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June 2021

The Loans: two clubs dominate the loan deals this summer. But is it really working for them?

By Tony Attwood

I started the summer thinking I might run four indexes this summer (see note at the end) one of which tracks all the players going out on loan from PL clubs, but the numbers grew so rapidly, and included so many players I hadn’t heard of (meaning I had to keep double checking the spellings), I’ve abandoned that and instead decided to list the Arsenal loanees, while for other clubs just the totals thus far.

As of last night the Arsenal situation, using the original format, was…

From Total To Player
Arsenal 6 Stuttgart Asano
Bristol Rovers Bola
Getafi Martinez
Preston Stephy Mavididi
Birmingham Jenkinson
Birmingham Brammall

And now the loans totals for everyone else are below (and of course there is a chance someone has moved in the last day or so while these numbers were put together, plus of course my usual incompetence with maths.)

  • Chelsea 22
  • Manchester City 14
  • Burnley 9
  • Brighton and Hove Albion 7
  • Everton 7
  • Arsenal 6
  • Huddersfield Town 6
  • Manchester Utd 6
  • Swansea 6
  • Liverpool 5
  • Newcastle 5
  • Southampton: 4
  • Stoke: 4
  • West Bromwich: 4
  • Bournemouth: 3
  • Leicester: 3
  • Tottenham: 3
  • West Ham: 3
  • Watford: 2

Can we tell anything from this?  Only that two clubs – both funded by unimaginable wealth, are hyper active in the loan market.  Indeed also as far as I can make out (and I am certainly prepared to be corrected on this) Chelsea have loaned six players to SBV Vitesse (often written in the UK press as Vitesse Arnhem) alone.  We have considered the links between Chelsea and this club, elsewhere on the site, so I won’t go through it all again.

Vitesse play in the Eredivisie, the highest echelon of professional football in the Netherlands.  They finished last season in ninth, but this season after just a couple of games they are top of the league.

Looking at the numbers above what we can see here is that according to my counting there have been 119 loan deals made by the 20 clubs, making it fractionally under six per club on average.

But if we take out the two multi-billionaire clubs we have 83 loan deals which makes an average of 4.6 per club.

So the two top loaners are doing an average of 18 deals each and the rest are doing an average of four or five deals each.  That makes me thing there is something odd here.

Last season I repeatedly asked why Chelsea and Manchester City behave in this way.  If it were to find talent, one might expect that by now these clubs to be miles ahead of everyone else, given the numbers of loanees but it seems not.  True Chelsea won the League, but I am not sure they did it via their loan policy.

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Of course we don’t have the squad lists for this season yet but a year ago the numbers of academy players who were in the first team squads of the PL clubs at the time looked like this (this data from the Daily Mail – sorry about that).

  • ARSENAL – 3: Chuba Akpom, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Iwobi
  • Bournemouth – 0
  • Burnley – 0
  • Chelsea – 3: Nathaniel Chalobah, Reuben Loftus-Cheek, John Terry
  • Crystal Palace – 1: Wilfried Zaha
  • Everton – 2: Ross Barkley, Tyias Browning
  • Hull – 0
  • Leicester – 2: Andy King, Jeffrey Schlupp
  • Liverpool – 1: Cameron Brannagan
  • Man City – 1: Kelechi Iheanacho
  • Man Utd – 3: Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford
  • Middlesbrough – 2: Stewart Downing, Ben Gibson
  • Southampton – 4: Jake Hesketh, Harrison Reed, Matt Targett, James Ward-Prowse
  • Sunderland – 2. Jordan Pickford and Lynden Gooch
  • Stoke – 1: Ollie Shenton
  • Swansea – 3: Joe Allen, Ben Davies, Jazz Richards
  • Tottenham – 4: Tom Carroll, Harry Kane, Josh Onomah, Harry Winks
  • Watford – 1: Adrian Mariappa
  • WBA – 3: Saido Berahino, Sam Field, Jonathan Leko
  • WHU – 2: Mark Noble, Reece Oxford

Now you can tell from Arsenal’s list, even if you don’t know the in’s and out’s of other clubs that this was the list of players who were being given squad numbers and looked like they might make it.  Akpom didn’t.  So this is an optimistic list at the start of the season for each club.

