20 Days of the Premier League returns with the reigning Champions League victors and fourth-place domestic finishers, Chelsea.
The Blues transformed under the coaching of Thomas Tuchel, who replaced club-legend Frank Lampard in late January and brought the team up from ninth to finish fourth in the table.
Chelsea | Building an Identity
Prior to Tuchel’s arrival in Cobham, Chelsea had no real identity in their squad. They were playing a 4-3-3 with two central midfielders that had to cover massive amounts of ground and a deep-lying six; six summer transfers had been brought into the squad and started many games for the club, though their lack of familiarity with one another quickly caught up to them.
Kai Havertz struggled to adapt to the speed and physicality of the league playing much deeper than he had before, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech struggled to consistently get on the score sheet, and the legendary Thiago Silva committed comical errors that led to goals.
Lampard had done well to get the club into the top-four the season prior despite having been hit with a transfer ban, relying on youth academy products to carry the team to Champions League qualification. His 2020 campaign, however, was a painstaking slide that saw the Blues’ best-ever player lose the support of fans until he was finally sacked.
Tuchel’s arrival raised some eyebrows when he started Callum Hudson-Odoi at right-wing-back and benched Mason Mount in his first game, though he quickly built the Blues’ into a rock-solid defensive unit that fearlessly pressed out of possession and created more chances than any team in Europe.
A Questionable Transfer Policy
Despite having one of the richest and most willing owners in the world, Chelsea has been uncharacteristically quiet in the transfer market; they have been linked to Borussia Dortmund striker, Erling Haaland, for most of the summer but have not submitted a bid that they would seriously consider.
Jules Kounde looks as if he will be joining from Sevilla in Spain, although the details are yet to be hashed out. The young French center-back has incredible ability on the ball and will help in ball progression from the back, though he is only 5-foot-10 and could be susceptible physically against the brutes of the Premier League.
The Blues have been linked to countless other players, too many to name, and it will be a shock if they do not bring anyone in.
The club will also be without Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi, Olivier Giroud, Billy Gilmour, and Conor Gallagher, all of which were either sold or loaned out for the season. While this will create less congestion within the squad, it reduces their depth and quality off the bench.
Chelsea’s leading sorcerer last year was midfielder Jorginho, who scored all seven of his goals at the penalty spot. They are in desperate need of an out-and-out goal-scorer and will not be able to seriously challenge for the Premier League title without one.
Aside from their woes upfront, the rest of the squad formed an incredible bond through their Champions League triumph and will be ready for another battle in six different competitions this season.
If there is one point of concern not related to the lack of center-forwards, it is that many of Chelsea’s players participated in the European Championships or Copa America and will be behind in pre-season training, meaning they are likely to get off the mark rather slowly when the season starts in two weeks.
Give Chelsea a number-nine, and they turn into world-beaters; without one, though, they are a top-four threat at best.