Last season Chelsea finished fourth in the English Premier League with the same amount of points as Manchester United. Though they failed to challenge Liverpool for the title, it was still considered to be a decent season given the fact that they managed to qualify for the Champions League. They did this in extenuating circumstances. They lost their best player, Eden Hazard, to Real Madrid and were also not able to replace him due to the transfer ban. Considering it was the first year for Frank Lampard as the manager, it was a decent season for the Blues.
It wouldn’t be true to say that there were no doubts about the appointment of club legend Lampard as the manager. Some of the concerns raised were genuine as before being appointed as the manager of the Blues, Lampard had no experience on how to manage a club competing in the Premier League. He had only managed a Championship team(second tier of English football) called Derby County and that too for just a single season. Therefore, despite finishing fourth in Premier League and going trophy-less, Lampard’s first season was considered a success. However, when you’re managing a club like Chelsea you have to win trophies to keep your job safe. It’s no secret that to win trophies you need to have top calibre players who can compete at the highest level.
Due to the transfer ban, Chelsea couldn’t buy any players except for Christian Pulisic, who was purchased in January 2019 prior to the transfer ban. When the transfer ban ended in January 2020, the club didn’t waste any time to acquire the services of some of the top players in world football. They, however, let some of their senior players like Pedro and Willian go for free!
Chelsea spent a total of £220 million this summer. About £150 million ($197m) of this astounding total was spent on attacking talent over the summer which included:
Timo Werner (from RB Leipzig, £45m)
Hakim Ziyech (Ajax, £33.3m)
Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen, £71m)
Chelsea also strengthened their defence with the mix of experience and youth by signing veteran Thiago Silva who has had a great start at the London club. To add some youth to the team Xavier Mbuyamba was signed from Barcelona and Malang Sarr from Nice. They also secured the signing of Ben Chilwell to add strength to the relatively weaker left-back position.
Chelsea have started the season in a pretty good manner, but do they have what it takes to win the Premier League this season, as well as a first UCL trophy since 2012? With the new signings in mind, let’s look at the overall strength and weakness of the club this season.
Attack – Frank Lampard’s style of play is a mix of Pep Guardiola and Mourinho’s tactics as he likes to press the opposition, but they are also always looking to hit the opposition with a quick counter. However, for that quick counter, you need players who can play one-touch passing football and that too at a blistering pace. This is where the new signings make an impact as with the pace of clinical Timo Werner and the precise passing of Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic, they can cause havoc in the opposition half.
Lampard made the best of a transfer ban last season by bringing some youth into the squad, with Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount being prime examples. Now both have become an integral part of the squad. They also have a super-sub in Oliver Giroud who can deliver at times when Chelsea need it the most. With this promising set of attacking players, it has become much easier for Lampard to execute his plan to catch the opposition off-guard with one-touch football and clinical counterattacking.
Defence – Last season Chelsea finished their Premier League campaign having conceded a whopping 54 goals. Even Crystal Palace, who finished 14th, conceded less than Chelsea. This season too there were some similar worrying signs at the beginning. However, the new signings of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Rennes and Thiago Silva from PSG has steadied the ship a little. Kepa Arrizabalaga, the most expensive keeper in the world, has been an utter disappointment for Chelsea as he was responsible for a substantial portion of the goals conceded last season. The centre back combination of Zouma and Rudiger also didn’t quite work for Chelsea last year and therefore the club had to bring in the Brazilian CB Thiago Silva. He has had a decent start in England.
The left-back position was also a headache for Chelsea last season as Marcus Alonso and Emerson were not up to the standards Chelsea expected. This resulted in the club splurging £50m for the English international Ben Chilwell from Leicester City. Their defensive problems still haven’t completely disappeared but there are many positive signs from the new players. Mendy has kept 8 clean sheets in the 11 games he has played yet. Thiago Silva has calmed the nerves at the back with his presence and Ben Chilwell already has 2 goals and 2 assists for his new club.
Can they go all the way?
The realistic dream for Chelsea this season would be to win the Premier League trophy and go as far as possible in the Champions League. But with this new-look squad, there is a possibility that Lampard’s team could go all the way by winning both the competitions. If Lampard can make this young squad click and get them to shut the door at the back, it is very much possible for them. The 20/21 season has been off to a weird start as top teams like Liverpool, Man City, Barcelona, Real Madrid have all been beaten by much smaller teams. This season is going to be full of drama and surprises and who knows Chelsea might pull the biggest surprise of them all by going all the way.