Chelsea kicked off their 2022/23 Premier League campaign on Saturday with a trip up to Merseyside to face last season’s survival specialists Everton. Chelsea have been busy in the transfer window already, securing three lucrative signings with Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Marc Cucurella coming through the doors at Stamford Bridge. Thomas Tuchel has also hinted that they are not finished with their business, and are looking at more players to sign the dotted line. And so with the start of a new season, and Chelsea officially underway in the new campaign, I’m going to give my not-so-expert opinion on how we fared against the Toffees.
Our back three.
New signing Koulibaly was alongside veterans Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta, and immediately settled into his new role. The Senegalese international looked immensely comfortable in the Chelsea backline, winning challenges, interceptions and headers, whilst finishing the game with 88% passing accuracy. Kali was superb in his Chelsea debut, and his future certainly looks bright.
Not only was KK immense, I thought Captain Azpi was impressive too. With 90% pass accuracy, four tackles and one interception, the reliable Spaniard looked great in his first match since penning a new two-year deal at the club.
But the real strength was Thiago Silva. The man is ageing like a fine wine and is easily playing the best football of his career. Not only is his footballing ability something to be impressed with, but the fact that he turns 38 next month really takes it for me. He has been outstanding since his move to Stamford Bridge, and Saturday’s performance proves he is by no means ready to slow down. Four clearances, one blocked shot, three interceptions and one tackle, along with the Man of the Match trophy secures a definitive strength for Thiago Silva.
Our attacking play.
Chelsea lacked a threatening end product for a lot of last season, and unfortunately it carried over to Saturday’s game. With 15 shots, and just six on target, the Blues looked lethargic and uncreative all game. There was glimpses of magic from Sterling on his debut, but the Englishman struggled to turn anything into a clear cut chance. The same goes for Mason Mount, who only managed one shot on target. Kai Havertz was also well off the tempo, and was struggling against Everton right back Nathan Patterson.
Chelsea also had 16 corners to Everton’s four, yet made very few of them count. It looked as if Chelsea just had no real game plan, along with Everton playing very defensive, with Gordon and Gray waiting for the counter opportunity. Abdoulaye Doucoure forced Mendy into a fantastic save, which was Everton’s best chance at an equaliser.
Despite the penalty, Chelsea just created very little, and this will need to change in order to get anything against Spurs next weekend.
I thought Reece was brilliant, with the right back successfully suring up Chelsea’s defence. Not only that, but his attacking play just gets better and better. Despite the corners frequently hitting the first man, I thought Reece barely put a foot wrong. RJ’s crosses are deadly, and with the right man on the end of them, we could score some serious goals. The problem is our attackers rarely give him the opportunity to whip those crosses in.
Three clearances, one interception, one tackle, and 92% pass accuracy helps prove my point that the wing-back had a great game. If only we had someone who could get on the end of the crosses, we would be laughing.
Generally an underwhelming performance.
Despite the victory, Chelsea just seemed off the pace on Saturday, with the aforementioned lack of creativity, as well as a lack of flair and determination. The Toffees failed to force Chelsea into any mistakes, and this made the Blues secure the victory with ease, but with a huge lack of effort. Performances of this standard will get us by against the weaker sides in the league, but when we come against the other big six teams, we could be in for a painful season. I said it in the TCS season predictions that will be out on the site soon that I think we might struggle this season, but hopefully I’m proven wrong.
With $250 mil spent in the summer Chelsea went into the season looking to close the gap between themselves and Premier League rivals Manchester City and Liverpool. In a global pandemic which forced many clubs to remain cautious in their transfer approach, Abramovich chose to compete or die with various marquee signings for his West London club. Adding onto the youthful arsenal established in a transfer ban season under Frank Lampard, top 4 was the minimum with little room for error. Inevitably, the Chelsea nature of unyielding expectations had it’s way and Frank Lampard was axed after his first poor run of form leaving the squad unsettled with a lack of identity, direction, and passion. Thomas Tuchel was the man appointed by the board to replace Lampard. On one hand it was a questionable decision, with his often described spiky personality seemingly a poor fit for a controlling board like Chelsea, while on the other a sensible appointment to instill a tactical identity for a squad devoid of one.
Compete in all remaining competitions and achieve top 4 – this was the expectation for the ex-PSG manager. With only an 18 month deal offered, Tuchel had little time to prove his worth and acumen to the club, and he seemed to recognize that. He wasted no time and transitioned to the squad into a true defensive stronghold, but in a rather unique way. The concept of “defensive possession” seemed to best describe the system, with a focus on being possession dominant, combined with an emphasis on structure and balance in the team to nullify the attacking prowess of their opponents. Tuchel’s reign started extremely strong, winning many games by starving opponents of not only goals, but opportunities against the defense. Often winning games 1-0 or 2-0, Chelsea slowly became the team no side wanted to face. Ultimately, this became most true in Chelsea’s Champions League cup run.
Having won their group with Frank Lampard at the helm, Chelsea’s first opponent in the round of 16 was Atletico Madrid. The Spanish side were sitting comfortably atop of La Liga at the time of Tuchel’s appointment, and were one of the most in-form teams. With a scheduled date in late February, it seemed highly likely the Blues would have an early exit in the competition in a similar fashion to how things ended in the previous year. In the build-up to the game Chelsea had a favorable run of fixtures – Premier League teams which allowed the squad to get a rhythm in the new system without risking too many points being dropped. The true test came in these later February fixtures, with the matchup against Atletico being immediately followed by Manchester United and Liverpool in the league. Tuchel’s Chelsea passed and performed quite well in these fixtures, with the first game against Atletico relying on a wonder goal by Olivier Giroud, but earning a draw against 2nd place Manchester United, and a dominant performance against Klopp’s Liverpool. This truly kicked off the confidence in the squad and some of the revived players. The belief in the system was clearly present, with players such as Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Jorginho playing what had likely been their best performances for the club. The strength of the squad and its confidence continued to grow and with forcing Atletico to play on the back foot in the 2nd leg, Chelsea were able to capitalize in yet another dominant performance and knockout the Spanish champions in a 2-0 victory. The result was a massive morale booster which showed glimpses of resilience in a youthful and largely inexperienced squad in the distinguished competition.
While taking down Atletico was an exceptional feat, the path forward also provided glimmers of hope to truly go far with PSG, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City, the top 3 favorites, all being drawn on the opposite end of the bracket. This left Chelsea to face Porto in the quarter finals, with potential opponents of either Real Madrid or Liverpool in the semi-final. Once again, overcoming the unexpected obstacles Chelsea faced against Porto, the result was as expected with Chelsea progressing from their 2-0 win in the first leg, being enough after their 1-0 loss in the second on aggregate. Real Madrid was the victor in the other matchup and they were an opponent unlike no other. Filled with world class individual talent, as well as loads of experience and success in this competition, there began to be doubt if Chelsea could truly reach the final. A team composed of many players which had only 1 season of top flight football under their belt, along with numerous big money signings which had been struggling to adapt and stay in-form in their performances. This truly was a different side to the one that had done the unthinkable and taken down one of the strongest sides in Spain, if not all of Europe in 2012 after their struggles throughout the season. There were no established characters, legacies, and accomplishments like in 2012. Characters, leaders, as well as many of the established top players in all of Europe existed in the team. Drogba, Terry, Lampard, Mata, Cole, Cech, Torres, all coexisting in the same squad, many of which are now established legends of the game. Although a similar context and narrative with a midseason change in manager, the chemistry and experience throughout this squad lacked to that of the 2012 team. It seemed like a resilient nature and compete or die attitude was not present in this group of individuals…Or so we thought?
Instantly in the first match Chelsea looked the more obviously dominant team, showing that a well refined system and unit of role players who worked hard could outperform the individual talent. However, the theme which perpetuated under Tuchel’s reign throughout had been the wasteful nature of the team’s ability to put away the chances they created. Going 1-1 into the second leg, the Blues had a point to prove, and repeated their dominance against this Real Madrid this time winning 2-0 while still being wasteful in their opportunities. This meant Chelsea were in the UCL final for the first time since 2012, and the magical run with it’s overlapping characteristics continued to be likened in nature.
Throughout Tuchel’s half-season campaign he bested multiple top managers including the likes of Mourinho, Klopp, Simeone, Zidane, and Guardiola. Although his path to accomplishing top 4 was unconventional and reliant on results elsewhere, he did also reach both the FA Cup final and the UCL final. After the loss of the FA cup to Leicester City, the only remaining cup was the most prestigious award in all of European football. Tuchel faced Pep for the 3rd time this season and although having got the better of him on 2 occasions previously, Pep had won this cup before, and the timing and preparation of his Manchester City side seemed inevitably in their favor.
However, leading up to this point and having discussed the squad composition during the magical 2012 UCL victory, it’s important to discuss the composition of the current victors of the UCL. Our goalie Edouard Mendy was brought in from Rennes for $25 million to take over the below-par record signing Kepa and resulted in a fantastic acquisition. Our back line which rotated due to fitness and availability either consisted of fringe players in Christensen and Rudiger, likely on their way out under Lampard, and put in their best performances in a Chelsea shirt in this system in a dramatic turnaround of form. An ageing legend still at the top of the game in Thiago Silva as well as Azpilicueta who although traditionally a RB, remains at the top of his game in a 3 back at RCB. At wingbacks we have two youngsters in Reece James playing his first full season in top-flight football, and newly acquired $50 million Ben Chilwell who’s highest level before this was his experience in the EPL with Leicester. Our midfield consisted of a combo of any 3 of these players; N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, and Mateo Kovacic who was largely injured leading up to the final. Kante is the most obvious player of quality in the team, however Jorginho is an extremely divisive player for the fanbase, with limitations that need to be protected, but similar to others, played excellently when called on. Kovacic, although a player with an excellent technical skill set, seems to have grown stagnant in his development and production towards the team and as a result has not established himself as a top midfielder in Europe thus far. The front 3 selection being the most varied based on opponent and form is even more interesting in this context. Having acquired Werner, Havertz, and Ziyech, all 3 seemed to have had their struggles in consistency throughout the season. While certain opponents and tactical setups have played to the strengths and driven the line-up decisions of Thomas Tuchel, none have cemented themselves to be the top European attacking threat they were purchased to be, as of yet. On top of this Werner is still only 24 and Havertz 21 with both having limited experience in the competition which rings even more true with the remaining 2 attackers. Christian Pulisic, and Mason Mount are the 2 other regular first choice players under Tuchel, and although Pulisic showed consistent high-level form during the project restart, he failed to carry the consistency into this season. Mason Mount remains the sole reliable attacker/creator in the team to drive Chelsea forward and carry a consistent, tangible threat. While Pulisic has played top-flight football for quite a few years, his injury record and inconsistent output never placed him in elite company. Mason Mount on the other hand is traditionally disliked by the side of the fanbase which seems to favor Jorginho. For all of Mount’s inconsistency and usage in a multitude of positions in his first season for Chelsea, it seemed he really hit his stride this year and is our most probable player of the season at just the age of 22. With this in mind, Chelsea relative to City were nowhere near in contention for such an accomplishment, especially taking into consideration previous outputs of players and the position they entire squad was in when Lampard was sacked. As a result, this spotlights not only the drastic reversal of the squad attaining this level of performance to be reaching such heights.
