Chelsea’s ‘loan army’ tradition continued last season - the club adopting a strategy of farming out a large number of players on temporary deals, with 32 leaving on loan in the last campaign.
This number includes academy graduates seeking regular first-team minutes (Ian Maatsen) to older players without a future at Stamford Bridge looking to maintain fitness and attract clubs (Danny Drinkwater).
The club views their loan strategy as a ‘win-win’ situation. If a player impresses at their host club, they can be introduced into the Chelsea first-team and fight for a place in the side. However, if they don’t perform at Premier League level but catch the eye nonetheless, the player can be sold to another club, and these profits can be reinvested into future transfers.
With this in mind, which players loaned out last season performed the best at their respective clubs?
20-year-old centre-back Marc Guehi has been a Chelsea player since the age of seven, and spent last season with Swansea City in the Championship. Guehi joined the Swans for the second half of the 2019/20 season, and his impressive form saw this loan extended to cover last season.
Guehi has been a stalwart in a Swansea side that narrowly missed out on promotion after finishing 4th, featuring in 40 out of 46 available league games, including every minute of the playoff semi-finals and final. Guehi was named Sky Sports Man of the Match in both legs of the semis versus Barnsley, illustrating his seniority and importance in the side, before the Swans lost to Brentford in the final.
Guehi’s form has drawn the constant praise of manager Steve Cooper, who won the under-17 World Cup with England - a team including Guehi as well as Conor Gallagher and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Cooper said: "He’s athletic, but he can play comfortably with the ball … defensively he is good and that’s obviously an important feature in senior football … Marc is a calming influence and when he’s a lot older he will be a real leader and captain."
Guehi’s advanced statistics also paint a very promising picture for a player that doesn’t turn 21 until July. Geuhi ranks in the top five in the Swansea squad for tackles per 90 (1.6), interceptions per 90 (1.6), clearances per 90 (2.6) and accurate passes per 90 (36.5). Geuhi put in a superb display in the playoff semi-final first-leg at home to Barnsley - winning 100% of his aerial duels, 75% of his ground duels, and completing seven clearances.
With Swansea losing out on promotion, Guehi will likely spend the 2021/22 season out on loan with a Premier League side. According to The Athletic, Crystal Palace are interested in a move for the youngster, whilst Newcastle are also reportedly monitoring his situation. Regardless of where he ends up next season, Guehi will hope he can follow in the footsteps of Mason Mount and Reece James and establish himself as a starter at Chelsea in the near future.
Despite not turning 20 for another three months, striker Armando Broja has already featured six times for the Albanian national side, and made his Chelsea debut in March last year in the final game before lockdown - the 4-0 home win over Everton.
According to Sky Sports, Chelsea have begun contract extension talks with the youngster, with Thomas Tuchel reportedly considering involving Broja in the first-team squad next season, given the uncertainty surrounding Tammy Abraham’s future.
Broja had a fine season at Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivisie last season - a club that has also hosted Mason Mount, Nemanja Matic and Bertrand Traore. Broja featured in 30 of 34 available league games, missing two in December due to COVID-19.
Broja scored 10 in the league and assisted two, placing him at joint-top scorer with Loïs Openda in the Vitesse squad, although Broja’s goals per 90 rate is superior (0.48 versus 0.37). Broja often appeared off the bench, playing an equivalent of 20.7 full 90 minutes.
Broja’s goals were integral to Vitesse securing a 4th place league finish, the clubs highest finish since 2013, and qualification to the Europa Conference League. Broja was also crucial in Vitesse’s run to the KNVB Cup final, scoring in the semifinal, and assisting in the final as Ajax won 2-1.
Broja also proved his versatility with Vitesse, a trait Thomas Tuchel highly values. In Vitesse’s 3-5-2 system, Broja interchanged between both the main centre-forward role and the supporting striker. This flexibility is evident in his heat-map, covering a lot of ground and impactful across attacking areas:
With Broja’s current contract set to expire next summer, the Blue’s are keen to wrap up a deal for one of Europe’s most exciting attacking teenagers.
22-year-old striker Ike Ugbo’s contract is set to expire this summer, with the youngster linked with moves to both Watford and Fulham. This ends a 14-year affiliation with Chelsea, after five different loan spells across four years. Ugbo had an excellent campaign with Cercle Brugge in the Belgian Pro League last year, playing the best football of his career, and finishing the season as Chelsea’s highest scoring loanee with 17 goals.
Ugbo played in every league match for Cercle, playing the full 90 in 21 of an available 34, the most minutes in the Cercle Brugge squad overall. Ugbo finished as top scorer in the Cercle squad by 11 goals, and joint fifth in the league overall.
Ugbo also ranked highest in the Cercle squad for shots per 90 (1.8), shots on target per 90 (0.7), and his goal every 171 minutes is only behind Kevin Denkey, who only started one game.
Ugbo played in a multitude of different systems last season, operating as a sole striker in a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 in the majority of games, as well as in a front two in a 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 setup at times. Ugbo also developed the knack of scoring braces, bagging two in one game on four different occasions.
It was this form that has seen Ugbo linked with top European sides such as AS Monaco and Eintracht Frankfurt in recent weeks. Still relatively young, Ugbo has an exciting future wherever he decides to move, and will have the support of Chelsea fans at his next club.