It’s no secret to anyone that Chelsea are up against it this season.
With a transfer ban, as well as the loss of star man Eden Hazard, it seems that the club are having to start a rebuild under Frank Lampard, but with very few tools.
And with the additional commitment of Champions League football, Chelsea could be a risky side to back this season.
Expected Line-ups and Formations
This is, in terms of squad, as well as structure behind the scenes, is going to be a transition season for the Blues.
Lampard displayed flexibility, as well as a brilliant ability to work with youth during his first season in management, as he took Derby County to the Play-Off final.
It is likely that he will use either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation, as was the case for the majority of his time at Derby.
If he uses a 4-3-3, a fully-fit Chelsea squad could line up as follows:
Whereas a 4-2-3-1 could look like this:
Obviously, it’s hard to pick a definite starting XI for a side like Chelsea at this stage, given the amount of players coming through, and coming back to the club after loan spells.
It is incredibly possible that players such as Kurt Zouma, Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi, and Tiemoue Bakayoko, as well as Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, could be knocking on the door next season.
Christian Pulisic is likely going to be one who is weaned into the action in the Premier League, but fans will still expect big things.
His pre-season will be limited, due to his participation in this summer’s Gold Cup with the USA, and it is likely he will be used off the bench, if at all, in the first few games.
Willian is, therefore, the most likely to start the season down the right-hand side.
In addition, there are still the likes of Ross Barkley, Pedro and Emerson in the team, who had a lot of involvement towards the end of the season, and will no doubt be in the thinking for Lampard’s first-day squad. Pedro, especially, is one who has been rotated in and out of the starting line-up a lot over the last couple of years, under various managers.
Corners: Willian, Hudson-Odoi, Barkley
Free-Kicks: Alonso, Willian, David Luiz, Barkley
Penalties: Willian, Jorginho, David Luiz
The set-piece takers were one thing that was relatively set in stone at Chelsea last season however, this is another reason why the departure of a certain Belgian has shaken things up.
Chelsea have to find another penalty taker who will be as consistent and reliable as Hazard, as well as promoting a couple of other players for corner taking duties.
There are so many players in the squad who are reliable from free-kicks, they just need to prove that reliability from 12 yards.
First 10 Premier League Fixtures
Chelsea’s start to the season is relatively kind, even if their first game of the season is one of the Premier League’s marquee matches, with them heading to Old Trafford to face Man Utd.
Here are their first 10 in full:
Man Utd (a); Leicester (h); Norwich (a); Sheffield Utd (h); Wolves (a); Liverpool (h); Brighton (h); Southampton (a); Newcastle (h); Burnley (a).
One factor that will definitely have an impact on the earliest part of the season is the UEFA Super Cup, in which Liverpool will take on Chelsea.
This will drop in the middle of the first two fixtures. There is also the aforementioned involvement in the Champions League, which will break up these fixtures at least twice.
Possible FPL Assets To Consider
It’s always going to be tough to pick out individual assets for a team in which there is so much competition for places however, here are three possible players to keep an eye on…
Firstly, let’s talk about Callum Hudson-Odoi (£6.0m).
This is a player who undoubtedly has the potential to go absolutely anywhere with his career, and he certainly showed it last season, even with very limited game time under the now-departed Mauricio Sarri.
He managed 4 goals and 2 assists in his 9 Europa League appearances last term, of which only 4 were starts.
He didn’t fare so well in the Premier League, but there again, he completed 90 minutes just once in his 4 starts. He managed just 1 assist before a ruptured Achilles tendon ended his season prematurely.
With the apparent trust of Frank Lampard, he should manage more game time, and should kick on to achieve great things next season, once he’s fit of course.
“For me, he is going to be central for us on the pitch.” – Frank Lampard on Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Next up, and a slightly odd one to make a case for, the goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.5m).Embed from Getty Images
The Spaniard moved for around £72 million from Athletic Bilbao last summer and, on the whole, has been improving throughout the season.
His shot-stopping ability was second-to-none for most of the season, evidenced by some fantastic saves at Southampton and Fulham, as well as at home to Watford, and he seems to have gained a lot of big-match experience, after the obvious blip in the Carabao Cup final.
Kepa played 36 matches last season, the two exceptions being the game after that final, against Tottenham, and the final game of the season at Leicester.
He managed to keep 14 clean sheets, and made 82 saves in what proved to be a phenomenal first season, given the defence he was put behind was shaky at best.
In the two games he missed however, Willy Caballero (£5.0m) kept 2 out of 2 clean sheets, showing that Chelsea seem to be in safe hands, even if Kepa gets injured (which is not something I ever thought I’d say about Caballero!).
Finally, another injured young prospect at Chelsea, in Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£6.5m).Embed from Getty Images
This is another player who finally got his chance to shine in the Chelsea first team last season, making 24 appearances in the Premier League and scoring 6 goals, while creating another 2 assists.
Now that doesn’t sound great, but let’s put that into perspective; on average, 1 goal every 4 appearances, and 164 minutes per goal – incredible for a man who Sarri was seemingly scared of using last season.
Added to that, he managed another 4 goals and 3 assists in his 11 Europa League appearances, including a hat-trick against BATE Borisov. If he gets back fit quickly, Loftus-Cheek will be worth tracking.
Overall, Chelsea could find it hard to repeat last year’s feat of finishing 3rd in the Premier League, as they adapt to the expectation on their shoulders without Eden Hazard.
A top 4 finish isn’t completely out of the question this season, but it’s going to be tough for them, given the huge hole left in the squad.