Use them or lose them is an approach often attributed to an ever growing number of Premier League players that are bought (often stockpiled) with the best intentions yet quickly left fighting for game time and regular starting XI selection if they simply fit into a managers plans at the first instance. However as in seasons gone by when players frustrations have reached breaking point and transfers away have been forced through as a consequence of such a lack of first team football, the importance of the loan system in English football has never been greater. Once merely a priceless opportunity for a club competing at a lower level to secure the services of a player way beyond their transfer budget for part or in many cases a full season, as modern statistics will show loaning seemingly unsettled players throughout the differing tiers of both English football and to the escalating numbers of partner clubs namely throughout Europe has since become commonplace in English football. As managers whittle down their squads in pre-season, players deemed surplus to requirements in the short-term but show enough potential to not sell them in the long term epitomise the annual exodus of some of the sport’s most promising players. And whilst what is widely viewed that it is perhaps the Top 6 or 8 clubs in the league that use and arguably abuse the system by stockpiling several of the best hot prospects in the game after extensive scouting reports or to just simply keep them out of reach of fellow title competitors, loaning unhappy players out to further afield has become more and more common and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
The winter transfer window however can also offer another, in some ways more productive perspective of the loan system. As where loans can often feel somewhat of a necessity after the arrival of a new summer signing consequently forces players into an inevitable departure, January sees players move on for much different, often footballing reasons. Whether that be because a player is in search of first-team football or to earn either an international call-up or subsequent summer move away or alternatively on the clubs behalf to help a player regain match sharpness or to just help give their title challenging or relegation battling squad a boost with a loan signing for the second half of the season, clearly there is whole host of much more understandable reasons why players leave on loan in January.
Once again treating ‘five’ as the magic number, after looking at five players from the Premier League and Serie A that may well transferring permanently this transfer window, @ASelbyInfo looks at five Premier League players that could be heading out on loan this January.
Bartosz Kapustka (Leicester City)
Position: Wide Midfielder
Minutes played in all competitions (2016/17): 591 minutes for the Leicester City U23
Despite the amount money spent in the 2016 summer transfer breaking the one billon pounds barrier following a well reported Premier League television rights deal worth an estimated £5.136bn consequently giving top flight clubs a bigger transfer budget to dip into, it still remains difficult to match that moment in live football when a star is born. Without mega money signings such as Paul Pogba and Kevin de Bruyne to name a couple, the Premier League would clearly lack in its global appeal and the money it continues to generate season after season but that split second when you see a young player take their opportunity and shine, no matter what match, competition or team the player is facing, at least for me has and probably never will lose its appeal. The 2016 European Championship, whilst showcasing some of the best players on the continent during the summer competition meanwhile provided the platform for the 20 year old Bartosz Kapustka to do just that.
In a competition that saw his native Poland reach the Quarter Final stage, after a number of standout performances the relatively unknown attacking winger soon became more of a household name amongst wiser football fans. In the same way Mohamed Bešić and Enner Valencia earned themselves moves to Everton and West Ham United two seasons ago after impressing in the 2014 World Cup, it consequently wasn’t long until Kapustka earned himself a much deserved move to the Premier League in the form of league champions Leicester City. Evidently the only way the Polish hot prospect would have forced his way into a title-winning side is if manager and well renowned ‘Tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri, well, tinkered… but this time Kapustka hasn’t been so lucky. For a player that dazzled on the European stage, the Premier a League dream seems to have evaded him for now at least and you would think that Kapustka has one eye on a mid-season loan move away before again reassessing his future in the summer.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Manchester United)
Position: Defender / Defensive Midfielder
Minutes played in all competitions (2016/17): 67 minutes
Love him or hate him there is no denying that the Premier League is better with enigmatic Jose Mourinho a part of it. Banishing both the blues of the previous season which ultimately led to his sacking from then reigning champions Chelsea and his short term hiatus from the top flight of English football, for all of the entertainment we have come to expect off the pitch with the media, Mourinho has in some ways already silenced critics and appears to be defying pre-season expectations, albeit the clubs current run of good form has done little to mount a title challenge because of United’s record at the start of the season. Not only has Jose seemingly transformed a struggling United side that has underperformed ever since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure but in the process Mourinho appears to have recovered personally, rediscovering his own winning formula and looking more and more like the manager of old.
With Mourinho however will always come his critics especially concentrating on his use of, or lack of, young players in his starting XI’s and this has long been a stick in which to beat him with most notably during his times at Chelsea and Real Madrid. And whilst the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard may have continued to feature as they did during the 2015/16 season under previous manager Louis van Gaal, one player for who first team appearances have been incredibly few and far beween is Timothy Fosu-Mensah. After filling in defence last season under LVG, many thought that the promising 19 year old would go on to start regularly for Manchester United, maybe even limited to cup competitions or numerous appearances off the substitutes bench when seeing a game out but sadly for Fosu-Mensah, under Jose Mourinho this has not been the case. After signing a new contract in October 2016 comitting is future to the club until 2020 with the option to extend for a further year, you would think that Manchester United see the Dutchman in their future plans. However after only managing a mere 67 minutes of first-team football, you can almost bank on the versatile defensive unit leaving Old Trafford for somewhere new, on loan this January and the promising 19 year old is sure to have a number of suitors both here in England and throughout Europe.