However, for all their differences, this team entered the final with the same mindset as the 2012, all odds against them and playing their hearts out until the final whistle. Against very likely the strongest team in Europe, Chelsea did not just win the UCL final, they earned it. A dominant performance with excellent tactical execution and willingness and grit from the players to win this cup is what made the difference. Many pivotal moments from key players never in this position before completely changed the game, while a baseline quality performance was upheld by the entire squad. From Reece nullifying any threat Sterling created down his flank, to Rudiger saving what was quite literally a goal in a last ditch block against Foden in the box, to Werner’s excellent decoy run with Kai’s composure 1v1 after receiving a perfectly weighted pass from Mount to score the only goal. Tuchel had earned his 3rd win in a row over Pep. However, this time it came with the UCL Cup, and the implications for the future are greater than ever.
For a squad this inexperienced, to showcase the character and ability to come away with the title for the most prestigious competition in Europe cannot be understated. Additionally, it highlights the opportunity for a reign of dominance, which Chelsea could establish by building on the foundations present. This side is different from 2012 – while 2012 seemed to be a last shot at glory for those maturing further into the game and nearing the ends of their careers, 2021 is the inverse of that as the final 2 digits of the year suggest. However this does not mean the task at hand is complete, rather it confirms and sheds light on the priorities and needs of the club for the future to sustain this.
Chelsea had won the UCL, so where do they go from here to increase the chances of repeatability and nurture consistent progression? Firstly, instilling trust in our youth academy talents and utilizing the pipeline with first team involvement with coordinated efforts for development and adaptation. Secondly, a similar transfer approach we exhibited the summer leading up to this, pursuing top-level talents and targets without settling for 3rd or 4th choice options. This second choice comes with a caveat of remaining sensible in our approach, addressing areas of need rather than pursuing the best available players in each window leaving us with a bloated squad and positions still to be addressed with heavy investments that are near impossible to recoup. With these principles, the foundation of the team at hand, and the tactically adept manager Chelsea have in Thomas Tuchel, all the pieces exist to reassert dominance of the West London club throughout Europe for years to come. The outlook, although not guaranteed, is promising, and while 2012 signified the beauty of the game, 2021 could represent the dream of the game.
The UEFA Champions League is the most coveted European cup competition. Chelsea FC are one of ten teams who have won this prestigious competition once in their existence, and are looking to double that tally when they face Manchester City on the 29th of May. Chelsea won their solo Champions League title back in 2012, when Didier Drogba slotted home the winning penalty in a 1-1 draw againt German superpowers Bayern Munich. But what has changed at the club since that fabled night in Munich?
Nine years is a relatively long time but seems to be a lifetime in football.
The penalty shootout victory over Bayern Munich wrote the etched the names of a special group of players in the history books, with Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, and a left-midfield Ryan Bertrand heralded for their roles in the Blues’ victory. Not a single player from that star studded remains at Chelsea – and you can see why, it has been 9 years since we’re back in the Champions League, and players that were in their prime in 2012, are now either retired or at smaller clubs (David Luiz at Arsenal comes to mind), playing in the twilight years of their careers.
Petr Cech, Jose Bosingwa, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Ross Turnbull, Michael Essien, Paulo Ferreira, Florent Malouda and Fernando Torres have all hung up their boots on illustrious careers, while the likes of David Luiz, Juan Mata, Gary Cahill, John Obi Mikel, Ryan Bertrand, Salomon Kalou and Oriol Romeu continue to ply their trades at different clubs, scattered across the world.
After years of rebuilding, Chelsea seem to have a star studded squad reminiscent of Chelsea back in 2012 , with talisman Mason Mount emerging as the team’s driving force. Eduoard Mendy, Chelsea’s Senegalese goalkeeper, who signed from Rennes this season, is doing his best Petr Cech impression – keeping 8 clean sheets in the UCL, a backline consisting of a permutation of Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Kurt Zouma playing their best football and ensuring that Mendy’s job is reduced. Jorginho has been revived under Thomas Tuchel and has been a revelation playing in a pivot with the likes of N’golo Kante, Billy Gilmour and Matteo Kovacic. The wingbacks’ Reece James and Ben Chilwell too have developed into instrumental players for the squad. A huge summer spree, netted the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech who join the likes of Tammy Abraham, Christian Pulisic, Olivier Giroud and Callum Hudson Odoi to create a lethal and world class strike force. I’d go as far as saying that the talent the present squad possesses is on par with the 2012 squad.
Since 2012 Chelsea have gone from Roberto Di Matteo, who arrived mid season, won them them the Champions League, and was promptly sacked – to Thomas Tuchel , another manager who has arrived midway through the season, but doesn’t look sack-able in the least.
Di Matteo took charge of a squad that was still fighting for a Champions League spot in the Premier League, and for a place in the quarter finals of the FA Cup and the Champions League. Chelsea could still win two trophies, though Torres scoring a hat trick looked more likely at that time. What Boas lacked in man-management, Di Matteo had it in him plentiful. He got the ‘old guard’ of Chelsea performing as if they were in their prime. Lampard, Drogba, Terry were at the center of Chelsea victories with a good supporting cast of Ivanovic and Ramires. The team overturned the deficit against Napoli and waltzed into the UCL semifinals. What happened next, possibly changed their season. Playing against probably the best team of our time, a resilient Chelsea team managed to beat Barcelona over two legs and even avoided defeat at the Camp Nou despite being down to 10 men. Spurred by this confidence, Di Matteo’s team went on to beat Liverpool in the FA Cup finals. Towards the end of the season, Roberto di Matteo seemed to give up on his team’s chances in the Premier League, often playing second-string line ups even against teams like Arsenal and Liverpool. But, having gambled next season’s UCL qualification on winning the UCL tournament itself, paid off when they defeated Bayern Munich in Munich.
When Tuchel took over, though, he never gave the impression that Chelsea were a team crying out for huge repairs. He looked at his squad, found little wrong with it and simply tweaked the system, switching to a 3-4-2-1 formation that gave them a better structure. Chelsea look impenetrable at the moment, with Édouard Mendy impressing in goal. They have kept 18 clean sheets in Tuchel’s first 24 games and look equipped to take on City in Istanbul on 29 May. Tuchel has already recorded one big win against Guardiola this season, outwitting his friend when Chelsea won their FA Cup semi-final against City last month.
The natural temptation is to hark back to previous mid-season managerial changes by Abramovich, who saw Avram Grant take Chelsea to the Champions League final in 2008 and Roberto Di Matteo win the tournament four years later. But this is different. Chelsea were on auto-pilot under Grant and they had plenty of luck under Di Matteo. There is no comparison to be made with this controlled run under Tuchel.
P.S Here’s a fun thread for you to enjoy comparing 2012 to 2021 in the footballing world, and explaining why this is Chelsea’s year
After a tedious international break, Chelsea are back in action, as the Blues await a struggling West Brom side, who are fighting for their lives in the top flight. The reverse fixture provided a game that delivered more than expected at the Hawthorns, as the Baggies struck gold as they led Chelsea 3-0 at half time. The Blues dug deep to find their feet in the second half, with goals from Callum Hudson Odoi, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham levelling the game. Despite the surprise earlier in the season, Chelsea are clear favourites coming into this fixture, with Thomas Tuchel’s side now unbeaten in 15. Thomas Tuchel also scooped the Premier League Manager of the Month award for March, following an astonishing opening to his stint as Chelsea boss.
Despite their league position, West Brom are not in woeful form. With just two losses in their last five, and two goals conceded, Sam Allardyce’s side will hope to keep Chelsea on the back foot. The West Midlands side are still a fair way from safety, but a big result at Stamford Bridge could really turn their season around, as time is running out.
Player updates and news:
Thomas Tuchel has revealed that just one Chelsea player will be unable, as N’Golo Kante returned early from international duty, after picking up a slight hamstring injury and trained on his own to relieve the pressure. Other than NG, the rest of the squad is fit, which means I don’t have to deliver any more bad news about Thiago Silva or Tammy Abraham, finally…
Tuchel also stated that everyone trained with high quality, which is great news for Chelsea fans as we get back in business in the league, with some huge games on the horizon.
Despite Thiago finally fit for action, I am doubtful we will see him start, as Porto on Wednesday is an absolute must win game, and we need our best side possible for that encounter.
I also feel Havertz may be in with a chance of starting, but I went with Tammy to lead the line as we haven’t seen him in action in quite some time, and Saturday’s opponents may be the perfect game to ease him back into action.
Timo Werner is confirmed to be starting by Tuchel, as the gaffer insists he will find the net soon, and he also praised his attitude and willingness to improve.
Players to watch:
Timo Werner: I stand with Tuchel in the belief that Werner will hit the heights we all know he is capable of, and I really think West Brom could be the game he does so. After a serious mistake, costing his national team the win against North Macedonia in the week, Werner received a lot of criticism, and I’m adamant he can prove the doubters wrong. If we can feed the ball in front of Timo, giving him the chance to run on to the ball and get in behind the West Brom defence, the German could cause some real problems.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: The Arsenal loanee will be sure to have his work cut out, but will be motivated to keep West Brom in the Premier League. Maitland-Niles has a vast amount of quality, and will be hopeful to create as many chances as possible. Despite his skill, however, I think the task at hand may be too difficult for the 23-year-old.
