Chelsea Pre-Season Preview…

One of my favourite times of the season has returned – preseason. Some hate it, some love it. For me, nothing beats the excitement of the return of football. New signings, new academy players and new tactics (and normally a new manager).

For Chelsea fans, it couldn’t get any better either. Life under Todd Boehly has started off with a bang, and it seems like Thomas Tuchel is finally getting the proper backing he deserves.

Our first pre-season fixture is tomorrow morning (U.K.) and I know I’ll be watching at 3am, hoping to see some of these players I’m about to mention below. Here are just a few names I’m really looking forward to watching over the next 3-4 games:

Levi Colwill

I understand Levi has a minor knock and as a result is unlikely to feature in tonight’s game against Club America, but that doesn’t change him being one of the largest talking points at the moment in world football.

I recognise it’s slightly hypocritical as I have been banging on about him on a weekly basis for the last 36 months, but I do feel the talk is getting a bit too much now. Whether that’s people overhyping him and saying he should be starting every week, or people saying that that he’s got a massive ego and should stop complaining about wanting a chance.

You do have to remember that this is a 19 year old who has just come out of the Championship. He’s in a very very similar situation to Reece James coming out of his loan at Wigan. With that in mind, you must allow Levi to make mistakes this season (assuming he stays) and trust that we’ll see the best of him in the next few years just like we’re seeing with James now.

I don’t need to talk too much about him other as you’ve all heard about the talent he’s got, and it’s time for Colwill to be given those chances and for him to take it. There’s no better centre backs to learn from than Koulibaly and Silva.

Ethan Ampadu

Ethan’s an option who still isn’t being talked about enough. The matter of fact is last season he performed excellently in multiple positions in one of Europe’s top 5 leagues.

Despite the RB Leipzig loan not working out and going down with Sheffield United, he still has so much experience under his belt at such a young age. The big one certainly being playing for Wales against some of the biggest nations in the world.

He can play at centre-back and in defensive midfield to a really high level, and last season showed he can even do a shift at RWB. That surely makes him a really attractive player for Tuchel to keep around, and I do think he’d stay if he was given rotational minutes.

I’ve always been a massive fan of Ethan and I wouldn’t be surprised if his pre-season is similar to Trevoh Chalobah’s last year where he surprises a couple people – manager included.

Tino Anjorin and Ethan Ampadu have spots to fight for…

Kalidou Koulibaly

“Men’s” signing number 2 of the season. There isn’t much else to say to this other than I can’t wait to see him in action.

We unfortunately may see him even later than Raheem Sterling as he hasn’t started training yet, but what I’m most looking forward to is what position he’ll play in the back three.

I imagine he’ll play at LCB, with Silva centrally and Azpilicueta or Trevoh on the right hand side. I’ve also been told Levi in first team training so far has been playing centrally, which does make a lot of sense as he’s one of the best passers I’ve seen and can learn so much from Thiago.

I think most people will be surprised by Koulibaly’s dribbling ability. Don’t be shocked if he goes on a few of those Rudiger runs…

Conor Gallagher

It has now been confirmed by Conor himself, and Tuchel, that he will be staying at the club this season.

Conor’s an interesting one. I think Tuchel sees him as an option in midfield, and as much as he has absolutely done a job there before, I’d rather use him a bit further forward.

Ideally we switch to four at the back and use him in midfield as that’ll certainly be utilising our squad depth fully, but that doesn’t seem to be an option currently.

I remember during the academy I wasn’t totally convinced on Gallagher, and then I watched his debut for Charlton Athletic and everything switched. He then went on to having a great loan at Swansea, followed by two impressive Premier League shifts at West Brom and Crystal Palace.

There’s a bit of work to do with him on the ball, but are there any 22 year olds in the world who don’t need improving? I remember having this exact same conversation about Mason Mount one or two seasons ago. It’ll come. Conor’s here to stay.

Billy Gilmour

Billy….this is difficult. I’m a massive fan, and I think Tuchel is too. His loan at Norwich did not go to plan, but in the same way I viewed Loftus-Cheek’s time at Fulham and Ampadu’s at Sheffield United, it’s valuable Premier League experience which he may not have got if he stuck around at the club.

But, I’m not sure the full trust from the manager is there. I remember vividly the game against Arsenal under lockdown when Gilmour was playing well and Jorginho was one of the worst players on the pitch, and it was the former who was subbed off.

