In another episode of The Chelsea Spot Podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho), Paree (Owner – @CFCParee) & Dan (Admin- @danbarkzr) discuss the season ahead. Talking about where Chelsea are going to finish and who could be our best player throughout the season, to a possible training ground bustup…
As we enter the final month of the 2021 summer transfer window, Chelsea are finally beginning to make some moves with the pursuit to bring Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge looking increasingly more likely by the day. However, as silly season comes into full effect, just how sensible is Chelsea’s recent transfer activity?
As is the case with most high profile signings in contemporary football, the numbers involved are staggering. The widely reported €120m (give or take a few free unwanted players thrown in for good measure) would be a British transfer record, topping the recent £100m acquisition of Manchester City, Jack Grealish, by a mere £1-2m. Yet, at a point in time in which elite goal-scoring 9’s are at a premium, the signing of Lukaku, who put up 30 goals in 44 games as he spearheaded Inter Milan’s first title win in 11 years, was always going to be an expensive one.
With such a high transfer fee comes undeniable risk, at the age of 28, Chelsea is signing a striker in his prime with the returns on the investment being solely reliant on him being a blistering success in front of goal. Despite Chelsea being no strangers to expensive acquisitions, previous recent high profile signings of players like Werner and Havertz were made with the reassurances that whilst an immediate impact was expected, they were also signing players who would develop and contribute to the club over a long period of time with an asset value that could well increase. With Lukaku, there is no such safety net of retained value, Chelsea will need the Belgian to put up strong numbers for the majority of his contract to justify the expenditure. Additionally, the pressure will be on Chelsea’s young core to ensure their development continues at an exponential rate in order to maximise the peak of Lukaku’s powers.
A lot has been made of the lack of resell value, with comparisons being made to the acquisition of Didier Drogba, aged 26 for £24m, however, in truth, the most comparable signing of this profile is that of Fernando Torres in 2011. The Spaniard, despite rumours of injuries already taking hold, was signed for a record-breaking fee at the age of 27 with the hopes that he could push Carlo Ancelotti’s side to the next level. Despite a few unforgettable moments, El Nino’s time at the club was largely underwhelming, with the club struggling to move the player on when it became apparent to all parties that the desired outcome was likely never going to be achieved. This not only cost the club a lot of money but also restricted opportunities to implement alternative solutions, including a newly acquired Romelu Lukaku from Anderlecht. Such an experience will have undoubtedly played a part in the club’s cautiousness to pursue a transfer of this profile up until now, an entire decade later.
In isolation, Lukaku the player is rightly a reason to be excited. A versatile, determined and effective leader of the attack, Lukaku will likely provide the clinical instinct and mentality that an all too frequent toothless Chelsea attack has lacked. However, what in a single moment in time is a very exciting prospect perhaps masks a much more worrying underlying narrative of how the club have got to this point. It’s hard to find a player who represents the ugly side of Chelsea’s mismanagement of assets more than Lukaku himself. Signed as a promising talent in the Summer 2011 window, Lukaku’s time at the Blues was largely spent on loan as he struggled to secure a spot ahead of the aforementioned Torres, in addition to the likes of Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Loic Remy before departing the club permanently in 2014 to Everton.
The club were interested in bringing the Belgian back to Stamford Bridge in 2017 however the board, largely unconvinced by the reported transfer and agent fees, ultimately lost out to Manchester United and instead focused their attention to Alvaro Morata (although the less said about that, the better). In fact, it appears to have taken Lukaku finally playing under Antonio Conte, the exact manager they didn’t provide Lukaku to in 2017, to convince the club to part with even more money than they would have had to pay 4 years earlier.
Whilst admittedly, it’s easy to call out these mistakes with the power of hindsight, there’s still plenty of signs to suggest that the club are arguably making the same mistakes this summer, partly to fund this deal. Before the excitement surrounding the opening of Roman’s wallet, the feeling around the club was one of frustration as a large number of highly promising Chelsea youngsters departed for a host of reasons, primarily centred around a lack of belief in first-team opportunities. Despite the inclusion of various clauses that may one day see those players return to the club, there should be no greater example for persevering with suspected elite talent as you never know, it might just save you £100m one day.
The sale of such assets has largely been inevitable when combined with the fact that the club is unable to shift a large number of ageing players with depreciating value, both on the pitch and financially. This pre-season specifically acting as a worrying representation of the ghosts of transfer windows past as the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta took to the field as the club struggle to find suitors. The positive for fans is that such transfers weren’t repeated last summer and show no sign of taking place this summer either (despite a brief flirt with Adama Traore), yet the presence of so many players, combined with a look at the talent that has departed, should act as a startling reminder of the damage that can be done if the club doesn’t correctly manage their assets. Ultimately, continued selling of your 19 to 23-year-old Lukaku’s will ultimately prevent you from signing your 28-year-old Lukaku’s eventually.
It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. Chelsea, as European champions, are on the brink of adding one of the best strikers in world football to their squad. A board that has been frequently guilty of failing to strengthen from a position of power, appear to have learned from previous lessons and wish to take the club to the next level. In Tuchel, we have a manager that deserves to be backed and whilst it’s undoubtedly a risk, if the club insists on releasing Tammy Abraham this summer then it’s hard to argue that the club hasn’t gone all-in on the best option available. It just so happens that Lukaku might not only be Chelsea’s most expensive signing, but also their most expensive lesson.
When appointed Chelsea manager in January, much was made of the tactical versatility of Thomas Tuchel’s previous sides. Whilst in the Paris Saint-Germain hot seat, Tuchel tinkered with more than 10 different systems, ranging from an attacking 4-2-3-1 to a more defensively solid 3-5-2. Already during pre-season we have seen the Blues experiment with several formations, venturing away from the 3-4-3 variants that proved so reliable in the second half of the 2020-21 campaign. With the expected addition of Romelu Lukaku to our already stacked array of attacking assets, questions are being raised as to how the champions of Europe will line up come the start of the season.
The tried and tested 3-4-3
Having just won the Champions League with this system, there is no immediate desperation to deviate from the 3-4-3. Made popular by Antonio Conte in 2016, Tuchel also saw this shape as his primary tactic, achieving great success with it. The fluidity of the attackers that occupied the front three positions last season allowed for a number of different options within these attacking areas: two strikers and one number 10, two wingers and a striker, or two number 10’s behind a main striker.
The beauty of this shape is that it offers you the defensive structure necessary while still pressurising the opposition and fielding enough attacking threat to cause problems. With the imminent arrival of Lukaku, we could either opt to partner him with either Timo Werner or Kai Havertz, both of whom offer different strengths, or Tuchel may choose to play two supporting players in behind the Belgian, where the likes of Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech come into the conversation. Alternatively, there is also the option to deploy two more natural wingers, with Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi providing more of a threat in one-on-one situations down the flanks.
An obvious drawback with this set-up is that the inclusion of an extra centre back takes away the potential for a different attacking option, that may allow for another creative midfielder. Chelsea are yet to score more than two goals in a game under Tuchel and as some of the smaller sides in the division are more likely to try and frustrate us, having five defenders on the pitch at the expense of another creative player made be detrimental.
