- Two-window transfer ban is being appealed
- Hazard has left but young loanees return
- Fringe players can still be moved on
- Lampard might be a Chelsea legend, but can he succeed in managing them?
Another year, another season of upheaval at Chelsea. Maurizio Sarri jumped to Juventus taking Sarriball with him but leaving Jorginho behind, and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard has been brought in from Derby to fill the gap. He will be hoping to make gains on Manchester City and Liverpool, but he’s not been helped by the transfer ban. With limited resources at his disposal, it will be fascinating to see what Chelsea’s all-time top scorer can do now he finds himself at the helm.
Youth have the chance to make an impact
Lampard is no stranger to the young talent at Chelsea. Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori spent 2018-19 on loan at Derby, playing under Lampard as they made it to the final of the play-offs. He has a veritable army of young players to pick, the usual crop being farmed out on loan to Vitesse Arnhem and various Championship sides last term – Tammy Abraham scoring 26 league goals for Aston Villa as they got promoted. It might be time to Chelsea to change their strategy and feature more youth in their first team.
Where the likes of Gaël Kakuta, Nathaniel Chalobah and Josh McEachran failed, the current generation will be hoping to succeed. But it remains to be seen how they will cope at a top six side. Abraham might be capable of banging in the goals at Championship level, but scored just five league goals in the Premier League for Swansea a couple of years ago. A handful of young players have also been loaned out: Ethan Ampadu is at RB Leipzig, Jake Clarke-Salter is at Birmingham City, and Matt Miazga has gone back to Reading after initially joining in the January transfer window. Nonetheless, Mount is back as it stands, along with the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James, and Tammy Abraham.
There are a number of players who will be under 25 at the start of the Premier League season and look to be in Chelsea’s first team squad, as follows:
Callum Hudson-Odoi (18)
Mason Mount (20)
Christian Pulisic (20)
Tammy Abraham (21)
Andreas Christensen (23)
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (23)
Kepa Arrizabalaga (24)
Tiémoué Bakayoko (24)
Mateo Kovačić (24)
Kurt Zouma (24)
Chelsea squad is still strong
Even after considering youth, Chelsea have a strong team. The sale of Eden Hazard to Real Madrid had been coming for a while, but he is the only major departure so far. Longstanding centre-back Gary Cahill has been released, while the only other departures that really warrant a mention are the sales of Ola Aina and Tomáš Kalas to Torino and Bristol City respectively. Forward Álvaro Morata is continuing his stay at Atlético Madrid, and will join on a permanent deal in 2020.
Mateo Kovačić has joined permanently from Real Madrid, and while they may not have a Salah or a De Bruyne in their ranks, (hindsight is a wonderful thing), they aren’t short of quality. Or at least, enough quality to get them through the next couple of years without a third season Mourinho-style meltdown. Attacking midfielder Christian Pulisic has also finally joined from Borussia Dortmund, and alongside Kovačić is one of a number of options for new boss Lampard.
Ross Barkley, 26 in December, has a great opportunity to progress further, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek has the right to feel buoyed by the transfer ban. Arrizabalaga is solid in goal, and at 24 has time to improve. Antonio Rüdiger, Kurt Zouma and captain César Azpilicueta are available in defence, while Chelsea still have N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Willian, Pedro and Olivier Giroud to call upon.
Chelsea also managed to beat Barcelona – who fielded a side containing Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets and Antoine Griezmann – in a friendly on July 23rd. No, it wasn’t a full-strength Barcelona team, but it’s not as if Chelsea will be playing sides of their quality week-in, week-out in the Premier League. This is not a vintage Chelsea squad, but it’s good enough.
Reasons to be cautious
One worry is that there are players in the squad that really need to be moved on at this point. Baba Rahman is still somehow still at Chelsea, while the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Marco van Ginkel (yes, he’s still at Chelsea too) and perhaps even Michy Batshuayi are likely to depart. Once these players have been removed, Chelsea are left with a thin squad, albeit one supplemented by youth in the form of Mount, Abraham and the rest. With domestic cups and European football, there’s a chance that they’ll stumble as the season treads on - injuries could be the death knell.
More to the point, Lampard lacks experience. Nobody’s suggesting that Chelsea should have turned to Sam Allardyce or Tony Pulis after Sarri left, but Lampard is a rookie in managerial terms with just one season at Derby to his name. He might be a Chelsea legend, but is he capable of managing at the highest level. Supporters will be hoping that he proves to be more of a Zidane than a Solskjær.
It’s also worth remembering that the transfer ban is set to last for two windows. It may just be a case of making do with their current resources for a short while, before rebuilding. They have a team that is strong enough to remain in the top six and have a season of consolidation, at least, but no Chelsea fan will be getting their European hopes up. They may as well go for it this season – what’s the worst that could happen?
Steve Bruce walked into one of the longest running...