Here we go again. Chelsea are back in action following one of the biggest victories of the season on Thursday night, as the Blues host former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton at Stamford Bridge. The London side fought tooth and nail to defeat Liverpool, and now face their Merseyside neighbours in a pivotal encounter for both sides. Both Chelsea and Everton have their sights set on top four, and a win for either side could provide an all important boost to assist them in doing so. It’s a battle between 4th and 5th in South West London this evening.
The season so far:
Both sides have enjoyed a strong season thus far, and their league positions reinforce this. Chelsea’s win over Liverpool now means they are unbeaten in 11 games, 10 of those coming under Thomas Tuchel’s reign. Not only is the 11 game unbeaten run impressive on its own, but Chelsea have only conceded twice in those games. Twice. Thomas Tuchel has reignited a fire inside this Chelsea squad, and the Blues have shown no signs of slowing down.
As for their opponents, the Toffees are also in good form, securing three wins in their last three. Everton have also failed to lose an away game since November 1st, which could benefit Ancelotti’s side tonight. This doesn’t mean Chelsea are in trouble, however, as the Blues are on a six game unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge.
Some would argue that the blue half of Merseyside are more venomous this season, and Chelsea can validate this, after the Blues lost 1-0 at Goodison Park earlier in the season, thanks to a Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty. That being said, Chelsea have picked off some big names under Tuchel so far, and the German will hope this can continue tonight.
Player updates and news:
Thomas Tuchel has revealed that N’Golo Kante is still being preserved since returning from injury, and although he may start, he is unlikely to play 90 minutes. This could be a blow to Chelsea, as the Frenchman has been terrific as of late.
Thiago Silva could also be in contention to start his first game in over a month, after the Brazilian has been back in training recently. This would provide Chelsea a strong chance this evening, however, if the 36-year-old is not fully fit, the back three of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta are more than up to the challenge, and the three have been reinvigorated under Tuchel.
Callum Hudson Odoi could also be in with a chance of starting, as the youngster missed out on any action against Liverpool on Thursday. Hudson Odoi has a point to prove as Thomas Tuchel has implemented a ruthless approach to his tactics, and the Englishman will hope he can show the boss what he can do.
As I said in the Liverpool preview, I would love for Havertz to start, but given the importance of the fixture in putting a gap between Chelsea and Everton, I don’t think it’s the perfect time to take the risk. Hopefully we will see a Havertz cameo later in the game.
I also struggled to leave Jorginho out of the side, as the Italian played his best game in a Chelsea shirt against Liverpool. The reason he didn’t make my XI is just because of the importance of N’Golo Kante and Mason Mount, who grabbed our all important match winner at Anfield. That being said, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Jorginho start this evening.
Tammy Abraham could also be in for a shout ahead of Olivier Giroud, but I’m unsure on whether he can provide the same impact as Oli against Everton’s strong, deep backline.
Players to watch:
Timo Werner: It is no secret that Timo hasn’t hit the heights that Chelsea fans expected, but nevertheless, the German has not had a bad season at all. With 19 goals/assists in all competitions, the 25-year-old has looked bright under Thomas Tuchel. Werner had a terrific performance against Liverpool, and also scored in our last game on a Monday against Newcastle. Werner could very well impress tonight, coming off the back of a solid performance at Anfield.
Richarlison: The Everton star has netted in each of the Toffees’ last four games, which makes him the player to watch for the away side this evening. Not only that, but Richarlison can change a game at any given time, The prolific forward has a darting pace that Azpilicueta may struggle to counter. Whether it is Reece James or Callum Hudson Odoi on that right flank, Azpi will need as much help as possible to keep the Brazilian at bay.
This fixture happens to be a year on from our last game inside a full Stamford Bridge. That game’s opponents? Everton. For the fans now watching from their living rooms, lets give them another win to cheer.
When Frank Lampard became the manager of Chelsea FC in the summer of 2019, many didn’t know what to expect. Coming off his first full season as manager for Derby County in the EFL Championship, his side finished short of being promoted back to the English Premier League. They lost 2-1 versus Aston Villa in the final of their playoffs and, despite that, they had a successful season that saw the team mature and grow.
Lampard, who spent 13 seasons with Chelsea as a player, had a positive first season as manager of the club. He led his side to a fourth-place finish in the Premier League, which secured their spot in the Champions League for the 2020/21 campaign. Additionally, Chelsea advanced to the FA Cup finals versus Arsenal, yet lost 3-1.
However, they weren’t as fortunate in the League Cup and the Champions League as they had bitter defeats versus Manchester United and Bayern Munich, with the latter proving to be too much to handle. It was a learning curve for Lampard as it was his first time managing a club in the Champions League. A tough task to do with limited managerial experience.
In Lampard’s first season, he exceeded expectations for his side after a transfer ban in the summer of 2018. He had the daunting task of not being able to sign players that he would have wanted to and, instead, had to depend on players who returned from the prior season and also relied on the Youth Academy. Although the ban was lifted and they were able to sign players in the winter transfer market, not much was done, which left Lampard in a difficult situation.
Most managers would prefer to arrive, transform the club as to how they would want it and have the flexibility to buying players in the transfer market. Lampard took on a challenging task and, in doing so, he has been able to take many Chelsea academy players to the next level in their young career.
Last season, Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James broke into the first team and got their opportunity to show what they could provide to Chelsea. All three players didn’t disappoint as they finished the season rather impressively. Mount and Abraham had a combined 22 goals in the Premier League, while James proved to be a capable backup to Cesar Azpilicueta for the foreseeable future. He is a physical defender, with strong tackles and a good read for the game.
Heading into the 2020/21 season, expectations became much different for Lampard. This time around, the club had a full summer transfer window to purchase and were quite active, to say the least. They brought young, highly talented players, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell. They also brought veteran Thiago Silva to provide leadership and experience in the backend. They spent an excess of 200 million Euros in the summer transfer window and expectations were high.
Lampard’s job was in jeopardy at the mid-point of the season as his side had failed to produce. They exited early in the League Cup versus Tottenham Hotspur, advanced his side to the round of 16 in the Champions League and won against Hull City to advance into the fourth round of the FA Cup. Prior to his firing, Chelsea was sitting in ninth place in the Premier League. The results were encouraging yet not enough to save his job.
Lampard’s first season was more lenient given the circumstances the club faced however in his second season, club owner, Roman Abramovich, didn’t wait to evaluate Lampard’s performance as manager. The club decided to replace him with ex-PSG manager, Thomas Tuchel, which caught many by surprise when the deal was announced.
While it was sad to see Lampard leave Chelsea, he did his best in a tough situation the past two seasons. One noticeable area of concern was Lampard’s lack of managerial experience. Far too often this season, he had players in positions that were not their regulation position. Specifically, Werner, who was used as a left-wing but spent most of his time as a centre-forward with RB Leipzig. The German has struggled to find consistency, along with not scoring at the same rate he did in the Bundesliga.
All the blame shouldn’t be squared solely on Lampard. It was well known that he had limited managerial experience and he was going to need time to learn and adapt. Many successful managers have advanced through the youth rankings or have managed the lower divisions to help them gain experience. Lampard should have been given the proper time to adjust and figure it out with Chelsea. That’s never the case with Abramovich, who is known to have little patience.
Additionally, Chelsea acquired a plethora of new players in the summer transfer market and they had limited time to become familiar with each other. Training camp was shortened this season as Covid-19 altered the season and the scheduling. Injuries and illnesses also hampered Lampard’s squad, which made it difficult to have a full roster where players could play regularly.
While it didn’t go as planned this season, the Englishman was able to keep Chelsea on course through difficult times. Now he will embark on a new journey in his managerial career. Regardless of how it went, he will always be a Blue who gave it his all just as he did when he was a player with the club.
The time has rolled around for our beloved Blues to face the reigning champions once more. A fixture with an enriched history. Goals. Bites. Slips. You name it, this game has seen it. Liverpool vs Chelsea has always impressed, and tonight will be no exception.
Now, lets start by looking at the season so far. Both sides have endured some ups, alongside some downs, but it’s the London boys who own the position of promise for this game. Chelsea currently sit 5th in the Premier League, just once place above their opponents, holding the Reds off by a single point. Earlier in the season, Liverpool picked Chelsea off in a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, which saw Andreas Christensen sent off for a clumsy challenge on Sadio Mane.
Liverpool have the home advantage, but in recent weeks, this has proven to be nothing but a myth. The Reds have failed to secure a victory at Anfield since December 16th, 2020. Now, three months into the new year, Klopp’s men are still struggling. Chelsea, on the other hand, have won four out of five away bouts under Thomas Tuchel. Not only is the away record impressive for the Blues, but Tuchel’s army are unbeaten in 10 games, nine of which have come under the German’s reign. Compare that with the hosts, who have just four wins out of their last nine games, and the odds swoop in the favour of the South West Londoners.
The fixture seems to have landed at the perfect time for Chelsea, but business is still business, and the Blues will not tread lightly over this evenings opponents.
Player updates and news:
During yesterday’s press conference, Tuchel revealed that Thiago Silva is still not fit for action, which does provide a blow to Chelsea, given the opponents strength in attack. That said, the trio of Antonio Rudiger, the aforementioned Christensen, and skipper Cesar Azpilicueta have taken the Brazilian’s absence as a reason to step up, and all three players have shown signs of improvement over recent weeks. If we see the trusted back three, I have no doubt this will continue.
“Thiago made his first training with the team but did not finish the last exercise, not because of any pain but just to be aware of taking a risk.” (Thomas Tuchel via The 5th Stand app.)Callum Hudson Odoi is fit, however, after the player was once again subbed off in the last game against Manchester United. This is pivotal for Chelsea as the youngster has shown a real insurgence of quality into his game, which is no surprise as we all knew he had it.
The only other concern is Tammy Abraham, who was left out of the matchday squad on Sunday. Tuchel said “Tammy had some problems yesterday on his ankle again. Let’s see how this works out.”
Everyone else seems to be available, so with that being said, who can we expect to see this evening?