The high-press 4-2-2-2
One of the more uncommon and unorthodox formations that Thomas Tuchel has made use of in the past is the 4-2-2-2. Using Neymar and Angel Di Maria as roaming playmakers at PSG, this tactic focussed on creating chances for the prolific Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani, while the midfield two required tenacity and dynamism, with the likes of Idrissa Gueye and Ander Herrera in the squad. This system would see the Blues switch to a back four for the first time under Tuchel, thus placing more defensive responsibility upon the clubs’ centre backs.
If this particular shape is to be implemented at Stamford Bridge this season, then there is perhaps no greater midfield pair than Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante. Our Croatian is arguably one of the best around in terms of ball retention, offering a bridge between defence and attack in the transition. Kante’s role within the team is undisputed, with the Frenchman’s’ dominating performances at the back end of last season receiving shouts for a potential Ballon d’Or win.
In terms of the two attacking midfielders in this team, in order to most accurately replicate the PSG variant under Tuchel, Mount and Ziyech would probably be the two providing the killer passes for the strikers. One potential downside to this would be the lack of pace and direct running at defenders, with the two more likely to operate as inside forwards. While the full backs, probably Reece James and Ben Chilwell, would go some way to providing width to the attack, there would be added pressure on the pair to have the athleticism to get back quickly if required, due to the removal of a centre back. While this system would introduce more of a creative spark, the balance and width of the side may be unsettled, making it more of a risk than a guaranteed success.
4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and how they would work in tandem
Last deployed by Frank Lampard, the 4-3-3 has increased in popularity and success in recent years, with the last two Premier League winning sides favouring the system. While Liverpool’s midfield three consisted of two hard working, box-to-box midfielders in front of the holding Fabinho, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have often lined up with two creative players in front of Fernandinho or Rodri, with former Chelsea player Kevin De Bruyne conducting much of the play. However, the Blues boss Tuchel has shown characteristics of both Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp in the past, insisting on a determined but crisp attacking style, that blends the ‘gegenpress’ with positional play.
In a Chelsea context, the holding midfielder would likely be Jorginho, who has enjoyed a dramatic upturn in form since the arrival of our German head coach. Fresh off the back of a starring role in Italy’s Euro 2020 win, the 29-year-old will be keen to continue his impressive run by dictating the play at Stamford Bridge once again. It goes without saying that Kante will retain his place in midfield, but where this system differs from those at Anfield and the Etihad Stadium is the third midfielder. After such an impressive season last year, you would have to believe that Mason Mount is a shoo-in to be the third man, blurring the lines between a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1. We saw Mount perform a similar role in the opening games at the European Championships for England, in that he will drop deep to receive the ball, before driving forward and helping to create chances, or feed the ball out wide. I believe this set-up favours more natural wingers, which would see the likes of Werner and Havertz miss out.
And that may be the biggest downfall to this system should it be called upon at the Bridge. Despite not hitting the ground running last term, our German duo are two of the most likely sources of goals in the whole squad, both boasting impressive records in the Bundesliga before moving to London. This line up may place too much pressure on Lukaku (should he join) to provide the majority of our goals, with the likes of Pulisic, Mount and Hudson-Odoi not yet showing their prolific goal scoring potential. If this tactic is to thrive, these three would have to increase their goal contributions significantly.
Giroud today has signed a deal lasting until 2023 at AC Milan and will wear the number 9 shirt next season. (86Longo)
SempreInter have continued their Zappacosta to Inter Milan rumours by announcing the right back is “waiting for a call from Inter”.
Inter Milan and Arsenal have “gridlocked” in talks over Hector Bellerin which opens the doors for Zappacosta to become Inters first choice right back target.
Football Insider reported today the AFC Wimbledon have registered their interest in Chelsea youth starlet Henry Lawrence for a potential season-long loan deal.
At 19 and being a regular starter for the U23’s, the option to send him out on loan for senior minutes has become a suitable possibility.
Lawrence is widely known for his versatility which makes him an exciting prospect who will look to impress whilst out on loan in League 1.
Doubts of the Haaland deal are in full force today as Dortmund make it clear that Haaland will not be involved in a player swap deal.
Dortmund hierarchy have made it clear to the manager that the team should go ahead as normal and should plan with Haaland being in the starting eleven for next season.
David Ornstein on Sky today said “The view from people I speak to around Chelsea is that Borussia Dortmund are not going to sell— I think it’s most likely that Haaland will stay at Dortmund and leave next summer”. Of course next summer all but entirely means we have zero chance in the signing Haaland as the likes of of Real Madrid, Man City and Barcelona will all be in the mix for the Norwegian.
The only semi-positive news coming out around the Haaland deal is that Erling Haaland’s dad Alfie Haaland and agent Mino Raiola are aware of ‘concrete interest’ from Chelsea. (Julien Laurens)
Emerson played for Roma for three years and now it looks like they are interested in bringing the Italian back.
Emerson’s stock is at an all time high due to his part in the successful Italy Euro 2020 campaign when he stepped in to replace an injured Spinazzola.
Chelsea will be looking to cash in on Emerson this summer as funds are being raised for big-money signings.
Chelsea have been unsuccessful in their approach for the young Barcelona left back according to Mundo Deportivo. Balde (just 17-years-old) has decided to sign a new contract after the board see him as one of the Barcelona ‘promising’ players of the near future.
AC Milan and Chelsea were the only two clubs ever firmly interested in the left back but he has decided to stay and sign a new contract next Thursday until 2026.
The rumours only started because Balde was not invited to pre-season with the first team however this was soon fixed after he and his agent voiced their displeasure. Consequently, this means our pursuit of this Barcelona prospect is over.
In another episode of The Chelsea Spot Podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho), Paree (Owner – @CFCParee) & Adam (Guest – @AdamNewson) discuss the pathway from the academy into the first team after news broke of Livramento, Bate and MPH all rejecting contracts, while Marc Guehi looks set to move to Crystal Palace. They also talked about pre-season and which players could impress, as well as finishing off with a Q&A.
One of the busiest days for one of the most lucrative transfer sagas of the summer.
One of the biggest sports newspapers in the world, BILD released lots of details about a potential Haaland deal today. Firstly, they mention that Chelsea want to guide Erling Haaland to London with a mega offer of €175m.
Jörg Weiler (reporter for BILD) stopped Haaland and asked “Will you stay with BVB?”, Weiler says that Haaland “thinks about it for a moment, then reacts with a big grin. But says nothing”.
The same German newspaper also claims that Roman Abramovich has already ‘released’ €175m (£150m) for the Blues to use in the Haaland deal.
Not related to Haaland directly, Borussia Dortmund have agreed personal terms with Donyell Malen from PSV. However, Dortmund offered €25m and PSV want €30m. If the €5m difference between these clubs is fixed, it could mean that Haaland becomes slightly more available and Dortmund could want to enter serious negotiations.
According to DailyExpress, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is ready to push the button on a deal for Erling Haaland.
Reports emerged this morning courtesy of ChristianFalk who reported that Chelsea asked Juventus for a transfer of Chiesa. Chelsea apparently offered a basis of €100m (£85m) to open negotiations for the Italian and Juve rejected to even open talks.