But then again Billy started against City at the Etihad and was brilliant, with Rudiger individually picking him out afterwards for his performance.

I do think this two man midfield suits him quite well too. I’d be interested to see how he’d play with someone like Ethan next to him (in pre season). I’ve got no doubt Billy’s Chelsea quality, and maybe he senses a chance with Kante and Loftus-Cheek very behind at the moment in the plane due to their vaccination status.

Harvey Vale

Academy Player of the Season – it was only right he’d be on this tour in the US. It’s a bit of a shame it’s only him and Teddy Sharman-Lowe from the academy, but I don’t want to complain too much.

I’m slightly worried that he may not get as many minutes as he deserves as he’s still got Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount all ahead of him in terms of “squad status”.

But, maybe he’ll play a bit more at wingback especially after his success there in the Euros as captain, despite him preferring to play higher up the pitch or more centrally.

I really hope it helps with the contract talks too. I wonder if it’s a bit too late to go on loan as he wouldn’t have enough time to train with the other clubs ahead of the new season, so maybe staying with there being 5 subs may be the best choice for him at the moment. It’s one to keep an eye on.

Will all three impress in pre-season? (Billy Gilmour, Conor Gallagher & Harvey Vale)

Callum Hudson-Odoi

I seem to be saying this every year, but I do really think it’s make or break season for Callum.

He’s had an early start after coming back from his injury which kept him out for months, and he looks much bigger and says he feels more confident in his body.

The Sterling signing certainly makes things difficult for him as Mount is pretty undroppable for Tuchel and you’d expect Raheem to start. Callum needs to make sure he’s that third option whenever the other two are dropped/rested or there’s a change in formation so Mason goes into midfield.

We saw when Callum was given that trust last season and played constantly, he would perform and we suffered creatively without him. It’s now time for him to be that guy we all know he can be.

Tino Anjorin

The forgotten man…when he shouldn’t be that forgotten.

Often in the past compared to Ruben Loftus-Cheek, so far he’s followed a pretty similar senior career too where he hasn’t played enough football due to injury and certain decisions which haven’t worked out.

I worry that he’s going to be told at the end of this tour that he’s not a wanted man, and that he’ll go on loan again to a club which has settled already and it’ll take even longer for Tino to get minutes.

Either way, this attacking role in our formation suits Tino to a gem. We also shouldn’t forget that this is one of the best attacking talents Cobham have ever produced, physically dominating everyone and probably still being the best finisher at the club.

Similarly to Billy, Tuchel’s a massive fan. Last pre-season he was unfortunate picking up COVID at a terrible time, so maybe with more minutes he can really show what he’s about.

Raheem Sterling

I’ve already mentioned him in this piece a few times, but Chelsea fans should be so excited to see him play in that darker blue.

What I can see happening is him missing a sitter or scuffing a shot and that being replayed all over Twitter, when in reality it’ll be the other good stuff they ignore.

It’ll also be quite interesting to see how the Chelsea squad, and Tuchel, adapt to having someone like Sterling in the squad. Having such an elite winger with incredible movement and technical ability is something the Chelsea players won’t be used to.

Raheem Sterling and Callum Hudson-Odoi are going to rip the league apart 🔥

Armando Broja

A lot of bids have been going in for the Albanian recently. He’s a wanted man.

How wanted is he at Chelsea, though? If I’m being honest, I think he had a very good couple months at Southampton showing he’s got Premier League ability, but other than that went a bit missing and it seemed like defenders had worked him out.

And that is absolutely fine. He’s still so so young. I remember last pre-season he even shocked me as at Vitesse he struggled physically, but all of a sudden he was shrugging off players and linking up really well.

I think he could be a really useful option to have off the bench or against certain opposition this season, so I wouldn’t be against keeping him and pushing him alongside Kai Havertz.

So, that’s it for the preview. There are other players I’m going to keep an eye on as always, but which ones are yours? Let us know on our social media platforms!

I also wrote an academy season preview for Football London where I talked about who to look out for and Neil Bath’s new responsibility under Todd Boehly – so please check that out!

Written by Paree

Can Returning Loan Army Soldiers Reinforce a Stellar Summer Window?

