Chelsea’s first fixture of our pre-season preparations comes against Brighton today, at 15:00 (BST), which you can watch on the Fifth Stand or the Chelsea website. Pre-Season is a great opportunity for young players and new additions to the squad to show the coaches and fans the ability that they have, and in this article we give a factfile of the players who could feature for the Blues in pre-season who weren’t with us last season.
Upon signing a new contract with Chelsea ahead of his loan move to Ross County for the 19/20 season, Baxter said: ‘I think [my new contract] takes me to I’m 24, which is Kepa’s age, doesn’t it? So hopefully when I’m 24, [Chelsea] won’t have to go out and spend a lot of money and I’ll be ready, you never know’. The now-21-year-old has been on trial with League One outfit Swindon Town, after missing a lot of football last season through injury, but they opted to sign Manchester United’s highly-rated Matej Kovar on loan instead, so Baxter’s loan destination for this season is for the moment unknown. League One seems a good level for him under the circumstances, but expect big things from this talented but well-grounded and mature goalkeeper.
If fans will be permitted to enter stadiums in the near future, Žiger is certainly one who they will be seeing a lot of. With Jamie Cumming out on loan this season, as well as the departure of Nicolas Tie from the club, the 19-year-old is likely to become Chelsea’s official third choice keeper. This would give him incredible experiences as he would travel with the first team each time, and train against some of the best forwards in the world. The Croat is known mostly for his penalty shootout heroics with the U19’s last year in the UEFA Youth Champions League, where his diving save against Barcelona sent Chelsea to the final of the competition.
The 18-year-old centre-half has regularly been the captain of Chelsea Academy sides in his age group, and it is clear to see why. An imposing figure who is robust defensively and strong in the air, the Englishman loves to get on the ball and step into midfield to get a move going. He is set to play a main role for the Under-23 side this season, and would love to get some experience against top-level opposition such as Brighton ahead of that.
The left-sided centre-half spent the 2019/20 season on loan at Birmingham City, earning many plaudits for his high-level performance levels. He is likely to leave Chelsea again this Summer, most likely on loan although a permanent deal could be a good idea for the 22-year-old if the right offer comes in. Having now properly proved himself in the Championship, Clarke-Salter’s track record is not one to be scoffed at. His finest career achievements to date include an Under-20 World Cup triumph, two FA Youth Cup medals, a UEFA Youth League success and the captaincy of the England Under-21 side. Once described by the great John Terry as his successor in the Chelsea first team, Clarke-Salter will have a point to prove this pre-season if he wants to convince Frank Lampard that he could still have a future at the club.
Yet to turn 18, Peart-Harris signed his first professional contract with Chelsea in September 2019 and spent the 2019/20 season with the Under-18 squad. Playing as either a central midfielder, an attacking midfielder or a winger, the England Under-17 international made most of his appearances in the U18 Premier League and the FA Youth Cup, scoring 7 goals in 17 appearances. Peart-Harris could be compared to Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the way that he moves, and has a good eye for a killer pass. He likes to ghost into the box for a tap-in but also has the ability to score from range. The London-born teenager has been training with the senior squad during pre-season ahead of his likely promotion to the Under-23 squad for the 20/21 season, and could be set to feature for Chelsea’s senior side in their friendlies before the season gets underway.
The 21-year-old returned to Chelsea in January after an unsuccessful loan spell at League One outfit Shrewsbury Town, so it is understandable that he could be overlooked by some Blues fans. However, people have quickly forgotten how influential the Englishman was in the 2018-19 season for the Chelsea Academy, captaining the U19 side to the UEFA Youth League final. He scored twice in the quarter-final and once in both the round of sixteen and the semi-final and was a real talismanic figure for the team. McCormick has trained with the Chelsea first team in pre-season, with a loan for the 20/21 season very likely.
Despite being destined to head out on loan again this season, with Leeds, Newcastle and Southampton potential destinations, it is likely that Gallagher will spend most of his pre-season with Chelsea. The 20-year-old will want to make his move later in the window when clubs have already done most of their business, so that he knows what kind of competition there will be for game time. This means that Frank Lampard will get a good look at the midfielder, who will surely be in his plans for the future after setting the Championship alight, firstly with Charlton Athletic then Swansea City. Recently called up to the England Under-21 squad, Gallagher will be a one to watch this season.