This transfer will be hard to pull off for any kind of money for a few reasons, Chiesa is still a Fiorentina player legally until 2022 where Juventus will pay €40m for his services. Chiesa is Italian and with many Italian players the dream is to play for Juventus and many top players in Serie A prefer to stay within this league for a majority of their career.
Fabrizio Romano chimed in just a few hours later on the reports of this deal by saying, “Juventus have no intention to open talks with any club for Federico Chiesa. Chelsea, Bayern… there’s no chance. He’s considered untouchable”.
Nizaar Kinsella and Adam Newson have reported on the mounting fears that Chelsea could lose Lewis Bate who is receiving offers from Premier League and Championship clubs.
Bate’s contract runs out in June 2022 and has not yet agreed to Chelsea’s offer of a contract renewal.
Football.London shed some light on the Livramento contract renewal troubles by providing us more information on his status. Livramento has not yet agreed to a contract renewal and from January can agree to a pre-contract deal with other clubs. This kind of deal could see Chelsea only recieving £500,000 in compensation at a maximum.
Livramento trained with the U16’s yesterday which only adds fuel to the fire. We can only presume that Livramento thought he would be able to train with the first team and therefore did not travel with the U18’s and U23’s to Scotland. Depending on the mindset of the promising full back, he could see his lack of involvement in the first team as disrespectful.
Football.London also shared that Peart-Harris has not yet signed a contract renewal alongside Bate and Livramento. Peart-Harris has been gaining interest from many clubs and seems to be keeping his options open amid many youth players doubting their chances of finding a pathway to the first team.
According to Calcio Mercato, there are three obstacles in the way of Napoli signing Emerson this summer. Leonardo Spinazzola’s injury which lead to Emerson taking the starting left back spot for Italy has meant Chelsea are not willing to lower the asking price of €20m. Napoli offered €12m – €13m and Chelsea declined this offer and do not wish to entertain Napoli’s maximum offering of €15m.
Chelsea have also reportedly told Napoli that they will extend Emerson’s contract before it runs out in June 2022 to avoid losing him on a free transfer.
Napoli are also interested in the idea of taking Emerson on loan in typical Serie A fashion. Chelsea would expectedly make Napoli pay all or most of the wage for the player if Napoli were to take Emerson on loan.
Agents are said to be talking on this deal constantly and they never stopped speaking throughout Euro 2020.
MundoDeportivo (via SportWitness) are reporting that Chelsea are ‘formally interested’ in 17-year-old Barcelona left back Alejandro Balde.
AC Milan submitted an €8m (£6.8m) bid for the youngster last year but Barcelona turned this offer down. This same source called the left back “modern, powerful and offensive fullback, who would ‘adapt perfectly’ to English football”.
This potential deal comes down to whether Balde signs a new contract with the Catalan side. Yesterday he started training with the first team for pre-season which could provide an extra incentive for the 17-year-old to sign a new deal with Barca and snub the Blues consequently.
Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek
James Robson has reported today that Barkley and Loftus-Cheek are expected to leave Chelsea on loan or in permanent deals if buyers can be found.
Loftus-Cheek, who was praised by Tuchel a few months ago as being similar to Michael Ballack, is going to be assessed throughout pre-season and Tuchel will decide on his future ultimately.
Sports Lens and Fabrizio Romano today have reported that Genk are confident of signing Chelsea striker Ike Ugbo. Besiktas, Feyenoord and PSV approached Chelsea to sign Ugbo but Genk are confident to complete the deal. It seems Ugbo has snubbed any chance of a deal to another English club and looks set for a move abroad. Negotiations are ongoing between Chelsea and Genk and we can expect a deal to be done shortly.
Cercle Brugge had the option of buying Ugbo on a permanent basis for £5m after a successful loan spell where he scored 17 goals in 34 appearances in all competitions.
Chelsea are reportedly looking to step up his price tag as many teams are interested in the striker for around the £5m mark and Chelsea don’t want to let a young, promising striker go for this cheap of a price.
If a swap deal between Antoine Griezmann and Saúl Ñíguez does not solidifiy, Chelsea are ‘keen’ on Saúl. (Fabrizio Romano) Saúl’s name has been heard a few times throughout the last year and it is clear the board are fans of the Spaniard.
Chelsea ‘consider new Declan Rice transfer bid with West Ham ready to sell for £80m’ after Euro 2020 heroics for England. (Sun)
Rice has already rejected two contract offers from West Ham amid rumours of Chelsea looking to submit a bid to ‘test the waters’.
Dean Jones also added to the Declan Rice rumour mill by saying that “Chelsea still see Declan Rice as a prime target and are considering an offer. West Ham’s valuation is thought to be £80m”.
90min have reported that West Ham, Southampton and Crystal Palace have been put off by Chelsea’s asking price for Abraham. Aston Villa, Brighton and Everton are still in the race though, with Rafa Benitez reportedly being a fan of the Englishman.
After an expceptional loan spell at West Brom, Gallagher has been attracting a lot of attention from Premier League sides. The main rumour surrounding Gallagher is that Newcastle have shown interest in him. We believe this would be a loan deal as Gallagher just signed a new long term deal with the Blues which still has another four years remaining. (Telegraph)
Paolo Maldini himself confirmed to DAZN that “Olivier Giroud will arrive tomorrow and he’ll be our new signing.”
Chelsea will receive €1m guaranteed fee + €1m as potential bonus/add on. (Fabrizio Romano)
In another episode of The Chelsea Spot Podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho) is joined by Chelsea fan Kieran (Guest – @KierDoyle) to discuss the upcoming pre-season which started a few days ago! Talking about the loan players who could feature, the academy graduates who may have a chance and the impact of the EUROS players coming later…
As reported by many and something we heard over a month ago, most of the Chelsea players begin pre-season tomorrow (5th July). We understand that the academy players are unaware of which building they will be training in as of now. Players such as Olivier Giroud and Kai Havertz who have just been knocked out of the EUROS competition will most likely have a longer break and not return to training this upcoming week, with the return date of players such as Ethan Ampadu being unknown.
In this article, we will look at some players who could feature in pre-season and potentially impress Thomas Tuchel. Obviously this doesn’t include all players, and some of these could head out of the club either on loan or permantly as they plan to have meetings with the club and manager in the next few weeks, but I’ve tried to talk about all the main ones.
Ever since his 30 odd million move to Chelsea, it hasn’t been the best of times. In his first season he was struck with injury and although he had solid performances with Atletico Madrid and the FA Cup Final coming to mind, he also had disasterclasses such as that famous 4-1 loss to Watford.
He’s been on loan to Italy since, with the football there certainly suiting him a lot more. He’s had much better seasons at AC Milan and Napoli, with the latter liking him a lot. His agent has been talking plenty in the last few months, with him clearly trying to push a move to Italy this Summer.
Although, if things don’t go to plan, Bakoyoko could have a chance to impress Tuchel. If Declan Rice is seen as a too expensive option to the Blues, and we don’t go for our other targets such as Boubacar Kamara and Aurelien Tchouameni, the French midfielder is arguably the next best option for that defensive midfield profile which our squad is heavily lacking at the moment. Although it does look like he will be leaving the club, perhaps he may want to give it one final shot.
