Where should Chelsea’s Christian Atsu play next season?
By Amitai Winehouse
Reports recently have suggested that Christian Atsu’s potential loan move to Everton has broken down and now Chelsea are looking at other clubs they can send the Ghanaian to.
Atsu impressed last season on loan at Vitesse and now both he and the club are keen for the wide man to get some experience in the Premier League.
After representing his country at the World Cup Atsu is full of confidence and he would make a good addition to most Premier League sides. It is believed that the loan deal to Everton broke down over a disagreement over playing time but some of the other clubs linked to Atsu would provide him with more games.
Atsu is an explosive winger with pace and skills and he benefitted from playing regularly with Vitesse. He is would pose a threat to defences and his work-rate is admirable in such an attacking player.
The key for Chelsea is finding a club that will a) give him a regular games b) play a system that allows wingers to flourish and c) have a manager who enjoys developing young talent.
At Villa last season Lambert rotated mainly between a 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2 and in either formation Atsu would do well. In a 4-3-3 he would be a great option on the left hand side as a more advanced player whilst he is equally capable of playing as a left midfielder. If he were to join he would probably be competing with Gaaby Agbonlahor on the left hand side and whilst that is a tough position to crack Atsu would be confident he can oust Villa’s all time Premier League top scorer.
The other option is for Atsu to play on the right where Andi Weimann currently plays but the Austrian’s form last season was inconsistent. The concern for Chelsea would be that Lambert may not be keen to drop one of his key figures but whether Agbonlahor plays on the left or in the middle is very much dependent on the form of Christian Benteke and Weimann.
Former Chelsea midfielder Gus Poyet was unsuccessful in his attempt to raid his old club for Kurt Zouma on loan but he will be hoping that his connection at Stamford Bridge will help secure the Atsu deal. Like Lambert he isn’t afraid of throwing youth into the first team, see Connor Wickham, but he certainly does it less than his Villa counterpart.
Last season as Poyet looked to try and secure Premier League safety he opted for a 4-5-1 with Fabio Borini and Adam Johnson normally on the wings. Borini is no longer with the club, although Sunderland are trying to sign him permanently, and barring a productive period at the start of 2014 Johnson was largely ineffective. Atsu would provide a more regular and consistent threat than Johnson (creating 2 chances per game as opposed to Johnson’s 1.75)
Neither is he too afraid to take players on (winning 2 take ons per game as opposed to Johnson’s 1.17).
Chelsea haven’t done much business with Sunderland recently but their Sporting Director is Lee Congerton who worked with Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge during his first spell in charge. Sunderland are definitely in the market for a winger but it could end up being Atsu’s Chelsea team-mate Victor Moses instead of the Ghanaian.
This is one of the problem options for Chelsea, and not because of the rivalry between the two clubs. While West Ham have one of the best academies in the country Sam Allardyce isn’t a manager who gives youth its chance. The West Ham owners have had to force him to utilise Ravel Morrison and the only other young player to play in the league last season was Elliot Lee.
The good thing for Chelsea though is that Allardyce does like using wingers, namely Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis. Atsu created more assists than both of these players last season although Downing did create more chances, while the Chelsea man also scored more goals than both of them. Whether Allardyce would drop them or not though remains to be seen.
The worry for Chelsea will be the stubbornness of Allardyce and whether or not he would fully utilise a player like Atsu. There is no doubt that the West Ham fans would love to see an attacking player like Atsu at the club but it is down to Allardyce over whether the player starts or not.
It is a tough call for Chelsea where to send Atsu out on loan. On the face of it, Everton seemed like the best option but it appeared as if Roberto Martinez didn’t think enough of him to start regularly. It will probably come down to which manager makes the most compelling case but on the face of it Aston Villa seem like the most likely option and the best fit as well.
Sunderland would also be a good move but if Borini is resigned he will be expecting to start although he could be used in a more advanced role with Atsu out side. Villa would be a good fit especially in Lambert’s 4-3-3 but as long as Chelsea avoid Allardyce they will be doing well. It will be very interesting to see who Atsu eventually signs for and how he develops in the Premier League.