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Nathaniel Chalobah's Strange Limbo

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After excelling at Watford last season, and consistently performing well for the England U-21s, Chalobah's sophomore season in the Championship looked set to be another year of highs. Not so.

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

My love for Nathaniel Chalobah is a well-documented and shameless affair.  I believe, without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, that he will be England's stalwart in midfield for a long time.  Trained as a central defender at Chelsea and reborn as a defensive midfielder in the Yaya Toure mould under Gianfranco Zola at Watford, his versatility and calm presence provide qualities that are rarely seen in players that sit in a deep midfield; the only English parallel that springs to mind is Phil Jones.  Whereas Jones has been bounced from midfield to centreback (and even right back on more than one occasion), Chalobah has been established as a defensive midfielder since the beginning of last season, a consistency which the Manchester United man has yet to achieve.

The problem with "Nat" is that he's still very young and very raw.  Almost too good for the Championship yet untested in the Premiership, and having only become a regular for the U-21 side this year, Chalobah is a bit of an enigma.  Chelsea recognized this, and elected to send Chalobah back to the Championship with Nottingham Forest - this time for only half the season, expiring in January.  Whereas last season was one of growth and stability under Zola (whose love for Chelsea, paired with Chalobah's raw talent, made for a beautiful loan spell), this season has seen Chalobah make only four appearances for Forest - shocking, seeing as Forest have undergone something of an injury crisis of late.  With January drawing closer, there is virtually no way that Chalobah will remain in Nottingham.

This leaves the future England international in somewhat of a pickle, but a fortunate pickle for two clubs - Watford and Chelsea.  Jose Mourinho, long described as a hater of club-grown talent, has maintained that he won't be stepping into the January market for a striker or a midfielder - Chelsea's two weakest points.  While the former is almost a lock to be filled next season by a certain Belgian on loan at Everton, the latter benefits Chalobah; with the aging Michael Essien being Chelsea's only real midfield depth beyond the established trio of Mikel, Ramires and Frank Lampard, valuable Premier League minutes would be easy to come by.  The best option for all parties, however, would be a return to Watford.  The Hornets have suffered this season without Chalobah, with an on-loan Josh McEachren not providing the defensive quality that Chalobah brought to the side.  Chelsea fans salivate at the thought of the pair, who linked up at the academy and for the U-21s, establishing that partnership at a senior level.

When Roy Hodgson took over the U-21s for a game, Chalobah played a central role as both an offensive and defensive foil.  With reduced minutes, an already slim-to-none chance to be on the plane to Rio has evaporated. Nevertheless, Chalobah's development is crucial for both club and country, and Chalobah will likely remain with the U-21s and in the Championship as he moves from strength to strength.