Lewis is someone who will almost certainly be going on loan this Summer, with many clubs being interested in the technical midfielder after two very impressive seasons in the academy. He’ll be looking to follow the likes of Levi Colwill who has already headed out to Huddersfield, and is following the path of many academy players who tend to leave on loan after they are ineligible to play in the FA Youth Cup.
He also does have a contract situation to sort out, with it running out next Summer. Chelsea would have to convince him to sign a new deal before leaving on loan, so that needs to be done as I’m sure many top clubs are also interested in him permanently.
He’s one who has trained with the first team this season for a few weeks under Lampard, and I’m sure he’d want to impress Tuchel too before going out on loan.
The forgotten man? Michy is arguably one of the best finishers at the club, but it just seems that his training isn’t good enough as called out by a couple of managers. It is frustrating since you can see the potential is there, but it just hasn’t worked out at Chelsea.
And neither has it at his Premier League loans, either. He had a nice spell at Dortmund, which perhaps could make the deal for Haaland 1% easier if they were interested in the Belgian forward, but other than that he has struggled. With the striker chase for Chelsea looking very difficult at the moment and with Giroud’s and Abraham’s future at the club in huge doubt, there could be a small chance he sticks around as the third striker.
Armando is someone who’s development in the last two years has been one of the quickest I’ve ever seen. From going to a player who wasn’t even part of the U18s, to the next season starting for 6 months as the main striker at U23 level while making his Chelsea debut, and then heading out to Holland’s first division on loan the season after that, is incredible and huge praise should be sent to him.
His first loan at Vitesse was certainly a great one. He scored many goals and he would have learnt so much about the men’s game. However, I still believe there’s a lot more work he needs to do with his buildup and linking up play, although I have no doubt that this will certainly come with time and experience.
There have bee a few links of him sticking around and signing a new deal, so I guess we will have to see what Tuchel has in plan for the Albanian forward.
The man who is being talked about the most at the moment. With the club’s desire of a player like Hakimi who we missed out on as well as the possible pursuit of Adama Traore, that certainly wouldn’t have convinced the academy player of the season too much.
His contract runs out next Summer, and Chelsea will be desperate for him to sign that deal as he is very highly rated by the England camp and from clubs all across the world. Many have said ‘let him go out on loan’ which people are not realising is as easy as they are making out. Chelsea will not let him go out on loan unless he signs a new deal, and if we don’t show him any pathway into the first team then he simply won’t.
This pre-season is a big chance for him to show to Tuchel that he’s good enough for this squad, whether that’s this season or next. I’m sure he’s very much looking forward to pre-season as at it stands he’s the only proper RWB in the whole of the club available to Thomas, so he certainly has a chance. He’s definitely got a big month ahead.
I kind of lied when I said Tino was the only RWB in the whole squad – Dujon is more than definitely still around. After returning from injury and illness, he played with the 23s for just less than 6 months and found himself impressing week in week out.
There have been a few small reports of him sticking around and Tuchel wanting to see what he can offer, so hopefully he’s ready to smash it. A new deal needs to be sorted though, so keep an eye on that.
A very very interesting one. With the profile desired, Ampadu could be the perfect player for Tuchel. Despite him being one of my favourite players, I have no doubt in saying that at this very moment he is behind the likes of Declan Rice in terms of ability, but if Chelsea want to save some money then he’s absolutely right there.
It has been reported that we are looking for a player who can play both in defensive midfield and centre back, hence the links to Boubacar Kamara and Rice, and that’s Ethan’s best two positions. Although in general his two loans have been a slight failure with him getting close to little game time at RB Leipzig and going down to the Championship with Sheffield United, he still has shown potential with the Champions League game against Spurs coming to mind and in general for Wales he’s great.
He’s another one to keep a very close eye on. In my personal opinion, he should definitely stick around this squad.
Ross Barkley…it’s a weird one with him. Every pre-season he impresses and he looks like the next Frank Lampard, and not long later he looks like the next failed player who will be part of the ‘streets will never forget’ list.
He’s someone who could arguably play in that inside forward role or in midfield, so maybe he has a chance to impress Tuchel, but we’re going to need a lot more consistency from him and that comes from hard work on the training pitch.
Personally, I suspect him to leave on a permanent deal.
A player who has definitely gone under the radar. He’s another one like Ampadu who can play in both positions of defensive midfield and centre half, so perhaps also has a chance to impress Tuchel.
He had a great loan at FC Lorient in the Ligue 1 where he would’ve gained so much experience playing against some of the best players in the world, and we all know the French league is extremely physical so in that sense he’d find the transfer over to Premier League easier.
I unfortunately suspect he may want to move on and kick on at a club permanently, but who knows these days. Maybe…
Another big talking point. Marc has done absolutely brilliantly out on loan at Swansea and most Chelsea fans have wanted to see how he does. Chelsea fans saw glimpses of him with very impressive games against Manchester United and Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup before he went on loan for 18 months, and ever since they have kept an eye on him.
It’s going to be difficult though. We currently have Thiago Silva who signed an extension till the end of this upcoming season, Andreas Christensen who is expected to sign a new deal some time soon, Antonio Rudiger who’s looked like a world class centre-back for 6 months, Kurt Zouma who could leave but reports have stated we will sign someone if that was the case, as well as Azpilicueta and Reece James who have both been used heavily at RCB too.
If Chelsea were to sign someone like Sule or Kounde though, then that would surely be over for Marc’s career at Chelsea and I’m sure he’s got the brains to move to another club. For him we need to show that there is a pathway into the first team and he’ll certainly want to impress Tuchel in these next few months.
Since I mentioned Lewis, I thought I’d mention Henry very briefly too. Someone who has become too good for development squad now, he needs to look at playing professional football as with his such high footballing intelligence and versatility I’m sure many Championship and League One clubs will be looking at him.
Again, a player who Tuchel could actually like a lot with him switching between the 3 and 4 at the back formations. A few months ago when the first team was on international break, we were told that Henry trained with the first team and really impressed the coaches.
He should go on loan and get as much as a full pre-season as possible, but let’s see what happens.
It’s hard not to get sad when thinking about Loftus-Cheek and what could’ve been. Under Sarri he was playing like he was one of the best midfielders in the world, and then that terrilbe injury happened in a game which many won’t forget…
Unlike most, I think his loan at Fulham was actually decently successful. Yes, at times he looked incredibly rusty, but that was always going to be the case and the most important thing was that he got minutes and time to get his fitness back.
Reports state that he’s a player who Tuchel is really looking forward to seeing in pre-season. It’s difficult, because I still think he needs another 6 months to get back to full confidence and ability, but whether he’ll get that is another thing. With better players around him perhaps he could perform better… I still haven’t given up all hope with RLC.
Again, another sticky one. I think it’s very important he heads out on loan now and gets some professional football in his locker.
He’s arguably had a ‘season loan’ at Chelsea for one year after moving to the first team training permamently, and he certainly would have learnt so much working under Thomas Tuchel and Frank Lampard, as well as training against some of the best like Thiago Silva.
He’s at the age where he needs to get some minutes, and if he goes to a league like the Championship he could absolutely smash it. He even started one of our Champions League games out of position and impressed, so there’s no doubt with a good pre-season and gametime he could do very well. He’s shown Tuchel what he can do in training, and now he must show the world what the talented midfielder is about.
