A big season as Champions of Europe.
The Premier League season begins on Friday night as newly promoted Brentford welcome Arsenal. Chelsea play on Saturday with Crystal Palace visiting the Bridge as Thomas Tuchel begins his first full season as Chelsea manager. The transfer window is also open until the 31st of August so there is plenty of time to do deals as well. Compared to last summer Chelsea have left it to the final few weeks to seal their signings but the gears are well and truly running as Chelsea get ready to kick off the new season.
While last summer was dominated by league football as we tried to finish a covid stricken season, this summer was dominated by international football. Euro 2020, Copa America, Olympics all took place over these last two months and Chelsea players were involved in the first two. Several players did well in the Euro’s while Jorginho and Emerson managed to win the whole competition with Italy. Thiago Silva reached the final of the Copa America but fell short to Messi and Argentina. Those players then had 3 weeks off and started to filter in and join the players who had the summer off for pre-season at Chelsea. Tuchel was their on day one with Hudson-Odoi, Tammy, and Tino Anjorin being the first three back. Of course with all Chelsea pre-season’s there were a lot of players who are surplus to requirements but Tuchel dealt with it well. The German gave everyone game time and had a chance to evaluate and look at every single player. Chelsea played a couple of in house friendlies and intra squad games while we played 4 official friendlies out of which we won 3 and drew 1. All in all with around a month of training under our belt Chelsea are ready to go for the new season or at the very least a bulk of the players are.
Chelsea’s staff has of course changed but that happened mid way through last season when Thomas Tuchel was appointed. The major outgoings were of course Frank Lampard and Jody Morris while the likes of Joe Edwards, and Anthony Barry all stuck around and are still major parts of the backroom staff. Thomas Tuchel brought in Zsolt Low and Arno Michels as this assistant managers and they have been key in Chelsea’s success along with Edwards, Barry and all the rest. Tuchel switched to a 3-4-1-2 or 2-1 for the first 6 months of tenure and it brought great success and defensive solidity. Add to that the pressing and we had a system that was very hard to break down. Tuchel has experimented with 4 at the back in pre-season but has still stuck with the 3 when it matters the most. It will be interesting to see if we change it up this season but there are plenty of options at his disposal.
Goalkeepers – Edouard Mendy, Kepa Arizzabalaga, Marcus Bettinelli
Defenders – Cesar Azpilicueta, Reece James, Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, Ben Chilwell, Marcos Alonso, Emerson
Midfielders – N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Matteo Kovacic, Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Tino Anjorin
Forwards – Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Timo Werner, Romelu Lukaku*
As with every season there are still several players that could be sold or be sent out on loan or could even be added to the squad but the above are the ones I am fairly certain will be part of the squad this season. There are still question marks about Kurt Zouma, and Loftus-Cheek though. Lukaku has not been confirmed yet but that should be all but done. There could be a couple of new additions as well with Jules Kounde rumoured to be inbound if we can sell a defender. There are some promising players sent out on loan as well but we will leave that for a separate post.
Willy Caballero has left the club as with his contract ending and as a Champions League winner. Marcus Bettinelli has come in as the 3rd choice goalkeeper. The 29 year old is quite decent and his younger than Caballero was so I expect him to put pressure on Kepa for that 2nd choice spot. Kepa has not found a regular club but he is equally happy to stay at Chelsea and fight for a starting spot. The Spaniard had a decent showing under Tuchel when he played and benefited form a settled defence in front of him. The first choice of course remains Edouard Mendy who had a brilliant season last year and broke a Champions League record as well. Mendy will be missing for a few games when AFCON comes around so Kepa and Bettinelli will have to share the load. It is a settle area of the team and with Mendy we can be confident going forward.
Azpilicueta and Reece James remain are right sided options for this season. Sterling and Chalobah impressed in pre-season but it seems both are headed out on loan. Reece James when fit also played at right centre-back at times last season so there are a lot of variations that can be done. I expect Azpi to play less minutes this season than he did last season as we begin to slowly but steadily look beyond the Spaniard. I feel like this could be a big season for Reece especially since we might have a striker that can finish the chances he creates.
On the left we have Chilwell who had a brilliant first season at Chelsea. Chilwell had a quite Euro’s and didn’t feature but he will be raring to go for the new season. Similar to Reece, Chilly will now have a striker that can meet his crosses. One of Alonso or Emerson will stay by the looks of it and Alonso is probably more suited if we stick with the wing backs. Emerson had a good Euro’s though and showed he can make an impact.
Christensen, Silva, Rudiger, and Zouma are our centre backs for the upcoming season as of now. Christensen, Silva, and Rudiger all have one year left on their contract although Silva’s is on an yearly basis. The board are looking to extend Christensen and Rudiger’s contract although I would make the priority Christensen. Zouma could be on his way out and be replaced Kounde. Either way our defence was the strongest part of our team last season and much improved. I expect the same this season with Christensen and Silva having brilliant tournaments international as well. Our defence much like the goalkeeper is a settled area and one that sees plenty of rotation when necessary.