My heart is saying Havertz but my head is saying Giroud. Tuchel has mentioned he sees Kai as someone he can rely on at the top of our attack, but I just don’t think Liverpool away is the right time to test this. I also think Ziyech will drop to the bench as the Moroccan has struggled to find any form since his move to SW6.
Players to watch:
Mason Mount: Our trusted number 19. He’s always worth watching. Mount commands every blade of grass he plays on, and can release some killer passes through to Werner and Giroud, which could give Chelsea a real chance. Chelsea have produced the second most attempts on goal (86) in the league since Tuchel arrived, but have struggled to convert these into goals. Hopefully we can see this change tonight.
Allison Becker: Now, when I looked at Liverpool’s past games, no one has stood out significantly, which sounds bizarre to even say when you look at the star power across the whole squad. I went for Allison, as the Brazilian has a real point to prove following some lacklustre performances as of late, those including some serious mistakes which have cost the Reds a lot of points. Jurgen Klopp will need his number one to be at his best tonight.
Through the years at Chelsea, many players have come and gone. Many players are favoured by particular managers, then once that manager is gone, the player loses his touch. It’s a vicious cycle that can seriously tarnish a player’s ability. In this piece, I’m going to discuss how Thomas Tuchel can prevent this from happening with Mateo Kovacic.
Kovacic has been a fantastic addition to the Chelsea side since his arrival in 2018. ‘Kova’ shone in his season-long loan spell, enough to earn himself a permanent move to the Bridge last season. During last season, the Croatian set the pitch alight, with stand out performances throughout the season. This secured him the Club’s Player of the Season award, a credit to his ability and performances.
Despite the accolade, there remained a lot missing in his game. Kova struggles with precision in the final third and can be relatively weak defensively. With that being said, since Tuchel arrived at the Bridge, he has reignited a fire inside Mateo that is becoming very clear to see. In his first five league games under Tuchel, Kovacic has proved just how important he can be when he performs to this high standard. Over the five games, Mateo has racked up a pass accuracy percentage of 91% and has completed 16 of his 18 attempted dribbles. Quite the achievement.It is no doubt that one of his strongest qualities is his pristine dribbling, which is evident to see when he glides around the pitch, almost effortlessly. Remind you of anyone? That’s right, a certain Eden Hazard. Kova also has impeccable ball retention, and rarely looks nervous when in possession. In Chelsea’s recent game against Newcastle, Kovacic showed just how important he is to Chelsea by displaying a more ambitious side to his game. Mateo is excellent at acquiring the ball from deep and driving it into open space. One thing he is lacking is that attacking mindset, to visualise where the runners are and pick out that key pass, which if he implements into his game, Chelsea will be scoring for fun.
Kovacic also needs to develop more of an eye for goal. We have seen it on the odd occasion, the Croatian can strike a ball. Valencia in the Champions League and Everton away last season proved this. The issue is, it is such a rarity that he attempts the shot. Chelsea ultimately lack a real goal scoring midfielder, as Kante will turn on a swivel and pass back to Rudiger if his vision of the goal is slightly blocked, so Kova being more of an attacking threat would create more opportunities for Chelsea to score. With goalscoring added to his arsenal, there really is no ceiling for the 26-year-old.
As Tuchel outlined after Newcastle, the whole squad often struggle with decision making. This is especially detectable with Kovacic. It’s clear to see just how imaginative Kova can be at times, the problem is that we just don’t see it enough. I feel Kovacic is weakest when paired alongside Jorginho. Now, this is in no way a negative opinion towards either player, it is just that together, they offer us little. The two can often get caught up in a possession loop of which looks attractive but limits our chance creation. It is no question just how versatile Kovacic can be, but can Tuchel pull those hidden qualities out of Kovacic and get him to the next level?
Thomas Tuchel has already proven that if something isn’t working, he will change it. Changes at half-time are relatively rare at Chelsea. Frank Lampard would often wait too late to make a change, which would limit the time the substitutes had to make an impact. With Tuchel’s ruthless attitude, I think the players will feel they have a lot more to fight for and must work harder than ever to secure their place in the side. If Tuchel can get the player who dominated against Newcastle every week, Chelsea have a serious player on their hands.
Kepa Arrizabalaga is the perfect example of a panic buy. Chelsea were left with a vastly important decision to make following the unpleasant departure of Thibaut Courtois. A replacement had to be signed, and it had to be done fast.
Then came the announcement that Chelsea had signed Athletic Bilbao keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. For many, this came as a shock, as Kepa wasn’t entirely known as a stand out keeper, and many saw the move as a downgrade to Courtois. As well as varied opinions on the player himself, the price tag raised many concerns as to whether this deal was the best for the club.
£72million for a 24-year-old goalkeeper who was yet to prove himself entirely at his former club was nothing short of outrageous from Chelsea. The move showed next to no ambition and was seen as a huge stab in the dark. However, there must have been certain things that attracted Chelsea toward the Spaniard, right?
Kepa’s time at Athletic Bilbao:
Well, to go off stats alone, Kepa produced far from attractive numbers to trigger a move from Chelsea for the Spaniard. In 53 games, Kepa managed 15 clean sheets. During his first season in the BBVA, he made on average, 1.7 saves per 90 minutes, which isn’t an admirable statistic. He improved slightly in his second season, with an average of 3.2 saves per 90 minutes. (Stats from whoscored.com and footystats.org)
The stats reinforce the idea that Chelsea panicked when Courtois exited and didn’t do enough homework when searching for a replacement. A signing was certainly required, but you would expect better recruitment from a club with Chelsea’s stature. The price tag doesn’t help at all, either. Had Chelsea picked Kepa up for sub £30million, it would arguably not have been as big of a flop as it actually was, but for £72million, you expect a world class talent, and Kepa just isn’t that.
Where could he go?:
Kepa’s time in the Premier League has ultimately been a dissapointment. The Spaniard failed to live up to the hype, and now finds himself in a difficult position. A move away from Stamford Bridge is the only way he can revive his career. So where would he go?
At the age of 26, Kepa still has a lot to prove. A move back to Spain could be a positive option for him, as the game is completely different to English football. Premier League football has an extremely high intensity, and defenders rely heavily on passing back to the keeper. This has never been good for Kepa, as his distribution is very poor. In Spain, the game is played at a slower pace, which would benefit Kepa’s overall performance, giving him more time to prepare for shots, and also takes the pressure off when he recieves the ball.
Kepa has proved that he is a decent shot stopper, with important saves including THAT penalty save against Frankfurt, the wonder save against Watford, and the incredible double save in the Super Cup against Liverpool. That being said, he has let Chelsea down on countless occasions, thus leading to a depleting confidence, which may improve with a move back to his native country.
Chelsea’s current standpoint:
Chelsea have made it pretty clear that Kepa has no future at the club. The arrival of Edouard Mendy made that very clear, as Mendy has impressed immensely since moving to the SW6. The Blues have also been heavily linked with AC Milan superstar Gianluigi Donnarumma, which would potentially leave Kepa as Chelsea’s third choice. It is also unlikely that Chelsea would continue to pay the high wages of Kepa, meaning his career in London is very much over.
Kepa could very well revive his career with a move back to Spain, much like Courtois did following a rough patch in his Chelsea career. Courtois is now recognised as one of the world’s best goalkeepers, and Kepa could be the same. Only time will tell what happens with the Spaniard, but it is all but confirmed that his Chelsea career is coming to an end.
After a successful transfer window in the summer, it seems Chelsea are yet to slow down with some big plans for their transfer targets going into the new year. The first link is already well known with some additional information, while the second being a high profile player likely to surprise Blues fans but also excite them. Therefore we’ll discuss the logistics of each deal, pros and cons of each deal, and end with a conclusion of final thoughts on both deals together.
The story of both targets for Chelsea was originally broken by none other than Sky Sports journalist Angelo Mangiante. He discusses in the tweet below Chelsea’s ambition to step up their pursuit for the West Ham captain Declan Rice as well as pursue Dortmund star Erling Braut Haaland.
Beginning with Declan Rice, this target is nothing new to Chelsea fans. It’s no secret that Chelsea were heavily linked with the English international all throughout the summer and were hoping to add him along the arsenal of players signed in the previous window. Reports from multiple sources have stated Rice is a top priority if not the highest priority of all targets and rumors have come out that the player is also interested in rejoining his boyhood club.
Although it may seem that both Chelsea and the player want the same thing, the difficulty comes down to striking a deal with West Ham for their highly valued captain. With Declan being an integral part of the team and locker room, the Hammers have placed a high price tag on the player with quotes of even £80m being discussed in reports during the summer window.
Additionally, Rice is known to be a highly professional player who would likely not want to leave on any bad terms with the club, meaning he is unlikely to push for a move himself in January, making the probability of a deal this window unlikely.
However, this does not mean Chelsea won’t be looking to sign Rice in future windows as previously stated, so we’ll discuss pros and cons of what a deal for the 21-year-old defensive midfielder might look like for Chelsea and their squad.
Quite a few positives can be discussed in this signing, firstly Rice is an extremely talented player and already considered West Ham’s best player at 21 as well as being their captain. He is homegrown, and has multiple seasons of experience in the Premier League with very consistent game time.
He fills the need for a true no.6 at the club since the departure of Nemanja Matić, which could allow N’Golo Kanté to play in a variety of roles in the midfield as we saw under Maurizio Sarri, or in a double pivot alongside Rice. In addition Chelsea being Rice’s boyhood club means he is familiar with many of the players already at the club and has a close friend namely in Mason Mount. This, along with already being located in London, should make the transition and settling between the clubs much more seamless in respect to other transfers.
Finally, as aforementioned Rice has proven a strong mentality and leadership quality at such a young age at West Ham being their captain for multiple seasons, and his versatile skill set and quality can allow him to fill a variety of roles, even as depth as a central defender if need be.
However, there remains a few lingering issues which may accompany the deal that must be addressed. Firstly the price tag is undeniably going to be an issue in negotiating a deal for the player. As we saw in the summer even with the COVID-19 crisis and turmoil at the club, West Ham were still able to hold out for their valuation on the player, meaning he likely will not come cheap.