Each club had its failures.  To take Chelsea, Nathaniel Chalobah didn’t make it last season, and played two games for Watford.  Reuben Loftus-Cheek has played 22 for Chelsea but ended up on loan to Palace for whom he played two.

For Manchester City Kelechi Iheanacho played 46 across the years but last season was at Leicester for whom he got one game.

For Arsenal on the other hand Gibbs played 137 league games while Iwobi has had 40.

Clearly then the mass-loan system for Manchester City and Chelsea isn’t as yet helping develop players who make it to the first team.  But when we dealt with this last time several correspondents wrote in to say that for Chelsea it was a way of getting around FFP, but they didn’t explain why and how, and I have been puzzling this ever since.

One possible argument is that Chelsea develop players to sell on for a profit, without them playing much, or at all for Chelsea.  Looking through  some figures provided by the Daily Telegraph I found four of these.

Papy Djilobodji

  • Bought: FC Nantes – £3 million – 2015
  • Sold: Sunderland – £8 million – 2016
  • Profit: £5 million
  • Appearances for Chelsea: 1

Thorgan Hazard

  • Bought: RC Lens – £425k – 2012
  • Sold: Borussia Monchengladbach – £6.8 million – 2015
  • Profit: £6.375 million
  • Appearances for Chelsea: 0

Romelu Lukaku

  • Bought: Anderlecht – £18.7 million – 2011
  • Sold: Everton – £30 million – 2014
  • (Also accumulated £3 million in loan fees)
  • Profit: £14.3 million
  • Appearances for Chelsea: 15 (10 league games)

Kevin De Bruyne

  • Bought: KRC Genk – £6.8 million – 2011
  • Sold: Wolfsburg – £18.7 million – 2013
  • Profit: £11.9 million
  • Appearances for Chelsea: 9 (3 league games)

Figures from the Telegraph.

Now that looks like good business: profits of £37.5m.  But what the Telegraph in its quick run down analysis didn’t take into account was the fact that last season Chelsea had 38 players out on loan, plus of course those retained to play in their PL2 side.   Now those 38 players each came from somewhere and each cost the club some money either by being purchased or by being brought in for nothing, trained up through the youth teams and then sold.  They all got salaries, they all required training – so more and more training staff and facilities were needed.

If we also take into account that the four sales above cover four seasons (and for the moment I can’t find any other players who came in, played under 10 games, and then were sold on at a profit across those four seasons).   So that is in effect an income of £9.375m a year.

The question therefore is, does it cost more than £9.375m a year to run this complicated system of bringing in huge numbers of youngsters, developing them, loaning them out and then generating under £10m a year from sales.

Well, yes it must do, when you take into account not just the 38 loan players but the ones remaining at Chelsea, and the cost of the players before they go on loan.

But there is a much more important point.  Should we count Lukaku as a youth team loan experiment when in came in at 18 years old for £18.7m.  That surely is just normal buying and selling of players, which all clubs do, without claiming it is part of the academy process.

Even if we do count such players, it is still hard to see that in terms of salaries of players and associated staff, plus agents fees and all the associated costs of doing deals, the cost of running the system is under £10m a year.

So how on earth can that be a way of getting around FFP?

In the end it still looks to me like a way of fishing – bringing in as many youngsters as possible, in the hope of getting a gem occasionally, rather than searching out a smaller number of highly talented youngsters who will make it through.  Mass production against the conventional individual attention.

Of course I know Arsenal are not brilliant at this – we bring in players through paying transfer fees, and we clearly did not win the league last season, so on the argument that everything is about winning the league, Chelsea got it right.  Indeed if this approach was one that was clearly bringing Chelsea its successes of recent years I’d be very happy, because it would be a working model that leads to success, and others could copy it – as indeed Man City have done.