Again, on the first eye, Gallagher’s loan to West Brom may not have been great. But, he had a full year of Premier League experience and was definitely one of their brighter players.
I actually think he’s a player who Tuchel will really like a lot. He’s someone who runs about so much and has as much energy as Mason Mount, and is as versatile with him easily playing in the 8 and 10 role, and if worse comes to worse at the 6.
Tuchel could definitely see him as a very useful utility player and I’m sure if Conor was told he would be involved in a few Chelsea games this season, he could stick around. If he does go on loan, I greatly believe it should be to a Premier League team which play a much better way of football.
Do you agree with my comments? Is there any obvious one I’ve missed out on? Let me know on our social media platforms!
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.
Those of us who had an invested interest in the graduates of Cobham knew the deal. You’d watch as a promising group of young talents dominated both domestic and international youth football, the best of which would be “promoted” to the first team. That promotion would be met with the annual pre-season oath that “*Insert Youth Player Here* will be a very important player for us this season” as a single 20 minute Carabao Cup cameo would be swiftly followed by a silent departure to pastures new. Whilst ultimately disappointing, you knew the deal and you could accept it.
Then we had to go and ruin it by giving them a genuine chance.
The perfect storm of a transfer ban and the bravery of newly appointed coach Frank Lampard brought with it an influx of youth graduates, the likes of which had long been desired but never seen within the club. Unlike the Jeremie Bogas, Gael Kakutas and Ola Ainas of this world who were shipped out without a real look in, the new generation came in and more importantly, remained, despite scepticism from fans and media alike, including a certain Jose Mourinho.
That show of faith has proven to be the most successful gamble that the club has ever made as the class of 2019 not only helped Chelsea qualify for the Champions League against all odds, but drove the team forward to a convincing European triumph the very next year as Chelsea picked up their second Champions League trophy. The smoke cloud that surrounded the club following Sarri’s 18/19 campaign was lifted and revealed a bright new future that was forged primarily in Cobham.
I previously wrote about how the academy should be at the core of Chelsea’s financial and footballing model moving forward. Rather than spending large fees and wages on squad depth, those rotational minutes should be given to Cobham graduates. The upshot being that not only do you have players on lower wages who didn’t cost you a penny to sign, you have players with a much higher talent ceiling that can either go on to become first-team regulars or be sold for pure profit if they don’t quite make the required grade.
The positives are obvious, for every £22m spent on squad players like Zappacosta, you could have easily had a Reece James, a Tariq Lamptey or an Ola Aina. All of whom could genuinely stake a claim to have made a bigger Premier League impact. That money saved then subsequently gets spent on genuine top talents who improve the first XI. It wasn’t just the footballing exploits of Mount and Co on the pitch that allowed the previous summer’s spending, it was the positive impacts they had on the books too.
With all that said, this step into the unknown has lead us to questions we’ve never faced before. What happens when these graduates want more? What happens if another club wants to turn one of our developmental talents into a first-team regular? What happens if the youth conveyor belt moves faster than the club can manage? We got a sneak peek of this impending dilemma in January 2020 when Tariq Lamptey left for a cut-price £3m as the club couldn’t guarantee him a pathway ahead of Reece James who was only one year his senior.
Now, as we move into a summer transfer window that many expect will propel the club even further to sustained success, we’re almost certainly going to see both Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori creep out the back door. Two of the five that were instrumental in the youth revolution at the club departing within 2 years, one inexplicably left out by Lampard, the other not to the new manager’s liking. Unlike the other departures I’ve mentioned so far in this article, this isn’t a case of selling a young talent without knowing what they could contribute. These were two talents who took their chance with both hands and showed they belong before ultimately facing the same fate as those before them.
What is unclear this time around is whether this a sign is that the club is taking a step backwards and reverting to type or whether this is a necessary step forward in the development of the “new” Chelsea that many have subscribed to. The reported £25m for Tomori, whilst still feeling slightly low, is pure profit for a player that cost the club nothing and was deemed surplus to requirements in a position that has had a dramatic change in fortunes under Thomas Tuchel. The answer to that question will likely come in the form of how the club looks to replace the departing centre-back. With Marc Guehi impressing on loan and the likes of Levi Colwill, Xavier Mbuyamba and Sam Mclelland looking to make that next step, there’s a strong case to be put forward that the Tomori approach could be replicated again and again to great effect. At the time of writing, the club is yet to be seriously linked with any inbound centre-backs, which would have been unthinkable back in January but is perhaps the most telling sign yet that valuable lessons are being learned and the model hasn’t been abandoned at the first sign of success.
On the other hand, you have the curious case of Tammy Abraham. Finishing top goalscorer in the 2019/20 season with an impressive 15 goals, none of which came from the penalty spot, and joint top goalscorer in 2020/21 despite missing half the season. His exclusion from the squad has been frustrating, if not inexplicable at times, however, he is perhaps the clearest example of the crossroads the club face when a Cobham graduate is no longer viewed as just a “youth player”. Abraham has now found himself in the awkward position of being too good for a backup player, yet perhaps not good enough (yet) to be a first-choice striker for a club that now expects domestic success. There is a certain irony in the fact that one of the superstar strikers that are rumoured to replace him is Romelu Lukaku, a man who left the club in somewhat similar circumstances, all be it the Belgian proved his Premier League credentials on loan rather than at Stamford Bridge.
That comparison perfectly represents the impossible situation that Chelsea face this summer. Hindsight could tell you that the club should have stuck by Lukaku and as such, wouldn’t have to break their transfer record to recruit a striker this summer. Doing so, however, could just have likely seen Chelsea’s 2014/15 Premier League title not happen without Diego Costa leading the line, or alternatively, Lukaku’s development could have stagnated as he watched from the bench. Fast forward to today, a somewhat unexpected Champions League win has put Chelsea in an enviable position in the transfer window where they can genuinely target some of the best talents in the world, a position that is not guaranteed next summer.
It then becomes increasingly clear that a move benefits both parties. For the club, they can utilise Abraham as a pivotal negotiation tool in their pursuit of a world-class striker. They can either generate pure profit for a high potential striker who didn’t cost them a penny or equally attempt to use the player as a makeweight in a potential swap deal to reduce the financial outlays even further. For Abraham, a player who has proven he can perform at the top level, he can continue to develop even further at a club that will trust him to be their number one option.
We ultimately will not know the exact motives behind these sales, and whilst on the surface, it’s disappointing to see two of our own leave the club, there is certainly a lot of encouragement that can be taken from the situation. Two players who have come through the Cobham pathway have left a positive impact on the club both on the pitch and on the books. If reports are to be believed, the club could generate north of £70m for two academy graduates. One moved on for a profit to free up space on the production line and the other let go to assist the club in securing world-class talent. Whilst it’s sad to see these players go, it’s further proof that Cobham should be the foundation that this club is built on for sustained success in the future.