In addition to the money spent aspect, this could prove to be problematic as we’ve seen expensive transfers before add pressure to young players before whether it be through the media, or an effect on their own confidence and mentality. This means the board would likely have to exhibit a high degree of certainty in their belief of the player’s capabilities and positive influence on the squad.
Finally, Rice would be joining what is an already flooded midfield, and although he fits a niche role it seems no player other than N’Golo Kanté can fit, many players from Chelsea’s midfield will likely have to be shipped out to make up some funds and space for the move.
This theme will be further discussed in regard to the second main target Chelsea have been linked with, Erling Braut Haaland.
Erling Braut Haaland
Haaland is a new link which is indicative of the ambitions of the board and the profile of player they’re looking for to progress this Chelsea squad to be a force in all competitions. However, one of the most sought after and talented young strikers in Europe will not be easy to sign and will have many obstacles to overcome in securing a deal.
Firstly, Haaland has stated in interviews before, that in this current moment of time he is not looking to leave Dortmund. Although these kinds of statements often are made even before transfers actually go through, it is likely to complicate negotiations if there isn’t a strong desire for the player to leave.
In addition to this, reports from multiple sources such as the Evening Standard, and NBC Sports have reported that although Haaland has a release clause reported to be in the region of €75m, the clause does not kick in until 2022, meaning any deal which could be negotiated before 2022 will have to cost more than this amount.
Finally, the biggest threat that seems to be in Chelsea’s way of securing the signature of Haaland is likely to be the attraction from other suitors namely Real Madrid who have been most heavily linked with the Norwegian striker.
The tweet below from the Madrid Zone on twitter discusses the idea of a potential deal in place for the 20-year-old forward to join the Galaticos in the summer of 2020, naming the works of Mino Raiola and influence of Martin Ødegaard.
With these hurdles in the way of signing the Dortmund star, it will be a tall task for Chelsea to accomplish. Nonetheless we’ll analyze what pros and cons may come of a deal for Haaland, and how they might effect the the club.
With a player such as Haaland and what he has shown thus far, it’s clear the first positive of signing such a striker would be his talent in scoring goals. He broke out onto the scene last year in spectacular fashion in the Champions League scoring 8 goals in 6 games for Salzburg, and then another 2 in 2 for Dortmund that same year. In addition, he scored 13 in 15 games for Dortmund last season in the league with 2 assists as well. This season he has improved on his form with 18 goal contributions (16 goals and 2 assists) in 12 games in both the league and UCL. This is likely down to his superb striking technique of the ball, as well as his intelligent movement for a striker his age, allowing him get on the end of consistent scoring opportunities and convert them.
Even so, many times top players from top leagues arrive to the Premier League and struggle to adapt to the physical nature of the league especially as a focal point striker. However, in Haaland’s case at 6’4 and about 200 pounds, he is likely to not only fare well in this regard but to excel. This is due to not only his size, but his mobility at his size. This combination of size, strength, and mobility is likely to wreak havoc in any league making Haaland a very desirable target.
Finally, with the likely departure of Oliver Giroud in the future, as well as the use of Werner out wide so far under Lampard, it seem the only two main options for a focal striker at Chelsea would be Haaland and Abraham in this scenario.
When a talent such as Haaland becomes available its hard to not pursue such a player not only to benefit a club like Chelsea, but also to prohibit other competitors from signing the player. However, this fill in vacancy also poses a possible negative consequence of such a transfer.
The first idea to discuss in a potential disruption of the Haaland deal, is what becomes of Tammy Abraham. The English striker is clearly favored under Frank Lampard, however if a big money move were to happen for the Norwegian, it’s uncertain if Abraham would retain a first choice position which may unsettle him at the club.
Being 23 years of age, if Haaland were to come in and make the starting role his own, it’s possible Tammy looks for a move elsewhere especially if he feels he is able to play for another Premier League side consistently. With the record Chelsea have of letting blossoming academy talent slip away, this may be a serious consideration for the club.
Building on this same theme, Abraham may represent that such a signing for a striker may not even be necessary. In fact, it may show that the money may be wasted signing a striker of Haaland’s calibre and could be better spent reinforcing other positions of need for the squad. Furthermore, with the signings of Ziyech, Werner, and Havertz, it’s clear Chelsea have already spent a considerable amount bolstering a formidable attack.
With the more urgent needs of a defensive mid, a long-term replacement for Thiago Silva, and added depth at winger and left-back, its possible that the funds used to sign Haaland could be less efficient in improving the overall squad.
Both Rice and Haaland are obviously extremely talented, young, and sought after players whose signings would likely improve the quality of players in the squad. With Rice, the proven ability in the Premier League as well as seamless transition, homegrown status, and desire for the player to join show to be a match made in heaven. However, there is no denying he will likely not come cheap, and a move for him will be most realistic in the summer rather than this window.
With Haaland, it’s difficult to pass on the opportunity of signing a generational talent, and some may even say that’s what inspired our signing of Kai Havertz rather than a necessity for the player. His goal scoring ability and physical talent is one that will surely continue to impress and a talent every team desires. However, outside of just desire, it seems this signing could be the most difficult Chelsea have ever pulled off both as a result of valuation, and other suitors’ desire of the player. Although it looks unlikely or possibly even unnecessary, Chelsea have been in this position before with Werner, Havertz, and Eden Hazard in which they proved to be successful in their pursuit of a player with many suitors. As a result, it would be unwise to count out the West London club in their pursuit of Haaland, and one to look out for in the future.
Kingsmeadow saw the return of its very own king this week in the form of Chelsea legend Petr Cech, and if you weren’t fortunate enough to catch the action from Monday night I’ll do my best in summarising it for you now (although I might not be able to do it much justice).
No matter the age group, Chelsea vs Spurs is always a heated display and the fixture between both sides on Monday reinforces that notion tenfold. Chelsea were going into the game with the chance to go top of the league while Spurs were sat on 14 points, in need of a win after only one in their prior four.
Spurs seize the first half
Despite Chelsea needing a win, they started the game on the back foot. Andy Myers’ boys went behind after just 3 minutes of football and it came from a misplaced Cech pass that subsequently resulted in the corner that lead to the goal. Not the start that Petr would’ve hoped for.
Things seemed to go from bad to worse for the young blues as Dane Scarlett, the in-form 16-year old, scored with a fine header after a wonderful cross from Harvey White. The attacking prowess that Chelsea often display didn’t come into fruition for the vast majority of the first half, as Spurs stayed compact and disciplined enough to withstand what Chelsea were throwing at them.
This caused for a tactical change from Myers which would prove to be the turning point in the derby. Around the half hour mark, the blues changed into their favoured 343 setup which meant the likes of Livramento could push forward and cause their usual havoc.
For the remainder of the first-half Chelsea saw more of the ball and found themselves breaking down Spurs and having some promising passages of play but it all comes a bit too late as Tottenham were saved by the whistle.
Chelsea find their groove
After what I can only assume was a half-time masterclass from Andy, Chelsea came out of the tunnel like a team possessed. Two changes saw Thierno Ballo and Dion Rankine off for Jude Soonsup-Bell and Myles Peart-Harris; with Nunn moving to Left wing back and Soonsup-Bell leading the line. Chelsea started the opening 10 minutes of the half as they finished the first with more positive and quicker passages of play, now finally utilising the abilities of Tino down the right flank.
Finally, after a long period of domination we get awarded a penalty after some brilliant play from George Nunn. He manages to somehow get in front of the Spurs defender in the 18-yard box which resulted in the defender barging Nunn over. Clear as day. The substitute Peart-Harris remains ice cold as he dispatches the spot kick, sending the keeper the wrong way. Now it was starting to look more like a Chelsea vs Spurs game.
With the momentum now with Chelsea, Livramento brings down a perfect pass from Lawrence with an equally good touch so he can drive past former Chelsea player Lavinier and pick out Marcel Lewis for the finish. The touch from Livramento was gorgeous; most players are having that bounce awkwardly off their hip or thigh but he adjusts with the outside of his left foot as he’s running to touch the ball just out in front of him so he doesn’t break his stride. People are right to be raving about him, it’s almost laughable how he terrorises team’s week in week out.
Not so much as 5 minutes after the equaliser a chance fell to the 16-year-old debutant Soonsup-Bell where the keeper has scuffed one into him on the edge of the box. He brings it down and looks to go round the keeper but the Spurs number 1 recovers well and manages to swipe the ball from Jude’s feet. Despite that chance going begging, they were coming thick and fast for Chelsea now and so it felt like only a matter of time before we nicked a third.
As the game entered its closing 15 minutes, it took a nasty turn as Tottenham player Alfie Devine put in a horror challenge on Danny Drinkwater. Drinkwater then proceeds to kick out at Devine after the challenge which isn’t something you want to see from one of our senior pro’s which subsequently results in a brawl between both outfits. The ref seems to let them have it out for five or so minutes before he finally regains some control to send off both Devine and Drinkwater. Myles Peart-Harris and Levi Colwill were all also booked as a result of their involvement in the incident.
Now with pride and bragging rights on the line, the game began to enter it’s conclusion. Two chances came Chelsea’s way in quick succession, the first being a free kick won on the edge of the box by Soonsup-Bell with some great pressing and quick passing. The chance leads to nothing however as Marcel Lewis fires over. Henry Lawrence was next to come close with a cannon of a strike from 25 yards out and it looked in all the way but somehow it hits the side netting. Felt almost reminiscent of the (almost) goal from Sterling against Italy back in 2014.
Closing in on the 90th minute and the dev squad were still pushing for that winner to take them top. Finally, in the 88th Myles Peart-Harris converts a marcel Lewis cut-back to complete an astounding comeback. To overcome a two-goal deficit against any team at this level is something but to do it in a London derby is unheard of; one for the ages.
Despite the six minutes added time, Peart-Harris’ second and Chelsea’s third was enough to secure the win that puts them top of the PL2. The tactical changes saw the game turn on its head as Spurs couldn’t deal with Chelsea had going forward when they play that 3-4-3. A great advert for development football and a huge win for Andy and the Blues.
