Overhauling the Chelsea loan army: A Pride of London debate

Chelsea’s loan policy is even more incendiary than the David Luiz transfer. We asked some Pride of London staffers to put on their technical director pants and tell us how they would manage the Chelsea loan army.

(L-R) Lewis Baker of Vitesse, Andreas Ludwig of FC Utrecht during the Dutch Eredivisie match between Vitesse Arnhem and FC Utrecht at Gelredome on May 01, 2016 in Arnhem, The Netherlands(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)

(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)

Two of the top prospects in Chelsea’s loan army weighed in on the team’s loan policy, and they did not give it a glowing report. With an entire academy coming through the ranks behind them, their comments will not inspire confidence or cohesion among their successors.


If Roman Abramovich were to sack Michael Emenalo, several Pride of London writers would send their resumes to Stamford Bridge. What changes would they bring to Chelsea’s loan army, and who do they think have been the biggest losers of the ongoing debacle?

If you were Chelsea’s technical director, how would you determine where a young prospect goes out on loan? What standards or conditions would you set in place?

Andre Carlisle: First I visit a Jaguar dealer and get an all-black F-Type SVR. With that done, I establish a few ground rules:

1) Everton will never receive another Chelsea loanee as long as I breathe;

2) After loaning to Napoli, Juventus, and Roma and seeing business flows only one-way, Serie A clubs are off-limits as well;

3) Lower division English clubs are also strongly discouraged. We can make exceptions but unless it’s the Premier League, I trust the tactics of outside leagues more.

If this is a player expected to be on the Chelsea 23-man roster the following season I work to get them a loan to a Premier League club. If the player is more than one year away, I assess them further.


If the player is an offensive talent, I shop them to Bundesliga clubs. The German league is fast-paced and requires intensity plus a lot of running. Their teams create more chances and take more shots than all of Europe’s big leagues.

If the player is a defensive talent, I want them in La Liga. Though it isn’t ideal for a young defender to make cameos in Messi or Ronaldo highlight clips, it’s an experience I believe they need. The Premier League doesn’t have an equivalent of either superstar.

If you can hold your own there, you’re ready to face Premier League attacks. Plus, the Spanish league is so top heavy that defending with heart and rigid organization is a lesser club’s only chance.

Our youngest players who need to develop and grow into their bodies will be placed in the Dutch Eredivisie. Vitesse has been a solid loan partner and that would continue.

There. That wasn’t so hard.

Barrett Rouen: First, the player simply needs to get upwards of 20 matches per season for me to even consider the loan. I would even place a clause in the loan contract that the parent club will only pay loan fees if the players play a certain amount of games. That will quickly guarantee the minimum playing time.

You also have to assess quality of opposition and the talent surrounding them. I simply wouldn’t loan players down more than one division, and even that is a push. You don’t want young players developing bad habits and fake confidence in the lower divisions. If they’re to be top-level footballers then their education must be fitting of their potential.

Most teams that come up go straight back down. How does having a young player learn to play relegation-level football help them?


You also want a style of football that is similar to your club. If your club plays tiki-taka don’t loan a player out to a long-ball club. Young players should be learning good professional habits on their loans.

Real Betis is Chelsea’s best go-to loan destination. The players get first division football in a league where twice a year they’ll play the Madrid clubs and Barcelona. They will see just how good they are expected to be and how to play like genuine professionals.

Overall, the loan system needs to be trimmed down. It’s about quality, not quantity. They’re young men, not meaningless trinkets to be thrown about Europe without care or reason. It’s about finding the diamond in the rough, not a handful of rhinestones.

Ajitesh Rasgotra: It’s all dependent on who it is. A player who is on the verge of making Chelsea’s senior squad should be sent to a top flight team. Andre’s mentioned loaning them out to a Premier League side, but I disagree.

I’m firmly in the camp that say the standard of the Premier League is not very high. Perhaps it is different this year, but sending the most talented players abroad would be more beneficial. Experiencing different European styles (they are all groomed for English football in the academy) will only add more strings to their bows.

For those who are younger, the options are wider. They should certainly be loaned out as the standard of reserve football is just not good enough. The Championship is probably an ideal destination. While the Premier League’s quality is debatable, the English second tier is probably the best in the world amongst its peers.

However, you have to make sure that they are playing football. I’m sure Chelsea do this, but half-yearly checks to ensure that they are enjoying regular game time respective of any injuries are vital.

chelsea's loan, tammy abraham

HIGH WYCOMBE, ENGLAND – AUGUST 08: Tammy Abraham of Bristol City celebrates after scoring to make it 0-1 during the EFL Cup match between Wycombe Wanderers and Bristol City at Adams Park on August 8, 2016 in High Wycombe, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images)

What is a reasonable number of players to have on loan? As the newly-hired technical director, would you aim for Chelsea to hit that goal?

