As the dust has finally settled in what proved to be a successful season for the Blues, Chelsea fans will be optimistic heading into the 2020/21 season. In manager Frank Lampard’s maiden season, the club managed to secure a Champions League berth for the upcoming season and reached the final of the FA cup only to lose against London rivals Arsenal.
Lampard arrived at Stamford Bridge ahead of the 2019/20 season with only one year of managerial experience at Championship side Derby County. His takeover of the Blues reins was made tougher by a transfer ban imposed by FIFA and star forward Eden Hazard leaving the club for Real Madrid.
Despite that, Lampard did admirably well to secure top four position with the 4th youngest team in the league with an average age of 25.9 years.
As the club prepares for the 29th Premier League season, let us take a look at what to expect from the Blues in the upcoming season:
What has Chelsea done in the transfer market so far?
Roman Abramovich has never been one to shy away from investment in the club. Therefore, it was pretty much expected that he would go all out to procure new players after Chelsea could not make any purchases in two transfer windows.
First to arrive was Hakim Ziyech from Amsterdam who had already captured a lot of eyeballs with his performances when he played against the club for Ajax in a group stage Champions League tie. Ziyech has a wand of a left-foot and he gave a glimpse of his brilliance in the pre-season fixture against Brighton.
His initial pass from midfield to find Callum Hudson-Odoi ultimately led to a goal-scored by another recruit in the name of Timo Werner. The German striker arrived from Leipzig on the back of a successful season where he scored 34 goals in 45 appearances.
The Blues then shifted their focus to defense- an area where they conceded more goals than any top 4 team. In Ben Chilwell, Chelsea found a long-term solution at the problematic left-back slot.
The club continued its policy of signing promising young defenders in the form of Xavier Mbuyamba from Barcelona and Malang Sarr from Nice. Meanwhile, free-agent Thiago Silva arrived from Paris Saint-Germain after leading his side to the final of the Champions League.
But it appears that Lampard is not yet satisfied. Chelsea bound Leverkusen playmaker Kai Havertz could arrive anytime at Cobham and join the team in pre-season. Meanwhile, Declan Rice has been linked for a move back to his former club. They are also in the market for a new goalkeeper after the current number one Kepa Arrizabalaga endured a difficult second season.
Who could be Chelsea’s best player this season?
Timo Werner – The stage is set for the German striker to light-up the English league. He is renowned as an elite striker who possesses the willingness to drop deep and link-up with the midfielders. He is quick and direct in his approach- a quality that Lampard admires in his strikers. As an out and out striker, Werner guarantees minimum 20 goals in a season. With great movement off the ball, he is also adept at creating chances for his teammates.
The last time a Chelsea manager bought a striker who is such a menacing threat to defenses with his pace and natural goal scoring instinct was when the Blues won their last two titles. Diego Costa arrived in 2014/15, scoring 21 goals that season and playing a crucial role in Chelsea’s title win. He also contributed with 22 goals in the 2016/17 title winning campaign. Could Werner follow in the footsteps of Diego Costa? Definitely, there is no reason to believe why Werner cannot succeed in the same capacity as the Spaniard.
Which young players to look out for?
Reece James and Billy Gilmour.
There are plenty of young players in the team who benefited from the transfer ban last term. The likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, and Christian Pulisic, impressed last term with their spectacular performances and will be expected to carry on playing at a high level.
Meanwhile, James and Gilmour did enjoy a somewhat successful maiden season in 2019/20 but got limited opportunities. James’ most notable contribution came against Ajax when he scored a remarkable equaliser in the 4-4 Champions League draw. Meanwhile, young Billy Gilmour impressed one and all with a man of the match performance against Liverpool in the 5th round FA Cup tie.
With the experience of one season under their belt, expect James and Gilmour to entice the fans with some stellar performances next season.
Chelsea’s expected 4-2-3-1 formation
What about the bench strength?
For a team to become successful, both its playing XI and bench strength must be strong enough to counter any situation and get out of it successfully.
Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia has done a fabulous job to upgrade the squad from last year with some smart additions. Players will witness cut-throat competition for places in the starting eleven while the manager will have sweet headaches during team selections.
Young players coming up the ranks will have to work harder than ever which will help develop that work ethic and winning mindset that is required to compete at the highest level. Meanwhile, the present players who did well last season will be looking to push themselves to achieve new heights.
A strong bench is an indicator of a great team. As winning managers know, having the right number of high-quality players available to come on from the bench could make a difference.
When is the new season starting?
Chelsea kick-off their season with an away fixture against Brighton on 14th September 2020.
What is going to be Lampard’s biggest challenge?
Fixing the defense.
It was largely an unspectacular season for the defensive players in the squad last term. Barring skipper Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back, none looked comfortable starting including first-choice goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, and Kurt Zouma were highly inconsistent and error-prone. Meanwhile, Lampard was left unconvinced by left-backs Emerson Palmieri and Marcos Alonso and demanded a change of personnel in the position as early as December. N’Golo Kante’s persistent injury woes didn’t help the case either. His relentless energy and excellent ball-winning abilities in the midfield were highly missed by the Blues.
Frank Lampard’s team looks attractive going forward but sloppy at the back. Will the signings of Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell, and Malang Sarr help the manager fix defensive issues? Does he need a new goalkeeper or should he stick with Kepa? – These are some questions surrounding the club that need to be addressed by the manager as soon as possible.
What do supporters expect?
Another season fighting for the top 4-spot is not desirable considering the amount of money spent in the summer transfer window. The fans would like to see Chelsea as title contenders competing with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City. The club will demand a deeper run in the Champions League, too.
Manager Lampard may be a club legend but he has his doubters on whether he is the right man to take the club to the top or not. After a somewhat successful season, if Chelsea fail to take the next step, serious questions on his abilities will be asked. He has to prove himself as a coach and this will be a big challenge for him.
The former midfielder may well enjoy a closer relationship with the owner than any of his predecessors but Roman Abrahmovic is ruthless. He and the fans will demand a significantly better campaign where silverware is a must.
Ratings for the new kit out of 10
Home kit: 7/10
Away kit: 5/10
Predictions for the season
Premier League: 3rd
Champions League: Semi-finals
FA Cup: Winners
League Cup: Runners-up