The key behind the success is in long term planning and stability, and whilst the stories of Abraham and Tomori could be positioned as positive ones for the club, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. A less successful story, at least from the viewpoint of the club, is that of Tariq Lamptey. At the point of his departure early in 2020, there was a reluctant acceptance that despite his high potential, there wasn’t going to be a space for him to develop with both Reece James and Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of him in the pecking order. Fast forward only 18 months and the club is now looking to spend big money on Inter Milan’s Achraf Hakimi to provide an attacking option at RWB in Tuchel’s system. Hakimi, a top talent in his own right at only 22 would naturally become first choice at RWB, with James and Azpilcueta providing rotational cover whilst primarily focusing on their RCB role. That RWB role, however, would have been perfect for the homegrown Lamptey who has excelled there for Brighton and caught the attention of the “big 6” with his standout performances. This not only could have saved Chelsea an outgoing £60m transfer fee but could also have seen the club generate a large incoming fee of their own if the time ever came to move Lamptey on. Whilst hindsight is 20-20, and perhaps nobody could have seen a move back to a 3ATB system (despite the remaining Conte influence on this squad), the whole situation is evidence of the negative impacts that a lack of planning can have when handling youth players.
The Hakimi situation then becomes even more interesting when you bring Tino Livramento into the mix. The 18-year-old, who won Youth Player of the Year this season with his standout performances at wing-back only has a year left on his contract and has already caught the attention of some top European clubs. The introduction of Hakimi undoubtedly impacts the minutes available to Livramento, especially with James (21), Azpilicueta (31) and to a lesser extent Hudson-Odoi (20) all providing ample rotational options. There is then every possibility that as Lamptey did, Livramento may decide to reject a new contract that would force the club to sell at a fraction of his real value.
What’s important is that in the midst of this unexpected success is that Chelsea doesn’t lose sight of the foundations close to home that got them there. Whilst the temptation is always to look to the transfer market for solutions, the past two years are clear evidence that keeping a pathway from Cobham to Stamford Bridge is not only beneficial for the club in the short term but critical to our long term success. It is no coincidence that it’s the academy products who are proving easy to sell, whilst the likes of Marcos Alonso and Emerson, who despite being internationals, have seemingly been priced out of a sale due to their initial cost to the club.
What the sales of Tomori and Abraham should remind us is that opportunities for these youth talents should not be viewed as having the sole aim of making them first-team regulars (despite the unbelievable success of Mount and James). Not every youth player will be able to remain at the club and whilst it’s unrealistic to expect us to consistently compete with a squad full of academy products, it’s equally unrealistic to expect us to compete, both on the pitch and financially, without them.
In June of 2019, just one month before Frank Lampard took over as Chelsea head coach, Eden Hazard completed his dream transfer to Real Madrid. Hazard was long an admirer of Madrid coach and former player Zinidine Zidane. Hazard also linked up with close friend and former Chelsea teammate Thibaut Courtois, who left Chelsea the year prior due to growing dissatisfaction with Chelsea’s managerial turnover that saw Courtois play under four different managers during his time in England. While Chelsea in truth could use the services of both players, Courtois has established himself as a mainstay between the sticks for Zidane’s side after an initially turbulent start to life at the Santiago Bernabeu. Hazard meanwhile has been as ineffective as he’s been healthy at Madrid, having thus far made a paltry 33 appearances over one and a half seasons whilst scoring a modest three goals, a far cry from his true quality.
An Eden Hazard return to Stamford Bridge could be mutually beneficial for many, with the Chelsea board scrambling for ways to finish inside the top 4, and Madrid likely desiring for their player to return to form. Hazard is now closer to the end of his career rather than the beginning having turned 30 at the beginning of the month. However, he offers a low-risk high reward option for the Blues, offering at the very least experience in the Premier League and individual drive and creativity from the left wing. For Chelsea, this hopefully would mean some production from the left flank, which has been totally devoid of scoring and creativity for almost the entire season. Christian Pulisic, like Hazard, has been oft-injured and mostly ineffective while Timo Werner on the other hand just really isn’t a winger. Callum Hudson-Odoi has been in and out of the lineup and on different flanks while filling in for one of Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech.
In addition to providing an attacking spark and creativity, Hazard was also a dressing room favorite and maintains great links within the team. During Olivier Giroud’s hot run of form during the triumphant 2018-19 Europa League campaign, Hazard hailed Giroud as “maybe” the best target man in the world. A Hazard return would bode well in this case, as Giroud has supplanted Tammy Abraham and Timo Werner as Frank Lampard’s preferred number 9 on multiple occasions.
While this article is largely speculative and thinking out loud of sorts, it does make perfect sense. Chelsea’s board are truly growing restless and desperate and currently with the winter transfer window looking like a crapshoot it might not hurt to try and take a flier on the lottery ticket that is Eden Hazard. Maybe you win, maybe you don’t. It’s hard to imagine Real Madrid considering a deal like this non-negotiable considering Hazard has just one goal this campaign. Almost any other player can offer a similar return while Hazard can play elsewhere, and collect a loan fee at the same time. And of course, in the worst-case scenario Hazard can always be recalled to the Santiago Bernabeu. Alas, it is a break from the managerial rumors. Stay calm and stay patient Chelsea fans.
With the winter window being newly opened, its likely we see some activity from Chelsea Football Club to progress their plans for the squad. However, it seems the focus for the window may be offloading players from the large squad Chelsea now have rather than adding further depth and talent.
Ahead of the Manchester City game, Frank Lampard was asked about the club’s plans for the window ahead and he had this to say:
“I have ideas. We have a big squad, we’ll have to see if that changes, if there are opportunities for players who aren’t playing so much. That will be a conversation between the player, club and myself.”
He continued by adding;
“Then we’ll see if we can strengthen in the right way, but we’re not jumping up and down to do so. My focus this year is purely on work because we have new players, because we have young players, so I’m focusing on that. But we’ll see, it’s a long month.”
Chelsea’s plans for the January window
As Lampard mentioned in his answer during the press conference, it seems the focus is going to be finding moves for players who are lacking game time, whether that be a loan move or a permanent one. Therefore, we’ll go through and discuss the different players we might see find a permanent move elsewhere, and who might be looking for a loan move based on reports, while discussing each player’s circumstances in the process.
Rudiger is a player who could likely be on his way out this window with hopes of securing a spot to be selected for the Euros this upcoming summer. After being signed by Antonio Conte the summer after Chelsea’s most recent title winning campaign, Rudiger has struggled ever since to remain in the starting lineup under Lampard. Being a prominent player for his international side of Germany, it seems the only alternative is to move elsewhere. Reports came out back in October sparked by Joachim Low himself stating that Rudiger:
“Tried everything to leave Chelsea because the European Championship is very important to him. I think he’ll try to leave again in the winter. He’s doing everything he can to stay in his best form.”
Joachim Low on Rudiger’s situation at Chelsea
With window newly opened, we’ll see which clubs offer for Rudiger in his search for regular game time.
Jorginho was originally signed when Chelsea brought in Maurizio Sarri to takeover from Antonio Conte. It was understood that he was an integral part of the Sarri-ball system and was utilized as deepest midfielder in a 4-3-3 in the famous Regista role. However, it’s likely we see him move on from Chelsea since the sacking of Sarri and his lack of game time under Frank Lampard.
His agent, Joao Santos came out back in November stating that Jorginho could follow Maurizio Sarri wherever his new project may be. This, combined with his original transfer fee of £50M could mean we see him moving on from the club to make space in the already crowded midfield Chelsea have, and recoup some funds for future moves.
