Expectations but plenty of excitement!
The Premier League season has begun and Chelsea play their first game on Monday night as they travel to Brighton. The transfer window is still open until the 4th of October but Chelsea have done their business efficiently. Several new players have come into the squad and one more might be targeted but other than that Chelsea are raring to go. Let’s preview the season and talk about what we expect from Lampard’s 2nd season in charge of the Blues!.
Chelsea’s summer was not a conventional one given the Pandemic and June began with the world under lockdown. Towards the end of June though football came back and leagues all over Europe began to finish what they started. This meant that the summer was dominated by football as the Premier League was finished along with Champions League and the Europa League. The squad finally got a break of sorts mid way through August but after 2-3 weeks out they were back in training. Chelsea only managed the solitary pre-season friendly against Brighton which we drew 1-1. A pointless international break saw the players involved with their national teams at the beginning of September and only this last week has Lampard had most of his players for the coming season available to him. So while pre-season has been non existent the non stop football has meant that there has been no need for the friendlies in the first place.
Frank Lampard is now in his 2nd season of management at Chelsea, his staff is much the same with Jody Morris, Joe Edwards, Hilario etc all continuing as well. Lampard has added Anthony Barry a young coach to his staff for the coming season. There is plenty of guesswork by fans into what his speciality is but he is highly talked about and it’s only a positive for Chelsea. The likes of Ashley Cole are also still around and should only help the players grow and develop. Last season we saw a lot of what Lampard want’s to instil in this squad with a high pressing fast and fluid form of possession based football. We switched between a 4-3-3 and a 3-4-3 depending on the opposition although the 3 man defence was used for better teams. Now having had a transfer window we should be able to see more of Lampard’s philosophy but the sheer amount of quality and versatility in the squad allows Lampard to tweak and fiddle with the formation in a bigger way. Many are saying Lampard is under pressure to deliver now but most Chelsea fans and Lampard will know that the obvious next step is to reduce the gap to the top two and by doing that challenge for those top 3 spots.
Goalkeepers – Kepa Arizzabalaga, Edouard Mendy, Willy Caballero
Defenders – Cesar Azpilicueta, Reece James, Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen, Fikayo Tomori, Antonio Rudiger, Ben Chilwell, Marcos Alonso, Emerson
Midfielders – N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Matteo Kovacic, Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Billy Gilmour, Ross Barkley
Forwards – Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud
A point to be noted is that with the transfer window still open a few of these players could be loaned or sold. Tomori might be loaned while one of Alonso or Emerson will probably leave. Barkley and Jorginho also have question marks over their future. The usual loan brigade of Zappacosta, Bakayoko etc are going to be moved on while several have already left on loan. The likes of Gallagher, should also be on their way soon enough.
This time last year I was fairly certain Kepa was the future for Chelsea in goal but a season can change those views. To put in nicely Kepa had a poor time last season and was found bottom in several crucial metrics notably save percentage. The Spaniard just wasn’t able to keep the ball out of the net and it wasn’t like Chelsea’s defence was extremely poor. Kepa’s price and contract mean that Chelsea have found it hard to shift him out and so Cech had been deputised to find an option that can challenge Kepa. That is likely to be Edouard Mendy from Rennes who hasn’t been confirmed yet but seems on his way. Caballero is still around but should be 3rd choice in the coming season. If Chelsea want to climb high this season then one of Kepa or Mendy need to step up if not both.
Our right back options for the coming season are the same as last season with Reece James and Azpi. Azpi played a lot of the games last season but Reece James began to grow himself into the team over the course of the season. I expect Reece to be the first choice right back for the coming season with Azpi deputising when ever needed across the back four. Last summer Emerson looked a dead cert to be our first choice left-back but that was ended by September end and Azpi had to deputise with Alonso for much of the season. Chilwell has now come in and he will be the 1st choice when he returns to full fitness. I would like to keep Alonso as back up but we will have to wait till the end of the window. The centre backs were a big issue for Lampard last season in that he didn’t know what his best pair were. Frank tried almost all combinations except Tomori and Rudiger. Zouma and Tomori were our most successful pairing but both of them lacked the leadership. In comes Thiago Silva who brings plenty of quality even at 36 while his leadership is exponentially better than what we have. I expect Zouma and Thiago Silva to be the partnership for most games in the coming season while Christensen, Rudiger and maybe Tomori should see plenty of game time as well. Thiago Silva should help organise our defence and goalkeeper in a way better way.