Barrett Rouen: The issue isn’t with the number of players out on loan. It has more to do with how well they are still monitored and within the system.

In Italy teams are allowed to co-own players which inflates the numbers slightly. However, it also forces both teams to be invested in the development of the player. Juventus are one of the best-run clubs in Europe along with Bayern Munich. Chelsea could learn a lot from them.

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You shouldn’t have more players out on loan than you can monitor. We have seen this week that Chelsea are failing their loan players by not maintaining the personal relationships. There should be a massive team of scouts who are randomly appearing at games in respective countries and talking to the players, taking them out to dinner, remembering birthdays and maintaining those relationships.

As technical director I would try to see at least 10 games and players per weekend and do this personally, that’s the job! The personal touch is necessary. Simple phone calls and Skype sessions aren’t good enough. Human interaction cannot be undervalued. If you can’t do this then you need to let the players go. It’s the reasonable thing to do.

Andre Carlisle: As far as I can tell, my predecessor used the loan system as some kind of clever bookkeeping maneuver. Parking players’ salaries at other clubs makes the balance sheet look less red when gobs of money are spent all at once (Luiz, Batshuayi, Alonso, etc).

It’s a shell-game. The kind street-hustling crusty characters in top hats beg you to play so they can feel good about themselves.

My aim would be to make the loan system useful to Chelsea’s on-pitch production. Only players who are genuinely expected to play for Chelsea would be brought in. Obviously the club is large and expected to win trophies every season, and a player’s development is as much on him as it is coaches and trainers. Some won’t make it, and that’s fine. A player not good enough to crack the Chelsea 23 should still bring in a decent transfer fee. Product first, balance sheet second.

Oh, you wanted a number…20-25 seems manageable. Though I’ll never turn away talent because I’ve reached a number, I just won’t accept players that don’t have a true shot at playing for the club.

Ajitesh Rasgotra: The number is not so much the issue, as the fundamentals are. Chelsea have 30-odd players on loan because they have copious amounts of youngsters on their books. In this way, it is a necessary evil.

There are a few players who could be in the senior squad instead of being deployed in the field, but the size of the loan army is a justified response in dealing with what they have.

As a director, I would be looking to tackle the issue at its roots. Of course, the Blues want as many talented teenagers as they can afford, but it comes to a point that the model is unmanageable.

Instead of loaning them, move them on permanently. It’s hard to gauge a player’s true potential when he’s 15, but you’ll have a good idea when he’s 18. Cut the slack and focus on those who genuinely have a chance of becoming Chelsea FC stars.

Chelsea fans wave flags ahead of the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Chelsea and Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in London, England on April 18, 2012. (LLUIS GENE/AFP/GettyImages)

(LLUIS GENE/AFP/GettyImages)

Who has been the biggest loser from Chelsea’s loan policy?

Andre Carlisle: Chelsea. Big money signings have filled gaps at left-back, striker, and center-midfielder. Ryan Bertrand or Nathan Aké should be at left-back. Romelu Lukaku should be the striker, and Kevin De Bruyne should be in midfield.

Given the players Chelsea have bought – and the shakiness that still exists in these positions – Chelsea lost not only money, but an opportunity to transition without the thud of last season.

Then, the kids. Moving from locale to locale and growing distant from the club, they’re in football purgatory. It’s why Piazon, Cuadrado, Salah, KDB and others fled. Let’s hope Andreas Christensen still remembers our faces.

Barrett Rouen: Chelsea fans have been the biggest losers from Chelsea’s loan policy. The utter failure of the system has left Chelsea fans with players who don’t represent them or the club with dignity or respect. It has left them with players who view the club as a stepping stone.

The club has suffered a dip in quality because of it. The fans pay both emotionally and monetarily.

Ajitesh Rasgotra: It’s certainly been the players. You can moan about how Chelsea suffered last season due to the failings of the system, or you can moan about the club signing players to fill gaps. However, this is what a top club does. It signs players to boost the squad. The only outfit to consistently bring people through their academy is Barcelona. Manchester United? Nope, that was one team in the 90s.

The players in the system are given false hope for their careers and lose out on vital formation years. Lucas Piazon, for example, has been complaining about his situation. If he had been cut loose two years ago, he would probably be on his way to becoming a solid Premier League player. A club would have signed him and he would have played in a stable environment, knowing where his future lies.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Sound off in the comments below!

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