After his poor performances so far in the league this season Alonso has not seen any game time since the 3-3 draw against West Brom. With Ben Chilwell fully fit and the clear first choice, as well as Emerson now seemingly second in the pecking order, Alonso looks to be another player whose time is up at the club.
Originally coming in again under Antonio Conte before our title winning campaign, Alonso proved to be a pivotal player operating in the left wing-back role in the 3-4-3. However, since transitioning to a 4 ATB system, he’s struggled ever since in being able to get up and down the field effectively as well as be defensively reliable.
Reports from The Independent and Sports Illustrated have both discussed a move for the Spanish international back to his home country. Atletico Madrid currently seem the most interested side for Alonso’s services, so it’s possible we see him on his way out this window.
The alternate left back has also been linked recently with a move away from Stamford Bridge. Signed originally by Conte as well for depth, Emerson was once again is a player who never really broke into the first team.
Reports from Sports Illustrated have stated that two teams have potential interest for the left back, both coming from Italy. First of the two being a reunion with Antonio Conte at Inter Milan who are looking to challenge for the Scudetto this year. The second team being Napoli who are also seemingly interested in the player.
However, as a result of the interest in Marcos Alonso and Emerson’s status as second choice under Lampard, it’s possible Chelsea hold onto him for longer than this window where they can find a proper replacement.
Danny Drinkwater is another player on this list who never truly got involved in the first team and has recently featured with the U23s. During his spell at Chelsea he’s had a few discplinary issues, including being involved in an altercation during a game with the U23 squad. Drinkwater’s time at Chelsea has been tumultuous to say the least. He was originally signed for a fee of £35M pounds for depth and was rarely deployed, which left many fans scratching their heads.
Reports last year stated the hammers were potentially interested in the player, however it’s uncertain whether this is still the case. Regardless, it’s likely he is on his way out wherever that may be as most fans would probably be pleased to see the back of him.
Others Notable Players
Additional players worth mentioning who could also see their way out include the following:
Michy Batshuayi who is currently on loan at Crystal Palace but has been scarce of playing time even there. Although it’s uncertain when he may move on, it seems his time at Chelsea is likely over as well.
Davide Zappacosta currently on loan at Genoa C.F.C. Signed originally under Conte for additional depth at right wing-back, failed to truly get involved in the first team and likely to move elsewhere permanently
Tiemoue Bakayoko, brought in to fill the void left by Nemanja Matić in 2018 Bakayoko was quickly dismissed by all managers who succeed Antonio Conte who he was signed under. After a couple loan moves at A.C. Milan and this year at Napoli, it seems Bakayoko has recouped enough market value through regular game time for a permanent move.
Moving onto loan moves, we’ll be discuss players we could see go on loan who are also looking to get more regular game time. This may result for a variety of reasons, namely for certain players to further develop and fight for a place in the first team the following season, as well as others looking to bring up their market value with options to buy for inevitable permanent deals in the future. That being said, we’ll discuss which players could fit into these categories and use reports to further the context of each player and their given circumstances.
Originally, it seemed Tino was set for first team opportunities as he was moved up and training with the squad regularly. Liam Twomey reported for The Athletic at the beginning of the season that Tino was set to stay at the club for this year.
However, with only 3 appearances this season and limited game time, it’s possible this stance is reevaluated this window in a similar fashion that Twomey’s tweet states: “he gets a loan offer that’s too good to refuse.”
Anjorin is an extremely talented player, and ideally if a club in Europe’s top 5 leagues comes with an offer that entails regular game time for the 19-year-old to further develop, it might be one of consideration for the Frank and the club.
After a knee operation which forced Gilmour out of the first team for the rest of project restart, Gilmour has become fully fit again and appeared a couple times already for the club as a sub for a total of 36 minutes. However, last season many saw the remarkably talented player and have ever since been excited for his return to the squad.
Although the club’s plans were likely similar to that of Tino, if not more willing to utilize Gilmour throughout the season, news has come out in the past month of many clubs interested in taking the Scottish midfielder on loan. Reports from a few sources have cited the Glasgow Rangers as a likely destination, and it’s no secret he’s a player of many talents and in demand.
Lampard spoke to BT Sport in reference to his plans for Gilmour stating:
“I’m not sure. The way he trains and plays I can see him with us. I have to make sure the pathway is right.”
Lampard on Gilmour this season
Therefore, we’ll have to keep an eye out for any further developments in regard to Gilmour for the rest of this season and what “pathway” the manager feels is right for him.
Fikayo Tomori is another player to keep an eye out on with recent development influencing his status and future. Although last season for a time he had been a regular part of the first team and playing often in the league, this season has been a different story with Tomori only having played 45 minutes in the league. In the summer window leading up to the season, the new signing of Thiago Silva, as well as incumbents of Rudiger, Christensen, and Zouma, questions were being asked of Tomori’s position in the ranks. As a result discussions of whether a loan move to another club might suit him for this season came about.
No move was made, and since then it seems he’s become the 5th choice under Lampard with Rudiger and Christensen receiving more time as rotational players and with Zouma and Silva the starters. As a result, rumors have circulated again linking Tomori to clubs such as Newcastle, Leeds, and Rennes for a loan move this window.
Although some sort of move seemed quite likely, reports are now coming out altering this status. With the injury to Christensen against Aston Villa, Chelsea are seemingly blocking any loan offer for the player. Whether Christensen’s injury is severe enough to see Tomori remain with the club is yet to be seen, regardless it’s another player to watch out for in the case that Christensen comes back sooner than expected and Tomori is allowed to leave.
Kepa is our last player in discussion, with his story and circumstances being quite more complex than the others. Being signed as the most expensive goal keeper for a fee of £71m, and on wages of £150,000 per week, his return for the club has been poor to say the least. With Edouard Mendy the clear starter, it’s clear the club are not looking to keep Kepa as the 2nd choice keeper for such an investment, and it’s unlikely he’s content with this role himself.
Reports have come out that Kepa is looking to return to his home country of Spain and is willing to take massive wage cuts in order to do so. Although his form has recently been so poor, that Chelsea would be unlikely to recoup anywhere near the fee they’ve paid for him, hence why is possible he is sent out on a loan move.
The hope is Kepa can move to a club for a season or even two, with his wages subsidized and more minutes to regain his confidence and market value. Ideally, some sort of option to buy clause would be included in the deal, in which case he can then be shipped off permanently, hence the complexity of the deal.
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.
Before 8pm last night, Chelsea Twitter was in a great mood. We were one of the favourites to win the League, Jamie Carragher and Jurgen Klopp said Chelsea had the best squad in the Premier League, and fans were getting excited as we were on a 17 match unbeaten run.
There was only one man who disagreed with that and constantly said it throughout press conferences that we couldn’t be compared to Liverpool and Manchester City, and that man was Frank Lampard (and myself who said in the Everton preview that Chelsea fans were getting too complacent, and a few others, but you get the point). And he was absolutely spot on; as Chelsea lost to Everton 1-0, and all of a sudden we now have to challenge for top four. The Chelsea manager kept on repeating himself how you can only win titles with consistency, and last night showed we’re not there, yet.
There are a few reasons we’re not consistent enough at the moment, and they all make sense with context. The main reason though is despite what people are saying, we simply do not have that strong of a squad compared to the big boys. We definitely have a big squad, but that doesn’t really matter. At The Chelsea Spot, we always say quality over quantity, and that’s something we do not have at the moment in the Chelsea squad.
