A Blue Up North looks at the personnel currently at Chelsea Football Club as the new season kicks off.
Maurizio Sarri’s idiosyncratic methods have now returned to Italy and we are at the dawn of a new era at Stamford Bridge. Despite football’s governing bodies trying to clamp down on The Blues, there is a feeling that there has been a revolution within Chelsea Football Club.
The talismanic Eden Hazard and David Luiz have moved on and the club has endured it’s first of 2 consecutive windows whereby they cannot register any new players. Fortunately the board had the foresight to attempt to fill the void of inevitably in losing the Belgian wizard by signing the hugely talented young American star Christian Pulisic.
Meanwhile, the not too unexpected departure of the iconic Brazilian defender gives more opportunity to Andreas Christensen, Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori. The Dane has had his ups and downs in the last 2 seasons but is now becoming a more rounded central defender as his experience grows. Meanwhile, the other 2 enjoyed excellent seasons out on loan and more than deserve their chance to prove their worth to the first team.
While Kepa Arrizabalaga will be supported by Willy Caballero in goal once again, the full back positions have a little more cover in the form of the talented youngster Reece James. The added benefit of the inclusion of another Chelsea youth product is that Cesar Azpilicueta can also act as extra cover to the centre back positions in case of injury / suspension issues in that area.
The Blues’s midfield is probably it’s biggest strength. With N’Golo Kante likely to be utilised more in a covering, defensive role once again there is a fair amount of ability and depth in the middle of the pitch. With Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic covering behind Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ross Barkley and Mason Mount, Chelsea’s midfield could be the envy of most of it’s rivals.
If required, you could then add Tiemoue Bakayoko and Marco Van Ginkel to that list. However, their chances are likely to be fleeting and don’t be surprised to see either or both move on before the European transfer window closes.
Willian and Pedro may be without Hazard, but they could well be overtaken in the pecking order by the young starlets of Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi. However Chelsea’s wide positions will be under the pressure of replacing the goals and assists that Hazard generated for the team.
And that issue may be amplified by Chelsea’s options in attack. Olivier Giroud is a good target man and can hold the ball well against the best defences. However, the Frenchman is painfully lacking in pace and struggles to reach the top of the goal scoring rankings at the end of the season.
Michy Batshuayi can be lethal in and around the 6 yard box but is lacking in his general build up play. But it is Tammy Abraham who could be the answer. Yet another young Englishman vying to prove their talents after coming through the Chelsea youth system, he is the most rounded of The Blues’s 3 strikers.
So that’s a bit of a run through of the key elements of Chelsea’s first team squad for the start of this new season. But the most important cog in the machinery is the person who will be directing the whole thing. Frank Lampard is arguably Chelsea’s greatest ever player and is adored by every Chelsea supporter. However, he has had only one single season in football management.
But with the club needing to utilise more of it’s vastly talented young players, having a former player, who has won everything with the club and knows more than most what it takes and what it means to play for The Blues, guiding the squad through the choppy waters of a 4 major competition season.
After all, Frank has been himself managed and guided by some of the best managers in football over the last 20 years. He will have learned the pros and cons of varying styles including man management, style of play and team structures.
Add to that a coaching staff of ex Chelsea players who have also coached Chelsea’s youth at varying levels, and surely the team are at the hands of the most relevant managerial team available.
And as the wave of euphoria and excitement rolls over the club’s support with the return of Frank, it replaces the unrest and dystopia that existed at Stamford Bridge last season. Maurizio Sarri stuck very rigidly to his principles. The team set up rarely altered and even his substitutions became a sore point for many jokes.
Frank Lampard is a far more fluid and adaptable manager. He is likely to start with a 4-2-3-1 set up most often, but will vary to a 4-3-3 and even with a diamond formation in midfield. His side will vary their pressing game and their possession based style to a more pacy counter attack style.
The upcoming season may not end as successful as the last one, but at least the excitement going in to matches will be much heightened and the supporters will have an increased opportunity to see more of the club’s youth break through in to the first team.
I, for one, cannot wait for this adventure to begin.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter at @ClitheroeBlue