Lewis Hall’s move to Newcastle United this summer was seen as a disaster by most Chelsea fans.
The young Englishman had been one of very few shining lights during a torrid 2022-23 season, cementing his place as Chelsea’s best left-back during Frank Lampard’s short tenure as interim boss.
Therefore, when he was loaned to Newcastle with an obligation to buy ‘based on performance-related criteria’ it was seen as one that got away.
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After all, Chelsea have felt the damaging effects of letting youngsters leave in favour of more experienced stars in the past – Mohamed Salah and Kevin de Bruyne spring to mind – and Hall looks set to become one of the best English players of his generation.
His loan move to St James’ Park was seen as a permanent departure given the obligation to buy included in the deal, but Hall must hit certain criteria for that obligation to become active.
It’s not known quite what that criteria is, but a probable guess would suggest he must make a certain number of appearances during his one-year loan move to Newcastle for the deal to become permanent.
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It’s fairly likely that Newcastle will secure his long-term future by hitting this criteria by the end of the campaign, but Hall has been extremely unfavoured by Eddie Howe so far.
The England youth international can play at left-back or in central midfield, but he has not been used in any position by Howe.
Why hasn’t Lewis Hall played at Newcastle?
In total, Hall has played just 54 minutes of first-team football so far this season, and his only Premier League appearance came in Newcastle’s 9-0 rout of Sheffield United in September.
He managed just nine minutes of action in that game and Hall has been an unused substitute in five other English top flight matches since he joined and in all three of their Champions League group stage games.
For a player who excelled for Chelsea last season – and proved he is more than capable of playing regular Premier League football – his lack of involvement at Newcastle has been strange.
Howe has clearly favoured the dynamism of Joelinton, Sandro Tonali, Bruno Guimareas and Sean Longstaff in midfield, while Dan Burn is the clear first-choice left-back.
Burn’s height is a major plus given Newcastle’s threat at attacking set pieces, but Hall is a far better technician and would add creativity down that left flank.
Kieran Trippier’s presence on the right, however, likely hasn’t helped the Chelsea loanee as Burn sometimes tucks in to allow Trippier to bomb forward down the opposite wing.
Either way, Hall is talented enough to be at least a rotation option for Howe, but he isn’t even that right now.
As a result, Chelsea fans may start wondering whether he could return to their club.
After all, Hall likely must hit an appearance-threshold for the loan deal to be made permanent and, as things stand, he could be returning to Stamford Bridge in 2024 if his situation at Newcastle doesn’t change.
Marc Cucurella, Ben Chilwell, Ian Maatsen and even Levi Colwill are Chelsea’s current options at left-back, which explains the Blues’ willingness to let Hall leave in the first place.
However, Maatsen has been linked with an exit, Chilwell is rarely fit, Cucurella has improved in recent weeks but has been poor since joining from Brighton and Colwill is naturally a centre-back.
As a result, there could potentially be space for Hall if he were to return to Chelsea next summer.
Newcastle will likely secure his services permanently by trusting him with more regular minutes towards the end of the 2023-24 campaign, but Chelsea fans can slowly start dreaming of one of Cobham’s finest returning to Stamford Bridge.