Before 8pm last night, Chelsea Twitter was in a great mood. We were one of the favourites to win the League, Jamie Carragher and Jurgen Klopp said Chelsea had the best squad in the Premier League, and fans were getting excited as we were on a 17 match unbeaten run.
There was only one man who disagreed with that and constantly said it throughout press conferences that we couldn’t be compared to Liverpool and Manchester City, and that man was Frank Lampard (and myself who said in the Everton preview that Chelsea fans were getting too complacent, and a few others, but you get the point). And he was absolutely spot on; as Chelsea lost to Everton 1-0, and all of a sudden we now have to challenge for top four. The Chelsea manager kept on repeating himself how you can only win titles with consistency, and last night showed we’re not there, yet.
There are a few reasons we’re not consistent enough at the moment, and they all make sense with context. The main reason though is despite what people are saying, we simply do not have that strong of a squad compared to the big boys. We definitely have a big squad, but that doesn’t really matter. At The Chelsea Spot, we always say quality over quantity, and that’s something we do not have at the moment in the Chelsea squad.
Our B Team
I think Chelsea’s lacklusture performance against Krasnodar sums it up, but I’ll go into detail with it. For this, I’m going to assume our best lineup is this one (although that is never really a thing): Mendy, Chilwell, Zouma, Silva, James, Kante, Mount, Havertz, Ziyech, Werner, Pulisic. You can have your own opinion on your best lineup, but this is just the model I’m going to use to show exacly what I mean.
After Mendy we have Kepa. The worst goalkeeper in Premier League history. That’s not a great start is it? Willy Caballero – he’s average, old, and not really up to the high standard. After all, he’s older than Petr Cech who’s our technical director (although he is playing tomorrow vs Spurs with the development squad). So, if Mendy gets injured or has to leave to go to AFCON, we’re in trouble big time.
Ben Chilwell has been brilliant so far this season, but he’s a player who will have a few bad games in the season and will make mistakes as he’s still young. Normally you’d have a player who could come in for him when he’s struggling to do a job – nope, not in our case. Chilly-B has Emerson and Marcos Alonso behind him, both players who the club want to leave but they can’t afford to lose both at the same time. Emerson is actually decent on the ball, but has the defensive positioning of a donkey, and Marcos Alonso hasn’t played a single minute for Chelsea after his row with Frank Lampard at the game against West Brom. Lampard definitely doesn’t trust them both, and playing Azpilicueta would probably make more sense, but Frank has been opposed this season to using inverted fullbacks. It’s against the style of play, and also Dave is playing a lot of the time on the right hand side when James is resting. If Chilwell gets injured, we’re pretty much screwed.
Our centre backs – they’ve been a breath of fresh air this season. Zouma has been scoring from corners like it’s nothing, is winning every header in in his own box, and next to Silva they are building a great partnership. Thiago has changed our team completely, adding so much composure on the ball, experience and has shown so many good moments of defending (although, his worst game was probably last night vs Everton). Behind the Brazilian centre-back we have Fikayo Tomori, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. Tomori’s situation at Chelsea is just bizarre, that’s for another article. So, if Silva gets injured, we’re back to the same defence as last season, which was extremely leaky. Rudiger always has a mistake in him and Christensen has looked good this season, however when it comes to being physical that’s certainly not his strong point. So, if Silva can’t play, we could be back to the dodgy defence from last year.
James has definitely been our best and most consistent player this season, and the improvement from last season has been exceptional. After him we do we have Azpilicueta who can certainly do a job, so I won’t complain too much about our RB situation, but again Dave is nothing like Reece and is a lot more negative (football playing wise) so Hakim would struggle not having a constant overlap. Henry Lawrence is probably our next best option at RB, and as much as he’s my favourite academy player, he could be leaving in January on loan and probably isn’t ready to play every single week in the Premier League.
To the average Premier League fan, they will think we are stacked in midfield. But are we actually in the style of play we are pushing towards? I think it is very clear that Frank Lampard wants to play with the 4-3-3, with two number 8’s. Kante isn’t even a number 6 naturally! So we don’t even have a defensive-midfielder at the club, and behind N’Golo we have Jorginho who cannot defend for his life, and Billy Gilmour who yes can certainly do a job there, but isn’t your ideal 6. For the box to box type of midfielders, we have Kai Havertz and Mason Mount. Mateo Kovacic has played there a lot more this season but he still isn’t naturally an 8 and doesn’t offer the goal threat required in the 8, so your next two players who can play there are Gilmour and Tino Anjorin. Don’t get me wrong, both exceptional players and can do a good job for us this season, but both have been linked with loan moves away this January and if one of Kai/Mason were to be injured, we will be lacking experienced and ideal replacements.
Our attack to be fair, we’re quite stacked in. We have three clear wingers, and three strikers, one of which can certainly play out wide (although Frank thought Tammy would also be able to do a job at LW yesterday…). Yet, somehow we still struggled in attack against Everton! All three of our wingers are out at the moment, but we’re hoping that these are just short term injuries. Our backup to Pulisic and Ziyech out wide includes Hudson-Odoi and Werner, which is brilliant, and up front Timo Werner has Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud on his neck, who are again both top strikers. So despite us having to play Havertz and Timo last night out wide and it not working at all, in a few weeks time we should be back to normal.
Very young & inexperienced squad
That’s enough about the squad depth, hopefully that shows you that we do have numbers, but in a lot of areas we are lacking proper quality. Look at yesterday’s bench vs City’s bench, and you’ll see the difference.
Another reason that we don’t have the best squad is due to this team being very inexperienced and young, as expected before coming into this season. Most pundits and fans wouldn’t have put us as clear title challengers, so what has changed? I think most of us would have said comfortably top four, and to close the gap between us and the top two. That still seems very reasonable.
About half of these players have only played one season in the Premier League, and the other half are new to this team. Our most experienced players are Kante and Silva, while Silva has never played in the pace or the intensity of the English League before. Ben Chilwell and Zouma are our next players with more experience in the top flight of English football, but even then they are both still young guys who have a lot to improve on in their game. As brilliantly as they did last season, we saw it took time for the likes of Mount, James, Abraham and Tomori to get used to the League, and that’s only going to be the same with the likes of Havertz, Werner and Ziyech. On top of that, a lot of these guys have never played with each other before, so it’ll also take time for them to get used to each other’s movements.
Many sources have reported that Frank Lampard’s project is going to be a three year plan, and that’s when you’ll see the likes of Rice come in, and other young experienced players at the top level, like Gimenez/Alaba/Haaland. Imagine in 5 years time, when Chilwell, James, Mount, Havertz, Pulisic, Hudson-Odoi, Abraham and Werner will all be in their prime. Lampard would have also learnt from inevitable mistakes on the way, and we could be an absolute force in Europe. I’m not saying we should give Lampard 5 years to win a trophy, but I’m just showing you what the future will look like if we give these players time. Klopp needed time and investment, Guardiola needed time and investment – that’s called building for the future and as part of the process. Lampard needs time and investment, and I’m sure he’ll get both.
To summarise: can Chelsea win the league this season? Possibly. Can you expect Chelsea to win the league this season? NO. Frank needs time. The players need to time to get used to the league. The players need time to get used to playing with each other. It’s all part of the process.
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Written by Paree