But I am not sure, because these youngsters that move through Chelsea en masse are not the ones that are used to bring in the trophies for Chelsea.  So why do it?

I know it is my stupidity that stops me understanding – I know this because I have been told so in comments on this site (although I’ve seen so many by and large I don’t publish them any more) but I just cannot see what the Chelsea system of mass purchasing of youngsters is about, anything other than the notion that if one brings in enough, one of them will turn into John Terry.

Recent Posts

The Index of Indexes

  • The In Index: All the players tipped to be joining Arsenal this summer
  • The Out Index: All the players tipped to be leaving Arsenal this summer
  • The Purchase Index: All this summer’s player buying by the top 10 clubs of last season
  • The Loan Index: The top clubs compared in terms of players loaned out



6 comments to The Loans: two clubs dominate the loan deals this summer. But is it really working for them?

  • Mike T

    Another article full of holes, inaccuracies and selective facts.

    As things stand Chelsea have 24 players out on loan. Of those 13 signed for the club under the age of 14.

    In last seasons squad Chelsea had 6 players that had come through the academy. Terry, Aina, RLC, Chalobah, Ake and Mousanda . The last two were added n the January window having returned from loan

    When looking at transfer profits from players who have been out of loan in the last 4 seasons, on top of the players listed you can include( I have deducted either the fee or compensation paid, Ake £19.8 million, Atsu £3 million,Traore £8.8 million, Chalobah £5 million, Bamford £1.5 million ,Kakuta £4.4 million, Bertrand £9.2 million
    That’s another another £50 million to the sum quoted .To that you can add another £5-6 million from smaller sums received from the likes of Saville, Mc Echran and Arnholt
    Theres a lot more to FFP than being suggested in this article for as we know the bulk of monies spect on player development is discounted for FFP additionally all players contracted to Chelsea are paid through Chelsea payroll any fee paid by way of a loan counts in the player trading colour.
    Hey I get it that the numbers out on loan at Chelsea is large but as I have said time after time if football and in particular the PL clubs wanted it changed it lies within the power of the clubs to do it.

  • insideright

    The key to understanding why this is a way around FFP is to remember that the costs of players outside the first team squad are permitted to be met by the owner and the revenues from selling/loaning them are allowed to be used to fund the first team squad within the rules of FFP.
    In other areas of life it’s called money laundering.

  • para

    Even though youth players at Arsenal get “some” playing time, mostly preseason and a few games here and there, the bulk of them do go elsewhere, so we are not much better than Chelsea or other teams, not lately anyway.

    I hope that Reiss Nelson, well i think that he should be brought into the 1st team now, even though young, he has the quality and vision to fit in right now.

    Else it will be him leaving for better opportunities in 2 years time without getting a real chance.

    I cannot see much difference(although baised i think he surpasses them in some aspects) to other good young players who entered Manu last season, and of course Mbappe who has got his chance at PSG.

    I just have this feeling that he would fit perfectly into Arsenal right now and not just a few games here and there, maybe he will get many chances in EL to cement his place in 1st team, but with his quality, if he does not get chances you can guarantee there will be many teams wanting him and probably convincing him to change.

    With Alexis due to leave end of season, he needs to be already half integrated into the team this season when Alexis goes if City(or others) still want him.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    An issue I have with the current loan system is that of loans within the same league as the parent club. Such players are not allowed to play against the parent club but can play against everyone else to the benefit of both the parent club and the loan club. If a player is good enough for the league that the parent company is in he should be part of the parent team squad or sold to the loaner club (with a buyback clause if necessary)

  • Gord

    On, Jon Toral joins Hull City on permanent move.

    We host Doncaster Rovers in League Cup 3rd round.

  • Al

    Off topic
    Couldn’t help laughing after seeing a headline from the mirror saying everyone made a similar joke about Arsenal ahead of the cl draw… you can’t help but feel sorry for these guys. And their readers. How pathetic is that; we miss out of the cl for the first time in 20 years and they want to make jokes out that? With Madrid we have the best record of qualifying into this tournament I think, and yet… Just pathetic. Smh.