I said Kante was a nailed on starter last season but injuries curtailed it for him. This season Kante looks like he is in much better shape and I reiterate my statement from last season that in a midfield 3 or a 2 Kante is nailed on to start. Jorginho began the season brilliantly last time out but as Lampard began to play attacking 8’s his need was lessened. If Jorginho stays is a valuable option but I think we might see him leave before the window shuts. Kovacic was named player of the season and in a double pivot I expect him and Kante to start. In a midfield 3 though I think Mason Mount will be preferred ahead of Kovacic, Mount offers the high press with an end product while Kovacic is better at possession and will be needed against better teams. Kai Havertz is the new star signing but the German will take time adjust. Havertz’s versatility means that he could play anywhere in the front line but I’ll nail him to start as the RCM for most games albeit a bit further forward. Ruben needs to stay fit as the first objective for the new season, a fit Ruben probably benches Mason Mount and starts alongside Kai Havertz but he needs to stay fit and I really hope he does. Gilmour had some brilliant games last season and I expect him to continue that development when he returns from his injury. Barkley is a good option for depth if still around when the window ends.
The winger options if everyone is fit are our new no 10 Pulisic on left while Ziyech starts on the right. Hudson-Odoi should put pressure on both of them while I expect the Englishman to start the first few games with Ziyech out. Werner is dead cert to start up front but he is also able to play in a two or on the right wing so that should work for him. Tammy did really well last season and with the pressure of Chelsea’s leading striker off he should see plenty of game time and do better this season. Giroud as always brings something different to the frontline and I expect him and Werner to start in a front two a few times in the coming season.
I expected Chelsea to finish 4th last season and they managed that albeit not exactly how I pictured. The first order of business is to cut that 33 point gap to the top to single digits. That automatically means that I expect Chelsea to battle it our for the top 3 this season, and not be worried about what happens below 3rd. With the signings we have made I expect Chelsea to be clear of the likes of United, Arsenal, Spurs etc. It will be tough as always and the interesting thing will be to see how Lampard fits in the new signings but our underlying stats were positive last season and we have only added better players to that. A tough run of games will come when we look out knackered and out of shape but we have built a good squad and should handle that. A better defence and clinical finishers should nail down 3rd for us if not challenge for 2nd.
I expect Chelsea to win one trophy this season probably the Carabao Cup or the FA Cup. We did well to reach the final of the FA Cup while we should do better in the League Cup this time out. Reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League should be step one and then depending on the fixtures a semi-final should be possible.
I expect this to be an exciting and amazing season for Chelsea fans, Lampard last season showed that he has the intelligence to beat the best but at times it didn’t work out for him on the pitch and that happens to the best. Lampard is growing and learning as a manager with this squad and their will be high’s and lows. Last season the big question mark was how Chelsea were going to replace Hazard and I expected that to be a team goal and it was. Several players contributed goals while we had Tammy a striker that scored 15 in the league. I expected Pulisic to get 10 goals last season and he did just that as well. This year I expect more goals from Tammy maybe reaching the 20 mark while I am going to say 15 for Pulisic. I expect Werner to also get 20 goals while the likes of Ziyech, Havertz, Mount, RLC, and Giroud should also provide goals and assists. Reece James and Chilwell should also provide the width and danger from the full back areas.
It’s an exciting time to be a Chelsea fan, the rival fans and managers have already started digging Chelsea out and putting pressure on Lampard to perform, although none expect Chelsea to finish higher than 3rd. No one expected us to finish in the top 4 last season and we did just that, Lampard is a fighter and has been all his career and our squad is one season better than last season. There will be an adjustment period but we have the depth to manage it this season. The lack of fans should actually help the new signings adjust and while there will be a tough period I expect the depth to allow us to handle it better than the last few seasons. I am very excited for the coming season and I can’t wait for Lampard’s Blues to continue to develop and grow! COME ON YOU BLUES!!!