By Stefan Coerts
Much has been said about Chelsea’s loan policy over the past 12 months, with the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku and Thorgan Hazard all making huge impacts at their temporary clubs, but it is the Stamford Bridge side’s partnership with Eredivisie outfit Vitesse that has led to more criticism than anything else.
The Arnhemmers were challenging for the Eredivisie title halfway through the season, with Chelsea loanees such as Lucas Piazon, Christian Atsu and Patrick van Aanholt among their star performers, and the Gelredome outfit were jokingly referred to as ‘Chelsea B’ by some of their critics.
Vitesse eventually failed to keep up after the winter break and had to settle for sixth spot in the table, but there’s little doubt that their close relationship with Chelsea will continue over the years to come.
Current Chelsea first-teamers Tomas Kalas and Nemanja Matic have both enjoyed successful spells at the Eredivisie side in the past few years and the Premier League giants will be hopeful that some of their most promising youngsters can emulate the aforementioned duo. Goal takes a look at how the Chelsea loanees who plied their trade in Arnhem this season fared and analyses whether they are ready for a return to Stamford Bridge.
|PATRICK VAN AANHOLT
Patrick Van Aanholt has enjoyed yet another stellar season in Arnhem as he wore the Vitesse jersey for the third year in a row. The defender has been arguably one of the best full-backs in the Eredivisie and was even rewarded with a call-up for Netherlands’ national side following his fine performances. The 23-year-old has made significant progress defensively, while also contributing plenty in possession and he seems ready for a step up in class. With Ashley Cole seemingly on his way out of Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will most likely have a vacancy at left-back and Van Aanholt will be dreaming of a return to west London, although Southampton’s Luke Shaw appears to be Jose Mourinho’s main candidate to fight it out with Cesar Azpilicueta next term.
Christian Atsu has been one of the surprises of the 2013-14 campaign and was deservedly voted player of the season by the Vitesse fans. The Ghana international - who has featured both in midfield and in attack - has netted five goals and created seven more in 26 Eredivisie appearances, impressing with his pace, dribbling and intelligent passing in the process. The 22-year-old still has some way to go before he is ready for a return to Chelsea, however, and he is likely to spend next season out on loan once more. Atsu recently declared that he would be happy to stay at Vitesse for another year and a prolonged spell in Arnhem could be on the cards for the former Porto man.
Lucas Piazon started his Vitesse career brightly as he netted 11 goals and set up eight more in the first half of the 2013-14 season to guide the Arnhemmers to the top of the table. His fine form even led to rumours about an early Chelsea return when the Blues parted company with Juan Mata during the winter break, but the Brazilian eventually stayed at the Gelredome. The 20-year-old failed to replicate his mesmerising form in the second half of the season, though, as he hasn’t found the net since December. There’s no denying that Piazon is immensely talented, but the winger could do with another season out on loan in order to gain more experience and his short-term future could very well lie in Arnhem.
Expectations were sky high when Bertrand Traore arrived at Vitesse halfway through the season, but it took the Burkina Faso international quite a bit of time to adapt to his new surroundings. The youngster has shown glimpses of promise over the past few months, though, and his eye for a killer pass, intelligent movement off the ball and silky technique have marked him out as a rather special talent. Nevertheless, he is by no means at the level required to succeed at Chelsea yet and needs more game time in order to develop. An extended stay at Vitesse seems a realistic option and would surely benefit the 18-year-old.
|CRISTIAN CUEVAS, GAEL KAKUTA & SAM HUTCHINSON
Gael Kakuta missed the start of the season due to injury and failed to break into the first team again once he had recovered. The Frenchman scored just once in 12 league games before returning to Chelsea in January and eventually joining Lazio.
Cristian Cuevas failed to make a single appearance for Vitesse after joining them at the start of the season and left the club for a loan spell at Eerstedivisie side Eindhoven in January.
Sam Hutchinson featured just one minute for Vitesse in their 1-0 win over Ajax before leaving the club again during the winter and eventually signed for Sheffield Wednesday on a temporary deal.
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