Fabian Delph (Manchester City)
Position: Centre Midfield
Minutes played in all competitions (2016/17): 242 minutes
A bit like a planned non league fixture after the winter weather has set in, back in the summer of 2015 Fabian Delph’s transfer to Manchester City was on one minute and off the next. Providing all the transfer window drama we have come to expect as football fans in the modern age, after an apparent u-turn was soon reversed a matter of days later (queue the snake emoji’s) the English central midfielder eventually left Aston Villa to join Manuel Pellegrini’s side for an estimated £8m. Largely viewed at the time as a squad player to provide depth as well as catering for the clubs homegrown quota, the transfer was however questioned by football fans and media alike – speculating what such a move would mean for his career with fears a move to City may interrupt his development and chances of progression.
With first team appearances limited to just six in all competitions under new manager Pep Guardiola this season, some have suggested that their initial fears had been confirmed and that such a talent is being wasted at Manchester City. With this in mind combined with the growing rumours of a possible departure due to the resurgence and emergence of fellow central midfielders Yaya Toure and Aleix Garcia respectively, Delph is therefore likely to leave the club this January. When called upon during his time at the club Delph has produced workmanlike performances and for anybody looking for an engine in the centre of the park that can chase the game for 90 minutes without tiring, the England international would be a fantastic signing for a number of Premier League clubs this January. And as we head into a new year with the 2018 World Cup on the horizon whilst edging ever closer to the end of the season, Delph may also be eager to impress national team manager Gareth Southgate ahead of the remaining World Cup qualifiers and a loan move to another Premier League club or even to a team competing for the Sky Bet Championship could be the best for Delph as well as club and country. And if recent rumours are anything to go off, Newcastle United could be a potential destination for Delph this winter window, as could a sensational return to Aston Villa… surely not?!
Ashley Fletcher (West Ham United)
Position: Centre Forward
Minutes played in all competitions (2016/17): 407 minutes
In letting Enner Valencia join Everton in the dying embers of the 2016 summer transfer window, the loan signings of the promising strike pairing of Argentinean attacker Jonathan Calleri and Italy international Simone Zaza appeared to be the answer to the clubs woes in front of goal ahead of a new season. With a reported optional purchase clause included in their agreed loan moves to Slaven Bilić’s side, the club had clearly seen the potential in both strikers to make loan signings initially but sadly all has not gone to plan. Likewise with Andy Carroll and Diafro Sakho proving as unreliable as previous seasons with regards to match fitness after struggling to consistently stay fit so far this season, on occasions when called upon it has been the responsibility of summer signing, former Manchester United starlet Ashley Fletcher to step up for The Hammers this league campaign.
Previously mentored by the now current Wigan Athletic manager Warren Joyce during his time at Old Trafford, since making the move to West Ham last transfer window after his contract with Manchester United expired, Fletcher has gained valuable Premier League experience in the clubs senior first-team with 11 league appearances coming mainly from the bench including run-outs in the FA and League Cup competitions for Bilić’s side. But to increase the number of goals scored at the club in order to help turn the clubs fortunes around for the second half of the season, The Irons are expected to be active this January in the transfer window with Brentford’s Scott Hogan and Celtic striker Moussa Dembele mentioned as just two of several strikers that have been linked with movse to the London Stadium this January. This could therefore leave room for Fletcher to continue his development away from the limelight and gain both further experience and first team football through a loan move this window. Fletcher meanwhile is no stranger to being loaned out; starring on loan for Barnsley last season and helping The Tykes to promotion to the Championship as well as he EFL Trophy.
Borja Bastón (Swansea City)
Position: Centre Forward
Minutes played in all competitions (2016/17): 608 minutes
As the 2016/17 season kicked off last August, Swansea City fans were undoubtedly eager to see their new Spanish striking duo hit the ground running after joining the club in the summer. But with Fernando Llorente and Borja Bastón struggling to reach the dizzy heights achieved by fellow compatriot Michu during his first season at the club back in 2012/13, moves away have been heavily rumoured this January. As well as freeing up funds for fresh recruitment by offloading the pair, a move away for the former La Liga stars would also free up space in the clubs squad for new manager Paul Clement. With an audacious move to high-flying Chelsea looking more and more likely for the veteran Fernando Llorente who has in the past worked under current Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, Bastón’s future however is much more unclear. In what looked like a final audition for the former Atletico Madrid centre forward in Swansea’s FA Cup third round tie against fellow league strugglers Hull City, Bastón failed to find the net in a match where Clement’s side were beat 2-0.
With a relegation dogfight in the pipeline as Swansea City look to beat the drop against all odds, you would think that the club are running out of time should they continue to persevere with Bastón he recaptures his goalscoring form Indeed desperate times often call for desperate measures and it may mean that for all of the potential that the £15.5m club record signing has shown without scoring regularly, the club may need to use the winter window to change their approach by bringing in a proven Premier League goalscorer. A short-term loan move away may be the best for both parties this winter, allowing both to reassess the situation in the summer when the clubs future is much clearer. A return to La Liga looks highly likely with a reported number of the Spanish clubs competing in Europe interested in acquiring Bastón’s services as the forward would not be cup tied for European competitions.