McEachran is another set to go out on loan this season to gain experience in the men’s game, after having his first loan spell at Cambuur SC in the Dutch second division cut short after less than three months when the competition was curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic. A tidy midfielder who likes to get on the ball and make things happen, the 19-year-old could feature ahead of his impending loan departure.
Again, Ethan Ampadu is one who simply isn’t being talked about enough. For me, you wouldn’t be crazy to call Ampadu the best of the youth players, including the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James. He offers so much leadership on the pitch, and even though his best position is in the 6 role, he can do a great job in the defence, especially in a back three. In our recent podcast with Transfer Guru Simon Phillips, Simon revealed that Ampadu 100% wants to stay at the club for the 20/21 season to fight for a place in Lampard’s side, and will want to begin impressing in pre-season. This mentality is simply something that we need more of at the club. However, the Welshman is almost 20 years old, and has very little gametime under his belt for someone of his talent. He was rarely played under Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri, and although he would have learnt a lot at RB Leipzig, the loan deal has widely been deemed a flop as he only made three appearances in the league. He needs gametime – if he can get that at Chelsea, he is a must keep for this season, otherwise he should be one to get some Premier League experience.
Another returning loanee who is likely to go out again is the Chelsea Academy gradutate Lewis Baker. With the Englishman somehow already at the age of 25, some may say that Baker’s shot at a Chelsea career is long gone, but if he can get his feet on the ground again in the 20/21 season and get a good number of games under his belt then Chelsea fans could be surprised. Baker is one of the players who José Mourinho had said that if they did not become England internationals, the Portuguese should blame himself.
The Dutch fullback’s situation is a very intersting one. Last summer it was reported that he wasn’t going to sign a deal, leaving Chelsea fans in disappointment. A few weeks later, he signed a new contract, yet he was sent out on loan to Ajax with an option to buy. Come one year later, Ajax decided not to permanently sign him and the now-20-year-old is back in our hands. Comparisons to Ian Maatsen are very common, with them both being from Holland and fullbacks, but Castillo is a lot more attack-minded. It will be very interesting to see how he plays in pre-season under Lampard, and whether we could see a comeback for his career at Chelsea.
Having made his Chelsea Under-18 debut whilst still being a 16-year-old ‘schoolboy’ last season, Vale is regarded as one of the best talents of his age group. Primarily a left-footed winger with a tendency to cut in from the right, the England Under-17 international can also play deeper in midfield and has been training with the Chelsea first-team in pre-season, presumably due to the absence of the self-isolated Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount. Vale has a shot at making his Chelsea debut at a very tender age, but even if he doesn’t, this talented youngster is one to keep an eye on in the years to come.
If you know me (Paree), you know that I will rave on and on about Henry Lawrence until he gets his Chelsea debut. The youth player isn’t talked about much in comparison to some others, and personally was my Academy Player of the Season. In pre-season and possibly even throughout the 20/21 season, he could be used heavily for the Chelsea first team. His extreme versatility allows him to be the perfect squad player, especially with such a congested fixture list, and in pre-season when there are a lot of changes to tactics and positions, he’s almost guaranteed to get some game time. For more detail on the defender, midfielder, and forward *yes – all three!*, make sure to check out my written scouting report.
Onto our actual signings…. the Morrocan Magician. Ziyech will excite Chelsea fans so much, with us lacking creativity throughout last season, and the ex-Ajax winger will offer something completely different. Ziyech is not afraid to take a shot, and his crossing with his left foot is actually sublime. Hopefully, via pre-season, he can build a relationship with Reece James, which could be something special. Ziyech cutting inside….James overlapping….something which we can look forward to very much this season. Today, and in the future pre-season games, he’s going to take even more shots and be more inconsistent, but we should try not to be frustrated with this, as the magic will excite us even more.
One month ago, I think most would have assumed the German striker would be our key signing this Summer, only for Kai Havertz to spoil the party. Like Ziyech, the recent hype of signing Thiago Silva and Kai Havertz has made Chelsea fans slightly sleep on Timo. It may be hard for Werner to adapt to the Premier League in his first season, but there is absolutely no doubt that he’s a goalscorer, and he’ll get important goals for us. I personally cannot wait to see Werner play in a Chelsea shirt, with his blistering pace and composure in front of goal, and fingers crossed he can start his career well in Blue by getting involed today. With Tammy Abraham in self-isolation at the moment, Werner has a proper chance of impressing the Chelsea fans and coaches, and is certainly another one who you should look forward to seeing play.
As we said, keep an eye on some of these players as there’s a good chance a lot of them will feature today and in the upcoming weeks…