How Chelsea’s youngsters fared at Vitesse Arnhem

Chelsea midfielder Lewis Baker
Lewis Baker has made one brief substitute appearance for Chelsea

Chelsea’s relationship with Vitesse Arnhem – which saw five Blues players sent there on loan last season – is under the spotlight after a turbulent campaign for the Dutch club.

Here, West London Sport’s Andrew Raeburn – together with Will Burns, editor of Total Dutch Football – look at how the quintet fared, who could make it at Stamford Bridge, and what the future holds for the Blues-Vitesse partnership…

Lewis Baker
Age: 21; Vitesse stats: 38 appearances, 5 goals

How he fared: Got among the goals early on in his loan spell, and started both legs of their Europa League qualifying defeat by Southampton – though he gave the ball away for a Shane Long goal. Lost his place mid-season but regained it in February and netted against De Graafschap and NEC Nijmegen.

Will Burns says: “Impressed me the most and I feel, if given the chance – possibly on-loan in the Championship next season – he could prove to be a player to help Chelsea in the future. Having said that, given Chelsea’s failure at bringing youth through the ranks, and him now 21 years old, he could possibly be best off moving onto another club permanently.”

Solanke has made one first-team appearance for Chelsea
Solanke’s only game for Chelsea came in the Champions League

Dominic Solanke
Age: 18; Vitesse stats: 26 appearances, 7 goals

How he fared: Initially started his spell in Arnhem on the bench, scoring on his second appearance. Handed the number nine shirt and went on to convert a couple of penalties, before injury kept him out for the whole of February and half of March. Netted twice on his return, in a 3-0 win at Groningen.

Will Burns says: “At 18, looks a good prospect and found the net a few times this season. A big lad, fast and strong, he could become an asset too if Chelsea change their first-team philosophy. Again, if not, the Championship would be a good choice.”

Age: 20; Vitesse stats: 19 appearances, 2 goals

How he fared: Joined Chelsea last summer from Atletico Paranaense and nine days later was packed off to Vitesse. Took only three games to open his account but of his 19 appearances, only four were as a starter. A back injury curtailed his season early.

Will Burns says: “I was not impressed with Nathan – weak, easily pushed off the ball.”

Izzy Brown of Chelsea

Isaiah Brown
Age: 19; Vitesse stats: 24 appearances, 1 goal

How he fared: The former West Brom youngster only started a handful of times under Peter Bosz, who left Vitesse during the winter break. He was, however, given more of a chance by successor Rob Maas but only managed one goal, against Roda JC in March.

Will Burns says: “Isaiah Brown cries out Victor Moses to me. But not as skilful.”

Danilo Pantic
Age: 19; Vitesse stats: 8 appearances, 0 goals

How he fared: Like Nathan, Serbian midfielder Pantic signed for the Blues last July and was also farmed out to Vitesse, but never started a game – his eight substitute appearances totalled 126 minutes. He didn’t play at all under Maas, leading to a rant in the media about how he was treated and his desperation to return to London. It led to him being suspended by the club.

Will Burns says: “I don’t think I saw him play. I remember reading about the interview he did, then he was sent home for it.”

And the future?

Will reckons the relationship only has a one-way benefit.

“Not many Vitesse fans appreciate it,” he explained. 

“Of course, it is a pleasure receiving players for free to help the club along every year, but it does nothing to help the team progress.

“A few years back, Vitesse would challenge for a top three or four place. Not now. This season they finished ninth and were lucky to do so.”