Chelsea have been the talk of the football world this summer following an extremely ambitious, decisive period of transfer signings. Over the past calendar year, the club welcomed Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic to the fold permanently, and followed that up with Hakim Ziyech putting pen to paper in the late winter just 3 months after THAT comeback against Ziyech’s Ajax. Of course, Frank Lampard and Co. then kicked off summer with a bang, bringing Timo Werner aboard and in recent weeks finishing off long-rumoured signings Ben Chilwell and Kai Havertz as well as a cheeky Thiago Silva stop along the way. The club were put in a position to bring these players in however due to the impressive form of a handful of academy debutants, who played a major part in a 4th place finish. That was just the tip of the academy iceberg though, as this offseason we welcomed back another handful of young players loaned off to the far stretches of Europe. Can they have a similar impact to their counterparts and take Chelsea even further this year?

It’s no secret that Chelsea’s 2019-2020 campaign was impressive, but at the same time it was also unimpressive. The team regularly lacked a central defender with either positional awareness, aerial ability, the ability to actually make a tackle or all three – arguably bar Kurt Zouma. With Antonio Rudiger’s football agent talents on full display this summer, he is sure to have added another year onto his Chelsea lifeline at the very least despite the number of ghastly high profile errors he made last season. However, Rudiger’s friends Timo Werner and Kai Havertz aren’t the only talents coming from the Bundesliga to Chelsea.

Enter Ethan Ampadu, who for the third consecutive offseason has been pegged by Chelsea fans as a potential breakout star in defence and in midfield. This time however, Ampadu has yet again found himself out on loan, this season at Sheffield United with manager Chris Wilder running the show. Besides Ethan Ampadu in defence, returning are Jake Clarke-Salter and Matt Miazga. Who? The soon-23 year old and 25 year old center halves each made their senior debut in that 2015-16 season under Guus Hiddink, and only Miazga played in any senior Chelsea match since then (just one additional appearance). With 3 senior Chelsea appearances between them in 4 seasons, it’s probably a make or break time as the Loan Army XI is going to be welcoming some new faces. Miazga filled in for Cahill and Terry pretty admirably for a then 20 year old from the MLS, and Terry pegged the younger Clarke-Salter as his potential replacement and also remarked that he was a vocal player. While that could still happen, Clarke-Salter is now buried behind Zouma, Silva, Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and even Fikayo Tomori.

In addition to our defensive struggles, Frank Lampard has also had to battle with inconsistency in the midfield from time to time. With some ho-hum impact-less performances from Jorginho and N’golo Kante either injured or at times giving his best headless chicken, the base of the midfield is in a tepid situation at best. With this summer bringing about Declan Rice rumors, West Ham have been sure to protect their young star with a hefty rumored £80 million price tag. While Rice is a promising midfielder with the versatility to play at the back as well as the intangibles of a captain, the price tag does not suit a team who have already spent a fortune since the late winter while upgrading the team much more than Rice ever would. Chelsea might have better luck trying out other local options, which include the returning Tiemoue Bakayoko and Conor Gallagher, injury prone Ruben Loftus-Cheek or the recovering Billy Gilmour as understudies to either Kante or Jorginho. It seems highly unlikely that Frank Lampard would trust young midfielders to command the base of the midfield in such a promising and high pressure second season at Chelsea, although Conor Gallagher does have much more experience than the higher regarded Gilmour. Bakayoko isn’t a sexy option by any means and hasn’t always looked the part in a Chelsea shirt but hasn’t really played under tactics that fit his style. And, when comparing his 16/17 metrics to Rice’s 19/20, there isn’t a whole lot that separates the two. With the addition of Kai Havertz, a pivot of a more disciplined and refined Bakayoko and a healthy Kante could still be devastating to play against. With a move to Milan on the cards, he might not be seen in a Chelsea shirt again but I maintain that he’s at least worth a shot if he stays with us longer than anticipated. Additionally, Ruben Loftus-Cheek is more known for his power and offensive prowess, but giving him a try at the base of a midfield with some coaching might be a good move for him at this stage in his career in a bid to stay healthy and still play. The oft-injured midfielder would bring size and more technical ability than Kante and Jorginho combined and perhaps give Chelsea a little more kick in the final third, as well as someone who can win in the air and on the ground.

It’s been an exciting and also unnerving period for us fans after all the transfers and newly lofted expectations along with the uncertainty of some of the others on the current squad. However, it’s important to remember that even the greatest managers, such as our own Special One, and some of the greatest sides ever, never won without a little bit of experimentation along the way.