In the first of a new series focusing on players developing out on loan, we caught up with Dominic Solanke after his maiden half-season of regular senior football at Vitesse Arnhem of Holland.
The 18-year-old attacker has started 13 league matches for the team currently lying in fifth position in the Eredivisie, coming off the bench in another three. He has impressed with his physicality and movement up front as well as his link-up play, often with fellow forward-thinking Chelsea loanees Lewis Baker, Izzy Brown, Danilo Pantic and Nathan.
As last season’s UEFA Youth League and FA Youth Cup topscorer tells the official Chelsea website, the experience has served him very well so far…
How have you been enjoying your time in Holland?
It’s been really good. It’s nice to be getting regular game time. It’s a very good league for me to develop in right now.
A lot of teams like to get the ball down and play football. It’s quite similar to the Premier League in that respect, not many teams play long ball. It’s a good place to develop both technically and physically. That’s important. I’m enjoying the challenge.
What have been the main differences between youth football and senior football?
With it being a proper senior league everything is about winning, that is the main thing. You have got to do everything to win and you have to play as a team to win. It’s also much more physical playing against men every week and that’s something I have had to quickly adapt to.
In our Academy sides you were often used as a link man as a well as a striker - what sort of role do you have in the team’s attack?
I have been playing number nine but there is quite a lot of interchange and all the attacking players link up well. It’s quite a technical league so everyone likes to play quick combinations. In that sense it’s not too different to the youth teams at Chelsea.
I have liked playing against some of the big teams. PSV Eindhoven at home in December was one of my best performances this season. They are one of the biggest teams in world football, they are in the last 16 of the Champions League, and so to go up against them was a good stage for me. Unfortunately they got a very late winner. We played really well as a team so it was hard to take the loss but I learned from it.
What has it been like playing in front of thousands of people every single week?
It’s what everyone wants to do. I haven’t felt extra pressure really. It’s amazing to play in front of big crowds and having a crowd behind you helps as well. I have enjoyed that aspect of it.
The Vitesse fans are very positive and they like to get involved in things. We’ve had quite a few activities involving them and the fans are close to the club.
Has it been easy adapting to the culture and the language? It must be nice to have some Chelsea team-mates with you…
It’s been quite easy adapting to the culture and the language out here. The fact they all speak English helps a lot. We can communicate with each other easily.
Having the likes of Izzy and Lewis here is one of the main reasons I settled in quite quickly. It’s a good thing on my first loan having a couple of the boys I know from the youth teams at Chelsea around me to help me get used to that.
I am in contact a lot with Eddie [Newton] and Paulo [Ferreira] back at Cobham too. They like to communicate a lot, watching my games and giving me advice. All the loan players support each other and it’s good to keep talking with them and see how everyone is getting on.
You’ve made another step-up on the international front since being at Vitesse too, making your debut for the England Under-21s…
It was really amazing. When I first found out I was getting the call-up I was so excited and to start both games [a draw with Bosnia and a victory over Switzerland] was even better. It felt like a big step up playing with all the top young talent in the country. Everyone is playing at different levels, some in the Premier League, some in the Championship, some abroad, and it’s interesting to see how everyone is getting on. It’s nice to play alongside them for your country.
You’ve scored five goals so far this season and been nominated for the team of the week a few times – have you set yourself a target for the second half of the season?
I haven’t got as many goals as I would have liked to so scoring some more is definitely a target. I want to keep on developing my all-round game, too.
Vitesse returned to action at the weekend after a winter break, another new experience for you…
Yeah, it’s quite different having a winter break. In England you don’t normally have time off at this time of year but having a couple of weeks break was nice, especially when you have been away from home for a long time. It was great to come home and see all my family and friends. We then went on a training camp to Spain and I think we are all ready for the second half of the season now.
- Pictures courtesy of Paul Meima | Vitesse