Under Tuchel we tend to play with a midfield two. Those two are different variations of Kante, Jorginho, and Kovacic. The three have been great since the German came in and one of them is a Euro winner now. Jorginho offers that metronomic passing while Kovacic allows us to break the press from other teams. Kovacic in pre-season also seems to have added an eye to play a forward pass. Kante is just world class and looks better every single game. The only criticism of Kante I would have and really it’s not even a valid one because it’s not his job but I would say if Kante could finish more or find the final pass he would be the worlds best player without a doubt. I expect the pivot to still consist of these three players but I have a feeling Mount and maybe RLC if he stays could be used as one of the two on occasion.
Mason won player of the year and he is one of those players that can just needs to be on the pitch to make an impact. I have put Kai Havertz in the midfield but he really can play anywhere up the field. We began to see what Kai was capable of at the end of last season capped off with that Champions League winning goal. I expect a big season for the German after having a very good individual Euro’s as well. Some of the link up play could be exquisite. Finally I expect Tino Anjorin to get more minutes this season and play further forward in that midfield. He had a brief cameo against Tottenham because he had to isolate due to COVID but he had some brilliant moments.
Could we see another midfielder come in before the end of the window? It remains to be seen but I would say it’s unlikely as of now. Two rumoured names are Declan Rice and Aurelien Tchouameni although the latter seems more likely if a transfer does go through.
The winger and at times wing back options seem to be Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi. Neither of them probably like to play as wing backs but I am sure they would rather be on the pitch than on the bench. Where they would like to play would be behind the striker an area where Mount, Havertz, Werner, and Ziyech also operate. Ziyech has had a very good pre-season and looks primed to start at least in the first few games. Havertz came back and played as a striker in pre-season but with Lukaku incoming he will be fighting for those other spots. Many think Werner will be benched and that might be the case but I think a partnership of Werner and Lukaku up top could cause havoc for opposing teams. I think it’s a big season for Timo and if he can just start scoring he will be a success. Pulisic and Ziyech have full pre-seasons under their belt and I expect them to have good seasons as well. Finally I won’t say much about Lukaku because it’s not a done deal yet but he would the missing piece of the puzzle. Will Lukaku miss chances? Yes as all strikers do but if he can convert even half of the chances Chelsea create then he will easily get plenty of goals. We wanted an elite striker and Big Rom is coming back to Chelsea to finish those chances.
All in all I feel like the forward area is the hardest part of the pitch that Tuchel will have to navigate. There are quality players but he can only select 3. Unless we change formations and maybe play 3-1 up top. I’ll leave all that to the German.
Last season I said there was no way we finish below 3rd in the league so that did not go to plan. This season I say the goal in the league is to fight for the title. The objective is to cut that gap to 1st down to single digits and the low single digits within 5. Automatically that will mean we finish 2nd or 3rd. Man City will of course be the standard bearers but having now added a striker in Lukaku we have the squad to be consistent over the season not to mention having a manager like Thomas Tuchel. Chelsea have a tough start to the season playing Arsenal, Liverpool,Villa, Spurs, and Man City in succession after Palace. Of course everyone plays everyone once but a good start can set the team on the right path, or that is what tends to happen. After many seasons or at least since Costa left I am very optimistic about our title challenge this year. It won’t be easy mainly because Liverpool are fit again, City have strengthened and United have strengthened. Add to that the fact that there are several nearly there teams as well the likes of Leicester, Villa etc. I expect Chelsea to challenge for the title and be within 5 points of 1st at the end of the season.
Domestically it would be great for us to win the FA Cup having reached the final 3 seasons in a row and lost. The Carabao Cup is a free for all and it’s nice if you win it but not a loss if you don’t. Winning the Super Cup on Wednesday against Villarreal was great start to the season and the first trophy of this campaign.We are involved in the Club World Cup as well and it would be nice to win that. Finally it will be very tough to retain the Champions League but we should go as far as possible and maybe reach the semi-finals.
I won’t lie I was optimistic going into last season as well, and why not after the transfer window we had. It didn’t go exactly as planned but Tuchel came in and won us the Champions League. There is a very calm and settled vibe at the club right now and I liken it to 14/15 when we added Costa and Fabregas and won the title. I won’t say that will happen this season but I feel very good about what is to come. I expect clean sheets but after 4 years of starving for it I expect us to finally see a Chelsea striker score more than 20 goals in a season. I think Timo will also redeem himself with goals while Havertz and Mount will have big seasons. The same can be said for the likes of Ziyech, Pulisic, and Hudson-Odoi as well who will want to contribute and score after having underperformed last year. IF RLC stays then it would be great for him to have a redemption arc of sorts as well and be involved in Chelsea’s success. I want to see more of Tino Anjorin as well.
It’s always an exciting time to be a football fan but this season seems special. Fans are back in the stadium after 1 and half years. VAR is adjusted so that there are more goal scoring chances and fewer penalties. Our signings from last season are settled while we have brought in an elite striker. We have a world class defence and a world class midfield and a world class manager as well. The Premier League looks like it’s going to be very competitive. This has the makings of a very exciting season and most of all form a Chelsea perspective everything looks settled. There seems to be cohesion between the board and Tuchel and the team are on an upward trajectory. As Champions of Europe there should be a hunger to win more and like Tuchel said hunt Man City down. COME ON CHELSEA!!!