Danny that was dire
An amazing game is slightly tarnished by some of the on-field antics which is a shame. The tackle from Devine was shocking and a deserved red and Danny Drinkwater was well within his rights to be upset but surely as a seasoned professional and Premier League winner you know better than to kick out at youth players? Danny wasn’t having a particularly bad game which makes it even more of a shame. I feel for Danny as he obviously just wants to be back playing and the tackle was horrible but you have to wonder at one point is it too much that he only plays development football and takes up a huge sum on the wage bill? Just some food for thought.
Other than that it was a complete performance where anybody could be singled out for playing well. After the tactical change at around the half hour mark Chelsea dominated and each player started to come into their own. The midfield worked tirelessly through Bate and Drinkwater to win back possession and create in the second half and the defence remained impenetrable thanks to the likes of Simeu, Colwill and Lawrence. Nunn also came into the game on the left flank, a position he was tested in when Chelsea played Brentford in a recent friendly. After his second-half performance it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw him play there more often.
Valentino Livramento deserves a special mention as I am continually finding myself more and more impressed with him each time I watch him. His athleticism is second to none and both his defensive and attacking output is pretty staggering. He works hard for the full 90, getting assists but also doing all the dirty work down the right flank. He’s starting to look like a top-class modern-day full-back and he can only get better; a scary talent.
Myles Peart-Harris, the match winner, bagging a brace as a substitute can’t go unmentioned. The 18-year old was everywhere when he came on as he’d obviously decided to take it upon himself to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Dispatching the pen and the sweeping home the winner means he’ll get the plaudits tonight, and rightly so. Marcel Lewis was also amongst the especially notable performances as he got a goal and an assist to help reignite the comeback.
A small mention to the 16-year old debutant Jude who more than held his own when coming on at half-time. Managed to compete up front for the whole 45, remaining composed and decisive in the final third. Well in Jude!
I genuinely feel for those of you that missed this game, it literally had everything even from a neutral perspective. Five goals, 10 cards (8 yellow and 2 red) and some rousing football played by both teams made for a proper game of youth football. With us now sitting top of the league in the PL2 you can begin to see why Chelsea’s academy is being hailed as the best around.
Three points in the bag and back to it at Kingsmeadow on Friday where we face 6th place Manchester United who will be looking to stop Chelsea increasing their lead at the top.
Coming back from international break Chelsea travel to St. James’ Park to face Newcastle United for the 9th game of the 2020/21 Premier League season. Chelsea were looking for their 5th win in a row in all competitions, however it would not be easy.
With Newcastle winning 5 of their last 7 home games against Chelsea and key players Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz, and Thiago Silva all out for this game, it would be interesting to see how the team got on against this deep holding Newcastle side.
Beginning with the lineup, Chelsea came out in a 4-3-3 as they have in recent games with the starting 11 displayed below.
Subs:Arrizabalaga, Christensen, Emerson (In 82′), Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Hudson-Odoi (In 76′), Giroud (In 87’)
Chelsea begins the game strong, dominating possession early on as expected with Newcastle sitting quite deep in their own half. However, plenty of chances come early on in the game starting with Timo Werner in the 3rd minute of the game.
He receives ball from Kanté, after Kovačić wins the ball back with some excellent pressing. Werner has a shot from the left side of the box on his weaker foot. the chance is saved by Darlow for a corner as Chelsea continues to pile on the pressure to this Newcastle side.
Soon after in the 9th minute, Ziyech plays a magical diagonal cross from the right-hand side of the box over the top to Tammy Abraham. Abraham gets a strong header that’s met with an even stronger save again by Darlow and goes out for a corner.
With the uninterrupted possession of Chelsea and the persistence of the side, the opening goal final comes off a corner in the 10th minute. Mount plays in a short corner which leads to Werner playing Mount inside on the right. Mount’s well played ball finds the feet of Newcastle defender Federico Fernández who is unable to sort his feet and plays the ball into his own net for the opening goal.
The next chance comes in around the 29th minute after again Kovačić wins the ball pressing in the Newcastle half. Mount plays Abraham who lays the ball off perfectly to Werner who has a big chance inside the center of the box and just puts it wide left of the goal.
Newcastle get their first action of the game, with a break on the counter after Abraham gives the ball away. Saint-Maximin drives from the left side cutting in, but the Chelsea defense recovers well and the shot is blocked by Rüdiger and goes out for a corner.
The remainder of the half remains fairly uneventful aside from a couple yellow cards for Newcastles’s Isaac Hayden, and Jacob Murphy. Chelsea go into half-time leading 1-0 and look to kill the game off in the second half.
The second half starts similar to the first with Chelsea holding possession for the majority of the time, with the first chance of the half occurring in the 54th minute. Timo Werner consistently being involved in the game thus far finds himself with another opportunity.
With the lackadaisical effort Fabian Schär attempting to control the ball, Werner comes in from behind to steal the ball off of him and is clean through on goal driving from the left side. Rather than taking the shot himself, Werner opts to square the ball to Ziyech. However, the pass is poor and is intercepted by the Newcastle defense resulting in another missed opportunity for Chelsea
Soon after Zouma gets a chance in the 55th off of a corner that is played in by Mount. However he fails to keeper his header on target and this attempt too results in no goal, with the worry being able to score a second building up.
The worry gets even more real, with a chance from Newcastle in the 59th minute. Rüdiger with the ball in his own box, attempts to clear it in an effort to relieve the pressure, however he plays the ball directly into Isaac Hayden. The ball bounces off of Hayden and somehow remains in his path for a clear chance with only Mendy in his way. Hayden takes a shot but is unable to keep it under the bar as the powerful attempt flies over for a goal kick leaving Chelsea fortunate not to concede.
A second goal by Chelsea is finally scored around the 65th minute to solidify their lead. Although having missed out on a couple opportunities already, Werner finally gets his goal contribution, by providing an excellent assist to Abraham for the second goal of the game. After winning the ball in their own half, Werner is played the ball.
He decides to push and carry on the attack himself, and with an excellent solo run and his blistering pace he splits two Newcastle defenders just past the halfway mark and continues to drive to play in Tammy with a well weighted ball on the right side of the box. Tammy controls the ball easily and puts in a tidy finish at the near post with the ball clipping the post and popping in for Chelsea’s second and his 3rd in the league.
After the second goal the game seems to be out of hand for the Magpies, however Sean Longstaff comes away with a long range effort to after receiving the ball from the right side of the box. He takes the shot from distance beating Mendy, but not the crossbar as he clips the bar and the shot goes over.
Werner gets yet another final opportunity before making way for Hudson-Odoi in the 75th minute with a great pass by Ziyech which Werner rounds the keeper and scores, but the offside flag goes up.
A couple more half chances ensue with Mount missing a shot wide of the post and Newcastle’s Almiron has his shot deflected which is punched out by Mendy. Emerson comes on for Chilwell and afterwards Giroud for Ziyech as Chelsea look to hold on in the final minutes for the win, and they do.
Results and Implications
The result was a solid showing from the Chelsea side following the international break facing a tough team play away from home with many key players missing. However, Chelsea picked up where they left off scoring 2 and keeping another clean sheet, making it 6 clean sheets in their last 7 games. The Team now has 18 points, currently top of the table on goal difference with +12 with the rest of the teams yet to play
The result was very positive for the team as there were quite a few points where it felt the team may compromise the lead and dominance by not killing off the game earlier. The team seems to be maturing and clicking much better than previously in the season. Signs of improvement from last season are evident as this could easily have been lost recalling last season’s 90th minute winner from Isaac Hayden for the Magpies.
Chelsea seem to be finding ways to score goals at an even higher pace than before, being the most prolific team in the league currently. However, they are finding ways to win as well and this likely roots from being able to score while keeping defensively stable in their new found form and their 5th win in a row.
Hours before the transfer deadline, Fulham announced that Chelsea fan favourite Ruben Loftus-Cheek would be joining Fulham on a season long loan. Ruben’s career is one which has been riddled with injuries and setbacks, as well as being utilised in a way many argued stunted his development. An impressive season on loan at Crystal Palace and a breakthrough year under Marrizio Sarri changed Ruben’s fortunes, arguably becoming Chelsea’s best player on form in the second half of the 18/19 season. However in keeping with the theme of his career, Ruben sadly suffered an Achilles during a mid season friendly which saw him side lined for 13 months.
Ruben’s loan at Fulham announced – Credit: TEAMtalk
Fast forward a year and a half and Ruben returned to full fitness but struggled to get the minutes needed to regain his pre injury form. Ruben’s first game back came at the start of the Premier League restart in a game against Aston Vila. He continued to come off the bench for the remainder of the 19/20 season, showing a few good moments but ultimately failing to impress. Ruben went on to earn a start in Chelsea’s first game of the 20/21 season against Brighton but had a very poor game, being substituted in the 61st minute for Ross Barkely. Since then Ruben hasn’t even made the bench for Chelsea, a worrying sign for Chelsea fans who hold him in such high regard. With his less than impressive form and failure to gain any recent minutes in mind, going on loan seems the best option for the Chelsea midfielder.
Ruben at the back end of last season after returning from injury – Credit: BT
So is Fulham a good loan for Ruben? Ideally no, but it does have its positives. Fulham will likely be in a relegation fight this season and are the favourites of many fans and pundits to go down. Hardly the ideal environment for a player to attempt to regain their form. In saying this, Fulham’s lack of quality can work in Ruben’s favour as he will be able to accumulate lots of minutes, being the most high profile and when on form, the best player at the club. Fulham is also only 10 minutes down the road from Chelsea and Ruben is friends Fulham right back Ola Aina from their time together in the Chelsea youth setup. Knowing Aina, and not having to move house or acclimatise to new surroundings will likely allow Ruben to settle in to life at Fulham more easily than he would on loan elsewhere.
Ruben’s Loan at Fulham announced 2 – Credit: Daily Mail
Under manager Scott Parker, Fulham alternate between a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-3 formation based on their opponents. In both formations Harrison Reed plays the holding role while Andre Aguissa and or Tom Cairney play box to box. In Fulham’s current setup RLC would ideally be used as the box to box midfielder where he can best utilise his ability to carry the ball from deep and his physicality and athleticism to dominate the middle of the park. Parker could also opt to use two number 8s with Ruben and Anguissa or Cairney in front of Reed, although this may be unlikely given Fulham already lack in defensive solidity. Due to the lack of comparative attacking quality present in Fulham’s ranks and Rubens ability to score goals, Scott Parker could potentially deploy him as a number 10 or a winger (similar to his loan at Crystal Palace).
