Why Conte must give loaned-out midfielder Chelsea chance
You’re never more than 10ft away from a Chelsea loanee, as the joke goes. But while many of the Blues 38 loanees are unlikely to warrant a start at Stamford Bridge anytime soon, one man who definitely deserves that opportunity is Lewis Baker.
The 21-year-old midfielder is currently in his second season on loan at Dutch side Vitesse, and has begun the season in fantastic form, with five goals in nine games.
Just as importantly, though, the loanee has dominated the middle of the park in a number of games this season, with his slick passing and rapid acceleration. He’s also established himself as the set-piece specialist for Henk Fraser’s men.
Saturday’s 2-1 comeback win against Groningen was largely down to Baker’s inspirational display. The England Under-21 international netted a stunning free-kick after 44 minutes, before whipping in an inch-perfect set-piece for defender Kelvin Leerdam to score.
Interestingly, Vitesse also employ the same system Antonio Conte has implemented at Chelsea, with a physical centre-forward flanked by two creative and pacy wide players.
The fact that Baker has worked so well in this system, especially linking up with pacy Vitas wingers Milot Rashica and Adnane Tighadouini, suggests he’d be able to instantly fit into the tactical jigsaw which Conte is putting together.
There’s no question of Baker’s ability to handle a big test, either. The youngster scored four times as England Under-21s won the 2016 Toulon Tournament, including an audacious header to open the scoring in the 2-1 final victory over France.
Top scorer at Toulon, it’s no wonder that Vitesse were happy to hold onto this exceptional talent. But with Chelsea having been outscored by most of their fellow Premier League big boys so far this season, Conte should look to get this central midfield magician back to the Bridge as possible.
Gametime at Vitesse may be helping Baker to develop, but with the likes of Pedro, Oscar and Cesc Fabregas all goalless and uninspiring in the Premier League so far this season, surely Baker deserves his chance.
Chelsea are next in action against Leicester, with the hosts 4/7 to notch up a victory against the Premier League champions.
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