Our B Team
I think Chelsea’s lacklusture performance against Krasnodar sums it up, but I’ll go into detail with it. For this, I’m going to assume our best lineup is this one (although that is never really a thing): Mendy, Chilwell, Zouma, Silva, James, Kante, Mount, Havertz, Ziyech, Werner, Pulisic.You can have your own opinion on your best lineup, but this is just the model I’m going to use to show exacly what I mean.
After Mendy we have Kepa. The worst goalkeeper in Premier League history. That’s not a great start is it? Willy Caballero – he’s average, old, and not really up to the high standard. After all, he’s older than Petr Cech who’s our technical director (although he is playing tomorrow vs Spurs with the development squad). So, if Mendy gets injured or has to leave to go to AFCON, we’re in trouble big time.
Ben Chilwell has been brilliant so far this season, but he’s a player who will have a few bad games in the season and will make mistakes as he’s still young. Normally you’d have a player who could come in for him when he’s struggling to do a job – nope, not in our case. Chilly-B has Emerson and Marcos Alonso behind him, both players who the club want to leave but they can’t afford to lose both at the same time. Emerson is actually decent on the ball, but has the defensive positioning of a donkey, and Marcos Alonso hasn’t played a single minute for Chelsea after his row with Frank Lampard at the game against West Brom. Lampard definitely doesn’t trust them both, and playing Azpilicueta would probably make more sense, but Frank has been opposed this season to using inverted fullbacks. It’s against the style of play, and also Dave is playing a lot of the time on the right hand side when James is resting. If Chilwell gets injured, we’re pretty much screwed.
Our centre backs – they’ve been a breath of fresh air this season. Zouma has been scoring from corners like it’s nothing, is winning every header in in his own box, and next to Silva they are building a great partnership. Thiago has changed our team completely, adding so much composure on the ball, experience and has shown so many good moments of defending (although, his worst game was probably last night vs Everton). Behind the Brazilian centre-back we have Fikayo Tomori, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. Tomori’s situation at Chelsea is just bizarre, that’s for another article. So, if Silva gets injured, we’re back to the same defence as last season, which was extremely leaky. Rudiger always has a mistake in him and Christensen has looked good this season, however when it comes to being physical that’s certainly not his strong point. So, if Silva can’t play, we could be back to the dodgy defence from last year.
James has definitely been our best and most consistent player this season, and the improvement from last season has been exceptional. After him we do we have Azpilicueta who can certainly do a job, so I won’t complain too much about our RB situation, but again Dave is nothing like Reece and is a lot more negative (football playing wise) so Hakim would struggle not having a constant overlap. Henry Lawrence is probably our next best option at RB, and as much as he’s my favourite academy player, he could be leaving in January on loan and probably isn’t ready to play every single week in the Premier League.
To the average Premier League fan, they will think we are stacked in midfield. But are we actually in the style of play we are pushing towards? I think it is very clear that Frank Lampard wants to play with the 4-3-3, with two number 8’s. Kante isn’t even a number 6 naturally! So we don’t even have a defensive-midfielder at the club, and behind N’Golo we have Jorginho who cannot defend for his life, and Billy Gilmour who yes can certainly do a job there, but isn’t your ideal 6. For the box to box type of midfielders, we have Kai Havertz and Mason Mount. Mateo Kovacic has played there a lot more this season but he still isn’t naturally an 8 and doesn’t offer the goal threat required in the 8, so your next two players who can play there are Gilmour and Tino Anjorin. Don’t get me wrong, both exceptional players and can do a good job for us this season, but both have been linked with loan moves away this January and if one of Kai/Mason were to be injured, we will be lacking experienced and ideal replacements.
Our attack to be fair, we’re quite stacked in. We have three clear wingers, and three strikers, one of which can certainly play out wide (although Frank thought Tammy would also be able to do a job at LW yesterday…). Yet, somehow we still struggled in attack against Everton! All three of our wingers are out at the moment, but we’re hoping that these are just short term injuries. Our backup to Pulisic and Ziyech out wide includes Hudson-Odoi and Werner, which is brilliant, and up front Timo Werner has Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud on his neck, who are again both top strikers. So despite us having to play Havertz and Timo last night out wide and it not working at all, in a few weeks time we should be back to normal.
Very young & inexperienced squad
That’s enough about the squad depth, hopefully that shows you that we do have numbers, but in a lot of areas we are lacking proper quality. Look at yesterday’s bench vs City’s bench, and you’ll see the difference.
Another reason that we don’t have the best squad is due to this team being very inexperienced and young, as expected before coming into this season. Most pundits and fans wouldn’t have put us as clear title challengers, so what has changed? I think most of us would have said comfortably top four, and to close the gap between us and the top two. That still seems very reasonable.
About half of these players have only played one season in the Premier League, and the other half are new to this team. Our most experienced players are Kante and Silva, while Silva has never played in the pace or the intensity of the English League before. Ben Chilwell and Zouma are our next players with more experience in the top flight of English football, but even then they are both still young guys who have a lot to improve on in their game. As brilliantly as they did last season, we saw it took time for the likes of Mount, James, Abraham and Tomori to get used to the League, and that’s only going to be the same with the likes of Havertz, Werner and Ziyech. On top of that, a lot of these guys have never played with each other before, so it’ll also take time for them to get used to each other’s movements.
Many sources have reported that Frank Lampard’s project is going to be a three year plan, and that’s when you’ll see the likes of Rice come in, and other young experienced players at the top level, like Gimenez/Alaba/Haaland. Imagine in 5 years time, when Chilwell, James, Mount, Havertz, Pulisic, Hudson-Odoi, Abraham and Werner will all be in their prime. Lampard would have also learnt from inevitable mistakes on the way, and we could be an absolute force in Europe. I’m not saying we should give Lampard 5 years to win a trophy, but I’m just showing you what the future will look like if we give these players time. Klopp needed time and investment, Guardiola needed time and investment – that’s called building for the future and as part of the process. Lampard needs time and investment, and I’m sure he’ll get both.
To summarise: can Chelsea win the league this season? Possibly. Can you expect Chelsea to win the league this season? NO. Frank needs time. The players need to time to get used to the league. The players need time to get used to playing with each other. It’s all part of the process.
In another episode of The Chelsea Spot podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho) and Paree (Owner – @CFCParee) were delighted to be joined by Chelsea expert Joe Tweedie (@joeTweedie) where we discussed how the season has gone on so far for the academy boys like Jude Soonsup-Bell, Henry Lawrence, Tino Anjorin, Lewis Bate (etc.), our Summer transfer window and who has been our most important player, FIkayo Tomori and Hudson-Odoi’s lack of gametime, and A LOT more!
Prefer to listen elsewhere? Click your preferred streaming platform –
In another episode of The Chelsea Spot podcast, Orlando (Host – @0rland1nho) and special guest Sam (@stighefootball – Journalist for BR Football) discuss Chelsea’s upcoming season, and instead of talking about the many positives, they instead try to look at some of the concerns which could show up in the next 12 months…
Prefer to listen elsewhere? Click your preferred streaming platform –
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.