Five loanees who could impact Prem
It has been a week of youth transfers and speculation, from Dundee United left-back Andrew Robertson joining Hull City to the news on Saturday night that Javi Manquillo was nearing a two-year loan switch to Liverpool. Add in Eric Dier to Spurs and Brendan Galloway to Everton and the list of young players heading for pastures new begins to add up. With transfers becoming increasingly costly at the top end, spreading the net wider for talent is now an essential feature of life for elite clubs and, as Chelsea in particular have shown, it can be an immensely profitable sideline.
However, for all that activity, the next wave of youth transfers is about to begin -- with many of those who have participated in preseason now set for loan moves away for the season ahead. Some will hope to have done enough to at least earn a further shot at convincing their manager of worthiness right up to the transfer deadline, but for most it is now time to make solid plans for the coming season. For clubs outside the established elite, the weeks ahead are also a great time to pick up potentially vital reinforcements for little money -- some of whom have pushed themselves on to the radar in recent weeks.
Who, then, will be seen as the prize targets for loan moves in the days and weeks ahead?
Hector Bellerin (Arsenal)
Arsenal may not have won the Emirates Cup this past week, but there were undoubted positives to come from the two fixtures with Benfica and Monaco. Yaya Sanogo stole the headlines, while Costa Rican forward Joel Campbell impressed enough to convince manager Arsene Wenger that he should remain around the squad this season. Former Barcelona youngster Bellerin was another to stand out at right-back, and was particularly impressive in the win over Benfica. However, it may not be enough to keep him in his manager's plans this campaign.
With Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers having arrived this summer, it is fair to say that opportunities will not be too forthcoming in the season ahead. However, that is not to say that he could not be of use to a team lower down the league and, indeed, the player himself could use regular starts to work on the defensive aspects of his game. Comfortable on the ball, forward-thinking and well-adapted to English football, though, he could be an ideal loan signing for a progressive-thinking side, while the move will also offer Bellerin the chance to prove his worth at the highest level ahead of an eventual return to North London.
Sebastian Coates (Liverpool)
Uruguayan centre-back Coates has had a tough time of things in England since arriving in 2011, but has shown this preseason that he looks to be approaching somewhere near his best form once again. Brendan Rodgers may not fancy the former Nacional player as part of his system, mainly due to doubts over Coates' comfort in possession, but the tall and powerful defender could well be suited to life elsewhere in the league.
What Coates needs to succeed is a team that is willing to play a deeper defensive line and allow their centre-backs to concentrate primarily on protecting space in and around the penalty area. The 23-year-old has shown many times alongside Diego Lugano or Diego Godin for his country that he is an adroit defender and technically strong -- even if not to the requirements of Rodgers in tight spaces. Given regular games and the right tactical setup, he could be a real asset to any side in the league and a potential bargain given the absence of a transfer fee.
Michael Keane (Manchester United)
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has spoken of the impression that both Keane and fellow youngster Tyler Blackett have made in preseason, but neither is sure of remaining at the club given the potential for defensive reinforcements arriving. Van Gaal aired doubts over the ability of both to maintain the standards required week after week following Keane's travails against Gareth Bale on Saturday, but Blackett looks likely to be a beneficiary of the club's lack of left-footed central defenders. He has also shown impressive distribution skills under pressure that will have greatly impressed his manager.
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For potential suitors, though, Keane is the more attractive proposition. He has enjoyed impressive stints on loan in the Championship with Leicester, Derby and Blackburn, catching the eye of teams in that division and lower down the Premier League. With the likes of QPR and Hull also experimenting with three-man defences this campaign, Keane would be a low-cost addition who could potentially secure a starting berth. United are unlikely to offer him many opportunities given their lessened workload this season, and further regular football would be an undoubtedly tempting proposition.
Christian Atsu (Chelsea)
Ghanaian international winger Atsu is set for another spell away from Stamford Bridge this season, with Premier League side Everton said to be close to securing his signature ahead of a number of rivals. Given the strength in depth of the Blues, there are a number of players in similar situations still looking for loan moves away this month, with Patrick Bamford, Nathaniel Chalobah and Stipe Perica among the most high-profile of those available.
Atsu, though, is the most attractive potential loanee available and his loan move to the Toffees is believed to be stalling over the need for a guarantee of first-team minutes. Given the uncertainty, it may well be that there is still time for other clubs to step in. Able to play centrally or from wide areas, the Ghanaian is still raw in his decision-making, but has speed and technique that suggest he could be a top-level player in time. Named Vitesse's player of the season last year, he is ready to continue his development with a Premier League move, and will hope to use the year to persuade Jose Mourinho of his readiness for a Chelsea return.
Bruno Zuculini (Manchester City)
With the arrival of Frank Lampard and Fernando into an already strong midfield unit, Argentine youngster Bruno Zuculini's chances of regular action this season would appear slim. However, throughout preseason he has been given plentiful minutes by manager Manuel Pellegrini, and the latest reports suggest that plans for a season-long move to Spain have been scuppered by his impressive showings.
With that in mind, it could well be that a short-term move until Lampard's January departure is a more attractive option, and there are certainly clubs within the division who could benefit from a midfielder with his particular skill set. Zuculini has stood out as a box-to-box midfielder over recent weeks and shown composure in his passing that suggests he could quickly adapt to the pace of the Premier League. For any club willing to risk his departure in January, he could well offer the extra bit of midfield quality required to avoid relegation concerns later in the campaign.
Chris Atkins is based in China and writes for ESPN FC about the Chinese Super League. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisAtkins_.