, by then. His performances, if they remain consistent, will be vital to Stoke’s successes, and he will want to continue showing his quality.

Marko Marin will need to have an excellent (and injury-free) remainder of the season. It’s unlikely, but if he were to remain healthy and breaks into the first team, it would be hard for Mourinho and staff not to give him a long look ahead of the next season. What’s more likely to happen, is that we’ll look to cash in on Marin prior to the end of his contract.

Ryan Bertrand has been arguably the best on-loan player from Chelsea this season and is definitely in his best form since signing a new contract with the club in September of 2012. Starting week-in week-out for the Saints will only up his pedigree, and having a young, promising loanee defender competing at a high level in the Premier League is ideal for the club.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *