Football Features

Gallagher or Colwill? Every Chelsea loanee in the 2021/22 season ranked

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:57, 11 May 2022 | Updated: 12:46, 14 May 2022

Chelsea have received a lot of criticism in the past for their use of the loan system but it has worked for them.

Whether it’s to send academy players away to gain experience ahead of a first team call-up, such as Reece James or Mason Mount, or to add value to their selling price, as they did with Marc Guehi in the summer, the Blues have made it work.

Of course, there have been some failures, players who have struggled to escape the loan system for several years like Lucas Piazon and Kenedy. But over the past few years Chelsea haven’t been as active in the loan market as they previously, infamously, were.

They have allowed some ex-loanees to leave, and focussed on utilising the system to give youth players game time with a genuine eye to playing them (though there are still some older stars who cannot be shifted on permanent deals). This season, they may not have the 42 loanees they boasted back in 2019, but Chelsea do still have 24 players out on loan (excluding Kenedy and Thierno Ballo returned mid-season).

The question is, who is making the most of their time away from Chelsea?

24. Bryan Fiabema

Club: Rosenborg
Position: Forward
Age: 19
League appearances: 2

Chelsea’s most recent loanee, Bryan Fiabema was sent to Norwegian side Rosenborg in March but has played just 7 minutes at the start of the new season.

23. Juan Castillo

Clubs: Birmingham, Charlton
Position: Left-back
Age: 22
League appearances: 5

On his fifth different loan spell away from Chelsea, there appeared to be a time when Juan Castillo would leave the club permanently but it still hasn’t come. After an unfruitful spell at Birmingham in the first half of the season that brought 82 minutes in the Championship, Castillo moved down to League One with Charlton but fared barely any better, amassing 98 minutes.

22. Sami Tlemcani

Club: Merstham
Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 17
League appearances: 6

Sami Tlemcani joined Chelsea from Paris FC in 2020 and became part of their Under-18s side, though he wasn’t their No.1 goalkeeper. As has been the case with other young Chelsea goalkeepers, Tlemcani has been sent to non-league football to test himself, though he conceded 12 goals in his six appearances Merstham.

21. Mason Burstow

Club: Charlton Athletic
Position: Forward
Age: 18
League appearances: 9

Mason Burstow played 16 games in League One for Charlton this season, scoring two goals. But only nine of those appearances have come as a Chelsea loanee. Burstow came through the Charlton academy, breaking into the first team at the end of 2021 and was signed by Chelsea in the January transfer window, before being loaned immediately back.

20. Ethan Wady

Club: Hendon
Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 20
League appearances: 12

Ethan Wady has been doing the rounds in non-league football and is on his third senior loan spell away from Chelsea, all of which have come in the National League or lower. Wady has been thrown straight into the Hendon first team, and was their regular keeper until the end of the campaign, playing 12 matches in total and keeping three clean sheets.

19. Tiemoue Bakayoko

Club: AC Milan
Position: Defensive midfielder
Age: 27
League appearances: 13

One of the aforementioned older players Chelsea have had struggles shifting permanently, Tiemoue Bakayoko back at AC Milan after spending 2018/19 on loan at the San Siro. In Serie A he’s played 12 times so far this season, but that has brought just 483 minutes, five starts and three yellow cards. He’s also only played a full 90 minutes twice. Unfortunately things just haven’t worked out but he may end the season with a league winner’s medal.

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18. Matt Miazga

Club: Alaves
Position: Centre-back
Age: 26
League appearances: 11

A player who hasn’t made an appearance for Chelsea since 2015/16, Matt Miazga is now in Spain with Alaves and it isn’t going too well. The American started six of his first seven league appearances for the club after signing but saw Alaves concede eight goals including three on debut. He has played just four of their 27 games since.

17. Tino Anjorin

Clubs: Lokomotiv Moscow, Huddersfield Town
Position: Attacking midfielder
Age: 20
League appearances: 14

If things had gone differently, Tino Anjorin would be a lot higher, but his development has been hampered. On his first loan spell away from Chelsea, Anjorin joined Lokomotiv Moscow having been persuaded by Ralf Rangnick and he was slowly being bedded in. He scored one goal in 293 minutes across all competitions but has not played since October after suffering a broken metatarsal. He is now back in England, on loan at Huddersfield Town and has played seven times with the play-offs to come.

16. Karlo Ziger

Club: Rudar Velenje
Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 21
League appearances: 15

A name not many outside Chelsea will know, Karlo Ziger is a goalkeeper who appeared on the bench in the Champions League three times last season, and once in the Premier League. This season he is on loan at Slovenian side Rudar Velenje and has kept two clean sheets in 15 games, conceding 21 goals.

15. Danny Drinkwater

Club: Reading
Position: Central midfielder
Age: 32
League appearances: 33

It was a surprise when Danny Drinkwater secured his move to Reading at the end of the summer transfer window as fans thought Chelsea wouldn’t be able to shift him due to his wages. But the Championship was the destination for Drinkwater, and the former Premier League winner (with Leicester) slotted nicely into the Reading midfield.

14. Henry Lawrence

Club: AFC Wimbledon
Position: Right-back
Age: 20
League appearances: 24

On his first loan spell away from Chelsea, Henry Lawrence (a key utility man for the Blues at academy and U23 level) quietly went about his business. The 20-year-old played mostly at right-back for Wimbledon in League One but has also featured on the left and in midfield, starting 17 of his 24 league appearances so far, recording one assist. He was powerless, however, as Wimbledon were relegated to League Two.

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13. Billy Gilmour

Club: Norwich City
Position: Central midfielder
Age: 20
League appearances: 22

If we were basing this off of quality, Billy Gilmour would easily be in the top three. But we’re not. The player who was named Man of the Match on his FA Cup debut, and full Premier League, Champions League and Scotland debuts, has been horribly underused at Norwich City and hasn’t really worked when given a chance.

12. Baba Rahman

Club: Reading
Position: Left-back
Age: 27
League appearances: 29

Another left-back loanee, Baba Rahman was a regular for Reading after joining on loan, starting all 29 of his Championship appearances. His only spells outside the team came when he was with Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations and due to a hamstring injury. And he has been an adept tackler in the Championship this season with 83, averaging 2.9 per 90 minutes.

11. Dujon Sterling

Club: Blackpool
Position: Right-back
Age: 22
League appearances: 24

Dujon Sterling joined Blackpool late in the summer transfer window, when their campaign was already six games deep, but started four of their next six matches. However, it hasn’t been plain sailing as the right-back has once again suffered with injuries and illness. He returned to the starting XI and the performances were reaching their pre-injury levels before another set back saw him miss the end of the campaign. But, according to reports, he has been told to prepare for another pre-season with the Chelsea first team.

10. Ethan Ampadu

Club: Venezia
Position: Centre-back
Age: 21
League appearances: 27

Ethan Ampadu is unfortunately stuck in a position where he is yet to fully nail down where he plays. For Chelsea the view is probably for him to be a centre-back, where he has also been playing for Wales recently. But at Venezia he has most been playing in a midfield role (albeit with a handful of appearances at right-back), playing 27 of their 31 matches since his debut. Those four games have all been missed due to suspension though, for yellow card accumulation (twice) and two red cards. Chelsea won’t be happy with that.

9. Jake Clarke-Salter

Club: Coventry City
Position: Centre-back
Age: 24
League appearances: 29

Another player whose progress has been hampered by injury, Jake Clarke-Salter was doing okay at Coventry before suffering an injury – from which he recovered at Chelsea. But before that he was part of the Coventry side that had risen to fourth in the Championship, and returned as they tried to get themselves back up the table, only to suffer injury again.

8. Emerson

Club: Lyon
Position: Left-back
Age: 27
League appearances: 28

Emerson has been the starting left-back for Lyon since his arrival, missing just six games including one for suspension and a handful the French side rested around the Europa League. His performances were so good that Chelsea had looked to recall him from his loan in the January transfer window due to Ben Chilwell’s injury but Lyon were stubborn and refused to give in. Then they went and played him in attack for a couple of games when their squad was pretty tight.

7. Nathan Baxter

Club: Hull City
Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 23
League appearances: 16

Another excellent goalkeeper, Nathan Baxter has only recently made his way into the Hull City team but his performances are more than enough to shoot him straight up this list. In 16 league appearances for Hull, Baxter has conceded 17 goals and kept seven clean sheets, saving them from relegation. A true season changer – and he has his sights set on a Chelsea spot.

“I’ve not been scared to share with people my belief that I am good enough to play for Chelsea and I have said that for many, many years,” he told Goal.

“It is my dream to play for Chelsea one day. Whether it is this summer or not, I don’t know. They will bring me into the building and we’ll have to wait and see.”

6. Armando Broja (Southampton)

Club: Southampton
Position: Striker
Age: 20
League appearances: 31

Armando Broja spent last season on loan at Vitesse and scored 10 goals in 30 league matches as a teenager, so Chelsea decided to test him out in the Premier League this year. There have been positive moments for Broja but they have perhaps been a bit too few and far between, with the Albanian not scoring in the league since the start of February.

Nevertheless, he has still had a promising campaign and is being linked with both a move to the Chelsea first team and a permanent move away from the club. It’ll be a big summer for the 20-year-old.

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6. Jamie Cumming

Clubs: Gillingham, MK Dons
Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 22
League appearances: 45

Jamie Cumming is an excellent young goalkeeper and played 22 of Gillingham’s 24 League One games after signing but he wasn’t really protected by their struggling defence. And Chelsea clearly made note of this, as Cumming was recalled and sent back to League One, this time to MK Dons. Cumming played 23 league games for MK Dons, keeping 10 clean sheets as they reached the play-off semi-finals.

4. Michy Batshuayi

Club: Besiktas
Position: Striker
Age: 28
League appearances: 31

Besiktas haven’t been at their best in the Turkish Super Lig this season and Michy Batshuayi has suffered a couple of injury issues, but the Belgian remains one of their top players. In 21 league appearances so far this season, the 28-year-old has scored 14 goals and recorded five assists, being directly involved in 0.72 goals per 90 minutes. There will be hopes that this is his last loan spell away before a permanent sale.

3. Ian Maatsen

Club: Coventry City
Position: Left-back
Age: 19
League appearances: 40

When Ben Chilwell was ruled out until the New Year due to injury, Ian Maatsen was the player many Chelsea fans were calling to return from his loan spell at Coventry City (as they couldn’t get Emerson). The teenager has been impressive in the Championship this season, missing just five matches for Coventry since his arrival due to injury and suspension, playing both at left-back and wing-back. His performances were so good that he reportedly caught the eye of Barcelona…

2. Levi Colwill

Club: Huddersfield Town
Position: Centre-back
Age: 19
League appearances: 29

Levi Colwill has been outstanding for Huddersfield in the Championship this season, a real leader at the back despite only recently turning 19. Huddersfield have kept clean sheets in 15 of Colwill’s 29 league appearances this season and he was a regular for the side before injury at the start of 2022. He’ll be a big part of the Terriers side looking to gain promotion through the play-offs, and he’s relishing being compared to John Terry.

“I’ll take it. I’m not going to complain. It’s not a bad thing to be called the new John Terry,” he told The Athletic recently.

“I haven’t made the comparison myself so the fans and media can make whatever comparisons they want to make, it isn’t going to affect me.”

And he’s reportedly going to be given a chance in the Chelsea first-team next season, with Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger all set to leave this summer.

1. Conor Gallagher

Club: Crystal Palace
Position: Central midfielder
Age: 22
League appearances: 31

There was only going to be one number one. Conor Gallagher has been superb under Patrick Vieira at Crystal Palace this season, this third successful loan spell. Gallagher is a special talent, capable of playing both in a deeper central midfield role and further forward without hampering or hindering any of his qualities. Already this season he has eight goals and three assists in the Premier League, and was instrumental in Palace reaching the FA Cup semi-final.

It really wasn’t a contest when Gallagher won Palace’s Player of the Season award, and in a nice parallel, Chelsea Women loanee Emily Orman was named as an unofficial fans’ player of the season.

Palace have a lot to thank Chelsea for this season.