A concern for Ruben is that he not only needs minutes but the right quality of minutes to get back up to speed. If used incorrectly in a role which doesn’t suit him as he has been under pervious Chelsea managers, it may stifle his ability to get back to his pre injury form.
The degree of success of Ruben’s loan and whether he can stay fit will dictate Ruben’s future at Chelsea. The Englishman undoubtedly has the quality to reach the top given the right circumstances, but those circumstances seem to be something that have often alluded Ruben throughout his turbulent career. Whether Lampard continues to play a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, both can suit Ruben’s game. However Chelsea are already crowded in these positions with Havertz, Mount, Gilmour, Kante and Kovatic currently in the squad as well as the likes of Gallagher and Anjorin looking to break into Chelsea’s side. As painful as it is to type, it will take nothing short of recapturing and maintaining his brilliant pre injury form and remaining injury free in order for Ruben to fulfil his potential at Chelsea, something he is yet to do in his entire career. The potential for Ruben to revive his Chelsea career is still there, but now at the age of 24, it does feel like Ruben may be one injury away from joining the sad list of players who’s potentially brilliant careers were robbed of them through injury. Chelsea fans can only hope that Ruben’s loan is a success and his injury days are behind him.
It has been confirmed by the club that Ross Barkley has completed a one-year loan move to Aston Villa. In this piece, I will look at whether this the right decision by the club, and the effect it may have on Chelsea’s season in the long run?
Ross Barkley’s Chelsea career has ultimately been a successful one. With two trophies in 3 seasons to his name and some pivotal performances in blue, the Englishman has divided opinions across the entire fan base. Whether you like him or not, it can’t be denied that Ross Barkley has given his all in a Chelsea shirt, and will be missed throughout this season.
So with that being said, why is this transfer so important?
Given the fact that it is now unlikely for Chelsea to bring anyone into the club to replace Barkley, the attacking midfield options are now very thin. With Ruben Loftus Cheek struggling to find his feet after a spell of injuries halting his development, it leaves Chelsea with the aforementioned Loftus Cheek, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz as attacking options as either 8s or 10s. New signing Hakim Ziyech can also comfortably play in the middle, but it is more than likely we will see the Moroccan international start out on the right when he is back from injury, due to the departures of Willian and Pedro leaving Chelsea thin on the ground in wide options.
With this being said, was it the right call for Barkley to go out on loan? It will only take one injury to either Mason Mount or Kai Havertz to severely put Chelsea on the back foot. Youngster Conor Gallagher also left the club earlier this month to complete a one-year loan move to West Bromwich Albion, which is another option gone for the season. With the Carabao Cup exit last week, Chelsea will have fewer games, however, fatigue and possible injury will still be a huge factor, and Chelsea may really miss Barkley’s presence come December when games come thick and fast. On the other hand, Barkley would not have been used as a key player this season, and Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech would have been selected before Barkley, meaning this move may not be the worst decision by the club, as it gives Barkley a chance to develop away from the club.
Good move for Barkley?:
It is likely that Barkley would have been used predominantly off the bench this season, so from his perspective the move is perfect. He is almost guaranteed regular first-team football at Villa Park, and at the age of 26, Barkley will still want to fight for his place in the England squad. The move to Aston Villa allows him much more of an opportunity for this than if he was to stay at Chelsea, which makes this move a smart one for him.
Barkley fits into Aston Villa’s side comfortably, with Dean Smith being able to play him along side Jack Grealish as two 8’s, or deploying either man on the left flank with the other playing as a 10, allowing Villa to create attacks with more versitility. Barkley in the side allows for John McGinn and Douglas Luiz to cover the defensive duties, which will ultimately strengthen the Villa back line. This move also takes the pressure off of Barkley as at a club like Chelsea, the expectations are through the roof, whereas a season at Villa Park will allow Ross to play with more confidence, which will improve his overall game.
Another reason as to why this move is a strange one from Chelsea’s point of view is that Barkley is a player with a lot of quality, and on his day, can create moments which win games, for example, his goals against Liverpool and Leicester in the FA Cup last season. Barkley also changed the game against Brighton on the opening weekend this season, adding fight and determination to a pretty stale encounter, thus leading to Chelsea’s triumph. Barkley is a very important player to have in the squad, so this transfer could prove to be costly for the Blues in the long run.
Thankfully, this is only a loan deal, meaning Barkley will return at the end of the season. Should Chelsea manage without the Liverpudlian, Ross may depart on a permanent basis if he has a successful season away from the Bridge. If this is the case, Chelsea will need to look at a replacement, whether it is just a squad strengthener or a marquee signing. Nonetheless, we wish Ross the best of luck at Aston Villa.
It has a been tumultuous summer transfer market for Chelsea who have been one of the most active teams to date. One player who had been mentioned regularly prior to joining the Blues was Timo Werner. The German came off a career year who had been consistently mentioned to join Liverpool. Chelsea, who hardly were mentioned caught many people by surprise.
When a player such as Werner is available to be signed, a club who has the necessary funds should do what is possible to obtain their signature and commitment. If they wait too long to make a decision, other teams will grasp at the opportunity to acquire some of the best talent available in the transfer market.
Over the past couple weeks prior to joining Chelsea, it was widely rumoured that Liverpool was in pole position to sign Werner. The Reds were reluctant to pay his full release clause of nearly €53 million euros and had yet to offer a contract to the forward. Inter Milan and Juventus were also interested, but Chelsea seem to be willing to pay the full release clause and offer a five-year deal worth 10 million per year in wages.
The late move by Chelsea caught many people by surprise and has shown that they are committed to signing one of the best up-and-coming players. Before signing Werner, in the past 12 months, Chelsea had only signed Mateo Kovaĉić and Hakim Ziyech. The transfer ban may have been a blessing in disguise as the club acquired a player who will help in many different ways. Chelsea’s willingness to put pen to paper for the forward has Werner convinced in the project they have setup and Lampard playing a major role in convincing the German in what they plan to do moving forward.
While Liverpool continued to stall in signing Werner, Chelsea was lurking in the dark and wasted no time, pouncing on the opportunity. With the forward now part of the club, Chelsea fans have much to be excited about. What can they expect from the Leipzig forward?
Frank Lampard will be getting a player who should nicely fit his style of play. The Chelsea manager prefers to play direct attacking football, but the Blues have really struggled to finish their chances this season. Chelsea averaged 16.6 shots per game while only scoring 1.7 goals per game. Tammy Abraham has contributed 15 goals, but is the only player on the squad to find the back of the goal more than ten times in the English Premier League. Willian who no longer is with the squad was second with six goals. The inability to find consistent scoring from other players has been a major issue for Lampard.
Werner has flourished under manager Julian Nagelsmann, who’s been able to develop the forward’s game this season. Currently playing in a 4-4-2 formation, Werner showed to be very consistent, which is a rare quality to find in young players. The forward has scored many goals this season with his great movement and ability to strike the ball with great power and accuracy. The striker scored 28 goals in the Bundesliga, who was second in the league behind Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
In the previous two Bundesliga campaigns, where he played as a wide forward, he averaged 3.6 shots per 90 minutes. In recent seasons he’s managed to get to the net and create opportunities for him and his teammates. This year, playing as a false nine, he’s averaged 3.6 shots per game and has improved his goal-scoring rate, averaging 0.71 goals per 90 minutes.
Last season, Bayern Munich decided not to make a move for the forward, which has worked out well for the young forward. Playing another season under Nagelsmann has helped Werner become a more complete player.
“Nagelsmann has said that I won’t be playing as an out-and-out striker for him as much, but more of a false 9,” Werner said.
“It has encouraged me to improve and develop myself, even when we come up against oppositions that sit deep. He’s helped me to make better use of space.”
Werner’s flexibility will provide Lampard positional versatility. He will allow the Chelsea manager the option to play different formations, including the 4-3-3. While Lampard has used various formations this season, the 4-3-3 is his preferred option. Werner will be a viable replacement for Pedro and Willian who are no longer with the club, and the forward has shown he can play on either wing, as a striker and as a false nine.
Lampard’s current options include Abraham as the striker, Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson Odoi on either wing and Ziyech who could play as a right winger, a ten, or an eight. New addition, Kai Havertz could be used on the right wing or as an attacking midfielder, yet both players are capable of playing together up front. They have the ability to score and the experience of playing together for the German International squad.
Lampard has an abundance of players that offer positional versatility, which gives the manager many options to choose from. With so many competitions to be played, it never hurts to have more bodies in the line up as injuries do occur throughout the season.
The scoring should vastly improve the most for Chelsea. Werner’s great movement will create more space for Abraham to work with and should result in more scoring opportunities. Abraham’s physical strength up front and ability to play behind the defense should allow him room to separate him from the defense and have more chances to score.
While Werner is not the most physical player, he has shown he can score at a prolific rate. He has scored 78 goals in 127 Bundesliga appearances with Leipzig over the past four campaigns. Goal scoring will no longer be an area of concern for Lampard as with a player of this caliber at his disposal. A new chapter is about to begin in Werner’s life and one which he will most certainly embrace.
Jerry Mancini spoke to Mark Worrall, author and publisher for Chelsea FC related books. He has written books such as Chelsea Here Chelsea There, ‘Blue Murder: ‘Chelsea Till I Die’ and Chelsea Football Fanzine.
How would you rate Frank Lampard’s first season with Chelsea? Additionally, why is Lampard struggling to coach defense?
“A very solid 7/10 for Super Frank. [A] victory in the FA Cup Final would have pushed it to 9/10. Achieving [a] top four [position in the English Premier League] in spite of having lost Eden Hazard and not being able to sign new players was commendable.
“Defence issues were there from day one. Frank permed every option available to him as far as centre-back pairings and 3 at the back was concerned without ever achieving consistency. Clearly there is the need for a quality centre-back to be added to the squad and a left-back. Goalkeeper has also been an issue which has led to a crisis of confidence on several occasions. I’d like to believe it’s a personnel issue rather than a coaching issue…. We will find out next season, if the squad is improved in this area.”
