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Chelsea's on-loan contingent of youngsters seems to grow inexorably each year. Hell, this season they even bought Christian Atsu from Porto on deadline day just so they could ship him out for experience at friends Vitesse. There is a significant range in the statuses of their loanees, from youngsters with no experience to Premier League regulars like Victor Moses and Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgian international receives by far the biggest share of the spotlight, with it often suggested that the Blues were mistaken in their decision to loan him out for a second successive season. In his first he proved himself a more-than-adequate immediate replacement for Didier Drogba even though he was bought as his long-term successor, finishing as the Premier League's sixth-highest scorer with 17 goals for West Brom, while Chelsea's highest-scoring striker was the £50m enigma that is Fernando Torres, who managed just eight.
In 2013, Chelsea's striking contingent of Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto'o have a combined total of just five Premier League goals. Comparatively, in that time, Lukaku alone has 25. This season, of all Premier League players to have had at least 20 attempts on goal, he has hit the target with the highest proportion (56.7%) and has the best conversion rate (26.7%). Impressive stats for someone who is supposedly not yet ready to lead the line at the top level.
At Chelsea, Ba leads the other strikers in these terms, with 50% shot accuracy and 12.5% conversion. Both, clearly, are some way down on those of Lukaku.
While their forwards' goal tallies leaves a lot to be desired, they have experience which Lukaku simply does not. Given Chelsea's wealth of attacking midfielders, their striker needs to make runs into channels to leave space for runners such as Oscar, Hazard or Lampard to burst into the box. That trio have scored 12 league goals this season, while Everton's entire midfield have just seven between them. Perhaps selfless runs into space is something essential that Lukaku would not provide for the Blues.
At Atlético Madrid, Thibaut Courtois continues to develop as Patr Cech's long-term replacement. He is now an established international, though, and Chelsea may have to make a decision about promoting him sooner rather than later and avoid losing him to Barcelona, with whom he has been heavily linked, in the summer. Courtois has kept seven clean sheets in 13 appearances (47%) this season to Cech's four from 13 (30.8%), but that may be merely down to facing fewer shots, given that the two have near-identical saves-to-shots ratios; Courtois saving 77.1% of the shots he has faced compared to Cech's 76.2%. The Belgian's error in letting a looping Toby Alderweireld header find its way into his net in the Champions League last week reminded us that he is not completely infallible, while Cech is not doing enough wrong to warrant losing his place. Another season on loan might be best for the youngster.
Another Belgian Chelsea have out on loan has family connections to the club, with Eden Hazard's younger brother Thorgan enjoying a spell at Zulte-Waregem in his home country. Nine goals in 17 league appearances from attacking midfield shows he may well be playing below the level he should be, while he is performing admirably in the Europa League too. He has created more chances in the competition than any other player (19) while only Lazio's Hernanes has had more shots (21). Still only 20 years of age, he has plenty of time to develop his undeniable talent, and end product at a higher level should be a priority.
Much has been made of the talent of Josh McEachran, but he is yet to prove his credentials sufficiently to warrant anything more than a loan move to the Championship. A terrible run of form for Watford has coincided with a spell in the first team for the youngster, with the club winning only one of the seven games in which he has appeared, compared to five of the 11 he missed. To blame him for that would be reductive, but the bit-part role he is playing for a mid-table Championship side is perhaps more telling.
At Vitesse, Chelsea have no fewer than six players on loan, with Brazilian wonderkid Lucas Piazon the stand-out performer so far, attaining the third-highest WhoScored.com rating of all players in the Eredivisie this season (7.76). With seven goals and five assists from his left-wing berth, he has helped spring the club to the summit of the Dutch league, able to both go down the line and cross or dart in off his flank onto his preferred right foot to unleash shots at goal. Having successfully dribbled past an opponent 23 times this season, he has also laid on 40 chances for teammates and attempted 33 shots himself. At only 19 years of age, there is plenty of time for him to hone his skills and make the step up to Premier League quality, and that could well come as soon as next season.
The Blues' strength in depth is strikingly good. No other club has a squad so big and so talented that they can have players helping out other top clubs all over Europe. While Moses is unlikely to return to Stamford Bridge, having gone to Liverpool this season, the others should all be back and make for a bright future in SW6.
Alistair Tweedale - follow him on Twitter here
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.