Willian left Chelsea after seven seasons to join Arsenal. Did you feel this was the right move by Chelsea and the player? Also, how do you view his time with the Blues?
“I love the bones of Willian. He hates Tottenham of course! Joking aside, every Chelsea manager he played for rated him and there were always offers coming in for him. I think he found it hard to be constantly in Eden Hazard’s shadow, but his contribution and work rate were top notch.
“The move to Arsenal, is proof that at 32 he’s not a spent force. Personally, I don’t like to see Blues players move to rival Premier League clubs, especially London clubs. Was it the right move for Chelsea? I think so. I’m not sure he would have got much in the way of game time next season the way the team looks to be shaping up with new players.”
Chelsea shocked many with the signing of Timo Werner. How do you see the German fitting into Lampard’s plans this upcoming season?
“If [he is] playing through the middle, [Timo] Werner will hopefully be the man to consistently convert the chances that Chelsea create down the flanks. There is flexibility though and he can play left-wing with Tammy [Abraham] as centre forward. Either way, he’s going to be one of the first names on Super Frank’s team-sheet and if he stays injury-free then a 50+ appearances season beckons.”
Which area should Chelsea focus on the most in this transfer market window?
“Goalkeeper needs to be addressed and one centre-back – I actually think left-back is less of an issue for now while Kai Havertz is a luxury signing. It looks like [Roman] Abramovich is motivated to spend, spend, spend and so it’s a question of finding the right players and getting the deals over the line.”
Chelsea have been very active in the transfer market. They have acquired Werner, Hakim Ziyech, and look close to signing Ben Chillwell and Kai Havertz. Which players do you believe will not benefit from all these players joining Chelsea?
“There’s quite a list, but avoiding the obvious ones who will be sold or loaned I do wonder how much game-time the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tammy and perhaps also [Christian] Pulisic and [Mason] Mount will get over the course of the season.”
Do you think César Azpilicueta is the best captain in Chelsea’s history?
“Short answer, no. César Azpilicueta is a terrific ambassador for the Club and a loyal, dependable and versatile defender… but he is nowhere near John Terry in terms of providing do-or-die leadership on the pitch.”
What has been the downfall to Kepa’s career and do you see the Spaniard in goal next season for Chelsea?
“Kepa’s downfall started with his player-manager escapade at Wembley in the 2019 League Cup Final v Man City. He then allowed personal issues to cloud his game (girlfriend trouble). Having a shaky defence in front of him hasn’t given him confidence and that’s a two-way street. Being dropped for the latter stages of the 2019/20 campaign spoke volumes about how much the manager trusts him – he doesn’t
“Without the benefit of a decent pre-season to see if he can be trusted with a better defence in front of him (assuming new signings) I don’t see how Lampard can re-evaluate him and, on that basis, I can’t see him getting a game. That said, if Chelsea don’t sign another goalkeeper and something happens to Willy Caballero there may be no option other than to play him.”
Lastly, how do you see Chelsea finishing this season and do you think they will progress this upcoming year?
“Progress will largely depend on fixing the defensive problems that plagued Chelsea in 2019/20. Do that, and with exciting new attacking talent already on board and the promise of more to come then the Blues could give Liverpool and Man City a run for their money in the Premier League.
“Realistically, going one better and winning the FA Cup this time around looks like the best option of silverware with the League Cup as a back-up… or why not win both? The new season is all about finding the right formula team wise, do that and we should be seriously challenging for top honours including the Champions League within the next couple of years.”
Last summer, we saw Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea FC mutually agree to part ways and terminate Sarri’s contract. The Italian decided to sign with Juventus. In his one season with the club he was quite successful winning the Europa League and finishing fourth in the league. What were your thoughts on Sarri’s one season with Chelsea?
“It was an up and down season for Maurizio Sarri. He was somebody that was appointed to actually change Chelsea and have more of a long-term vision, taking a more defensive style club for all the years they had Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte and to try and make it his own.
“When they started facing some adversity, I think you saw one of the big flaws in Maurizio Sarri that he doesn’t have a Plan B – but he doesn’t choose to have a Plan B, [he] purposely chooses to have a really good Plan A. I think he had a little bit of a rude awakening and you can’t have no adaptability in the Premier League.
“I think he certainly was hit with some cold hard truths there in the middle of the season. Like he should have known, when you don’t do well at Cheslea [FC], you’re going to come under a lot of fire from within the club [and] from the media, but it’s a place that’s very unforgiving towards their managers. So, he realized that quickly, but one huge personality trait that he has and Antonio Conte has is they’re stubborn. They believe in their vision, that’s a good thing and a bad thing.
“Sarri kept the ship upright, got third place [in Premier League] and got the Europa League trophy. [It was] his first ever trophy and he really [left] on terms that most Chelsea managers don’t get to leave on, on good terms. It really doesn’t happen. You either get sacked or you walk away, but under a really toxic term or manner. It was more the perfect storm of why he left.”
Chelsea decided to replace Sarri with club legend Frank Lampard. The 41-year agreed to a three-year deal which will see him with the club until June 2022. Upon arriving, the club had been sanctioned a transfer ban and were unable to purchase players in the summer transfer window. What were your thoughts of Lampard being appointed the new manager of Chelsea? Did you think he was the right person to manage this squad given the circumstances the club was in?
“Chelsea have had a phenomenal academy for a long time. If there’s anything they’ve struggled with, it’s to have stability and have more of a clear direction [and] foundation. They really have won trophies based on being a big club and always having players that have championship pedigree.
“They [have] been such an interesting team with a lot of turmoil and toxicity from year to year and also a team that was always producing this great young talent but choosing to never use them for anything but a business model and just to profit off of those – send them on loan and their careers will probably get stagnated, but we’ll still be able to sell them. We’ll just keep doing this with all the talent we produce and we’re going to make a lot of money off of it.
“It’s about time we see if they could make it at our club [Chelsea] and if we have a transfer ban and we have a manager that also might be leaving us (Maurizio Sarri), well I think it’s time to hire a manager who knows the club, knows how important using these players can be and is willing to use these players.
“By the way, his assistant manager, Jody Morris, managed all these players at the academy level. It was the exact reasoning [why] Chelsea would need to use the youth and finally hire someone like Frank Lampard, who’s resume, managerial-wise was almost incomplete. One year at Derby [County] and you could debate if it was good, okay, or not good but he was the manager to use youth, to know the youth and to know what the club needs.
“The only last reason why I think the club went with it and why I was also really okay with it is how damn good Liverpool and Manchester City are. It also helped because if they felt that the league is wide open, I don’t think they would have done it. I don’t think they would have hired Frank Lampard, they would have hired a more experienced manager.”
If you could pick one, which player do you feel has made the most impact this season from the Chelsea Academy?
“Tammy Abraham or Mason Mount. Tammy Abraham has the stats on his side. [He has] thirteen goals, three assists and really proved that there is no number nine curse and that he could be the starting striker for Chelsea now and, more importantly, in the future – really until the last month or so of the season, where he was injured and just looked kind of overran and fatigued.
“On the flip, Mason Mount [had] six goals, four assists, and played more of an honest midfielder even though he wasn’t going to be the player of the season for Chelsea (I think that was Mateo Kovačić), Mason Mount was asked to do the most this season. [He] Played in the most Premier League games for Chelsea and played in, by far, the most positions. He played as an eight, ten, a left winger, right inside forward, left inside forward and sometimes a shadow striker.
“[He was] the defensive leader out there, not in terms of a centre-back or goalkeeper, but in terms of pressing which is a huge identity to Lampard. He was always the one leading everyone to closing down angles, how to press in a certain way, in a certain style and waving on players like N’Golo Kanté, Kovačić, Willian and Pedro. Those are all players who are known to have really good work rates.
“That’s vastly impressive and really beyond what a 20 and 21-year-old should be asked to do in the Premier League. Obviously, the background that Mason Mount had with Frank Lampard the season before at Derby helped. He really was asked to kind of be more of a senior player while having his first season in the Premier League. At the end of the day, I will say Tammy because goals win you games and he had thirteen goals, no penalties, scored in a variety of ways and scored some big ones.”
Callum Hudson-Odoi last season had a very good year with Chelsea. His season ended with an Achilles injury. This is a serious injury that could really change a player’s career. Now, this year he has returned to the club but hasn’t been nearly the same as he was last year and that’s due to the fact, he’s missed a lot of playing time. The forward has put in mixed performances as he’s shown to play at a high level as well at a level that shows his form is not there yet. Do you feel Callum has been treated unfairly this season and do you expect him to regain the form that he showed last season?
“Yes, I totally expect him to get back to what we thought he would be currently doing. I think people don’t know enough about the Achilles injury. It is such a tough injury, even when you’re back. Look at any sport, players don’t usually feel like themselves and have that out of their head mentally for a year after. the stats are there to prove it.
“I was definitely gutting for him and think yeah, at moments he came back and was actually phenomenal.
“He was also kind of thrown in the fire. He wasn’t thrown back into a team that had a bunch of senior players, like Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and you could kind of ease back in. Once he was fit and ready to go, he was somebody that Frank Lampard needed to play quite a lot.
“He did turn things around to a certain extent in terms of performances right before he pulled up with a hamstring injury.
“He’s just insanely talented, he is 19 [years old] and he is a confident kid. So yeah, you might snowball in your head a little bit with the flack you’re getting for not being [Kylian] Mbappé right away, but he is somebody that [was] thrown back out there and especially with this team whose got such a great spirit. He’s somebody that’s going to exude confidence and really will hit the ground running.
“I have no doubt about it. He’s so young still and now he has plenty of adversity. The sooner you experience adversity, the really more well prepared you’ll be for a bad game in the future and more likely it doesn’t not turn into a long slump.
“I think he’s in the right situation, on the right team to feel confident, feel backed and be able to go express himself. Still, he’s going to be a key player for Lampard. It’s a young squad, Willian and Pedro are most certainly leaving [and they have left now] and so really its there for the taking for him.”
A big thank you to Alex Goldberg for the interview. Make sure to check his podcast out ‘The Byline’ and his social media platforms. Feel free to check out The Chelsea Spot too for more interviews, including one with ex Chelsea legend Pat Nevin!